Three Marketing Lessons from Bill McDermott’s “Winners Dream”


Everyone loves a winner. But what are winners made of? According to Winners Dream, new book by SAP CEO Bill McDermott, winners know how to dream big, empathize with others, and sense and respond to change. McDermott’s book matters to marketers not only because he believes in the power of marketing to rally people around a dream, but also because his leadership lessons form a north star for anyone who aspires to be a CMO. Here are three marketing lessons from Winners Dream.

1. Dream Big

Winners Dream tells the story of McDermott’s journey from operating a corner deli in Long Island to becoming global CEO of a billion-dollar global brand in Germany. The core tenet of Winners Dream is that successful people consistently set ambitious goals for themselves. For instance when he goes to work for the corner deli to put himself through college, McDermott decides he’s going to own the deli, not just become the most reliable employee. After he graduates from college and interviews for a job at Xerox, he tells his interviewer, “Sir, one day I would hope to become CEO.” Still later, when he becomes president of SAP’s American operations, he startles the company by declaring that within three years, SAP America will earn 10 times as much growth as the organization has achieved in its past few years. You get the idea: no one leaps out of bed to win a silver medal.

Dreaming big sounds inspirational (and challenging enough) when you have only your own dreams to worry about. But how do you get others to rally around a dream, too? Here is where effective marketing comes into play. When McDermott is a high-ranking executive at Xerox, he takes on the challenge of inspiring the company’s under-appreciated Xerox Business Services (XBS) division to accelerate its growth. He needs to communicate to XBS employees that they are valuable to Xerox and that great things are expected of them. His answer is to create an internal branding campaign, Go4Growth, whose centerpiece is a high-concept kick-off meeting in San Antonio. The idea of a high-concept event bothers some Xerox executives because of the cost and effort required. But cost and effort are just the point: XBS employees need to see that Xerox is willing to invest in them. So he hires one of my clients, One Smooth Stone, to create an event with pageantry.

The event not only defines ambitious goals for a large group, it also sends the message that they are valued and that great things are expected of them. As he writes, “By the time our people left San Antonio and returned to their corners of the country, I believed, they would feel like valued members of a national team. And they’d produce. The alternative, circulating a memo or throwing a halfhearted kick-off, may have saved a chunky line item that quarter, but it would never unleash the level of engagement that we needed to sell an additional $2 billion of document management services.”

Lesson: if you want to inspire people to dream big, make a grand statement. Cold-cuts at the Ramada Inn don’t make winners dream.

2. Empathize

Time and again, empathy, or the ability to put himself in the shoes of someone else, serves McDermott Continue reading