Sales Management. Simplified.
The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team
Author: Mike Weinberg
Pub Date: October 2015
Print Edition: $27.95
Print ISBN: 9780814436431
Page Count: 224
e-Book ISBN: 9780814436448
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Chapter 1: As Goes the Leader, So Goes the Organization
I can point to the exact spot on the Highway 40 exit to Ballas Road where I finally gave in and called my dad. After an incredible ten-plus year run as a top-producing salesperson for various companies and another successful, fun four years coaching salespeople and sales teams how to develop new business, I was struggling mightily in my first sales management role.
For the life of me, I couldn’t figure it out. How could I be struggling so badly after so many years as both a top individual producer and a highly respected sales coach? So, what does a 38-year-old clueless executive do when he’s out of ideas and tired of banging his head against the wall? Darn right. He picks up the phone to call his dad. Not just any dad, but the former big-time New York City sales executive dad who’d forgotten more about sales management than I ever hoped to know.
The Real Life of the Sales Leader
My dad answered the phone and I exploded, cathartically blasting him with a litany of challenges weighing on me. If only I’d had the presence of mind to record the phone call that went something like this:
“I’ve never worked longer or harder yet spent so little time on what moves the needle. I have zero control of my days. My weak salespeople are afraid of their own shadow and need constant babysitting; the strong ones are high-maintenance and nothing is ever good enough for them. The CEO thinks he’s a sales expert but continually deflates the sales team with his overbearing pontificating about various topics. The CFO sends me spreadsheets in a six-point font with embedded pivot tables to demonstrate how we’re over-discounting. I don’t even know what a pivot table is, let alone how to use one! The manufacturers we represent continually pester me looking to schedule time in the field with my people. I feel like a logistics manager, not a sales leader! The internal marketing people are ticked that we’re behind placing a new line of displays. Our big competitor just stole our number one guy because our compensation plan is too flat. Other department heads keep inviting me to meetings that have nothing to do with generating revenue. And some idiot customer service rep is giving out my cell phone number to customers with technical questions that I can’t answer. That’s how I'm doing, Dad. Glad you asked?”
My dad waited about five seconds, which felt like an eternity, before responding, and then he said one word: Congratulations.
I was none too pleased with his sarcasm. Huh? Come again big fella. Then he continued:
“Congratulations, Michael. You now understand that the front-line sales management role is one of the absolute toughest jobs on the planet. Everyone wants a piece of you, just like you described. There’s no way to win without a solid grounding in your absolute priorities and a laser focus on what’s absolutely critical to drive the business. None of those people placing demands on you and putting work on your desk understands your job. And if you let them dictate how to spend your time, you’ll not only be miserable like you are now, but you’ll also fail.”
Wiser words have never been spoken. And so began my next ten-year journey – a mission to master sales management and help others do the same.
You Don’t Transform Organizations from the Bottom
Along with my painful yet formative first go-round as a sales executive there was another strong motivator pushing me to unlock the keys to successful sales leadership. During my initial stint in consulting and coaching, I learned the hard way that while I could improve the performance of individual producers by teaching and coaching my New Sales Driver framework (highlighted in my first book, New Sales. Simplified.), that was not enough to transform sales organizations. Organizations don’t change from the bottom by improving the skills, techniques, and attitudes of their salespeople. To truly transform the results and health of an entire sales team, the leader and the culture must be transformed.
As you’ll read in many of the true stories and anecdotes I share in Part One of this book, the sales problem in many businesses I consult with does not lie with the salespeople. The main challenge is typically how the sales team is being led, and more often than not, the underlying root cause issues are cultural, flowing down from senior leadership at the top of the company.
That same CEO I mentioned in my call to my dad, the one who liked to pontificate about sales, also happened to be a brilliant, well-read consultant who had consulted dozens and dozens of business owners, senior executives, and organizations. When it came to leadership and organizational behavior, he was a hugely valuable mentor to me and probably had the sharpest business mind I’d encountered. He taught me a ton about leadership dynamics and performance, and there were two powerful catch-phrases of his that left an indelible impression on me, particularly as it relates to sales leadership.
The first phrase was: “As goes the leader, so goes the organization.” Those are powerful and profound words. I feel no need to offer editorial comments. Read them again and picture any organization and its leader that come to mind. As goes the leader, so goes the organization. Pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
The other expression that stuck with me is even more applicable to sales management: “The level of the team rarely, if ever, exceeds the level of the leader.” Let that sink in. Just think about the implications.
How many zillions of dollars are spent on sales training to improve the effectiveness of salespeople, but how little time and money are invested to shore up the leader of those sales teams? Why do some companies simply take it for granted that sales managers know how to lead? And how about smaller organizations, where the founder or president who’s a techie, engineer, designer, or accountant by background leads the sales team even though he or she is admittedly ignorant about creating a healthy sales culture, selecting and managing sales talent, or helping to shape sales process? And if leading the team is the single-most important function of the person in charge of sales, why do many larger companies bury that person with so much non-sales leadership work? If we agree it is true that the level of the team will not likely exceed the level of the leader, doesn’t it become obvious that to increase sales performance we must increase our sales leader’s acumen?
And that is exactly why over the past few years I’ve intentionally shifted the focus of my consulting practice to offering blunt, practical sales management help to senior executives and sales leaders. Sure, I am still uber passionate about new business development, and constantly asked to coach and speak on topics from New Sales. Simplified. But the cold hard truth is that unless we raise the game of those individuals leading sales organizations, whether as senior executives or front-line sales managers, we won’t be making a sustainable impact on sales performance. That fact is what compelled me to write this book. So let’s dive into some blunt truth from the front lines and look at many of the reasons sales team are not succeeding at the level they should be.
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