January 8, 2011

Creating Significant Sales Lift – More Effective From The Outside?

Last week I announced that I made the leap to return to full-time sales coaching/consulting. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and am incredibly appreciative of all the good wishes and support. So, THANK YOU!

In the post I shared that I not only had more fun, but felt I was more effective creating significant sales lift as an outside coach than as the inside manager. It’s a pretty radical statement, and I didn’t say it just for dramatic effect. In my personal experience, it’s been true. Having spent about an equal amount of time serving in each capacity, here’s my perspective on why that is:

Why More Effective From The Outside?

The Most Impactful Changes Happen Early – A new leader is usually most effective at creating significant change early in his/her tenure. The first year, and even the first few months are the most critical. The outside coach gets many more opportunities to kickoff new engagements and becomes highly skilled at quickly assessing situations and working rapidly to implement changes that improve performance. The outside coach is also generally quicker and more willing to make the hard call regarding non-fit talent, while the inside manager can be slower to make that call – for relational, political or self-protective reasons.

Sales Managers Spend An Inordinate Amount of Time On Non-Sales Activity – I’m continually amazed that companies not meeting their sales goals require sales managers to spend so much time playing good corporate citizen involved in non-revenue generating projects, committees, administrative tasks, meetings – you name it. The outside consultant avoids all of that and focuses 100% of their engaged time on sales talent, sales leadership, sales process, sales weapons, sales coaching and sales results. (Sounds refreshing, doesn’t it?)

CEO Receptivity / A Prophet Isn’t Welcome In His Own Home – The very same message delivered to the CEO (or other senior leadership) by an outside consultant is received completely differently than if it came from the employee/inside sales leader. What is perceived as whining or excuses from the inside manager is often received as fresh perspective and expert opinion when offered by the coach. Last month, I had almost identical conversations with senior leadership at my employer company and with a prospective client CEO for my coaching business. The point I made inside my company was shrugged off while the client CEO later shared that my observation caused him to lose sleep and he wanted to make sure my coaching addressed that very topic.

Exposure to Breadth of Content, Talent, Gurus, Environments – The nature of the role exposes the outside coach to a much wider array of valuable information and situations that gets translated and incorporated into work with clients. Some of my best material and coaching content resulted from observing, diagnosing and solving issues for one client that enabled more effective coaching for others. Beyond that, the opportunity to concurrently work with top-performers in several different organizations results in a goldmine of best-practices. The outside coach has an unfair advantage from continual exposure to the real-world sales performance lab. Every day he sees what’s working and what’s not and his client sales teams reap those benefits.

I want to make a couple of important clarifications in closing. I realize that what I’ve written here can be construed as both self-promoting and also as a slam against sales managers. I’ll plead partially guilty to the rap on promoting the sales coaching role. Heck, I just quit my job to launch a coaching business. But I want to be clear that in no way am I demeaning the role of sales manager or saying there aren’t a whole lot of incredibly professional and effective sales leaders inside companies. What I am saying is that sales managers have a very challenging job, and for a variety or reasons, oftentimes, the system works against them when it comes to dramatically improving sales performance. That’s one reason why I made the decision to return to my calling as a coach, and I couldn’t be more excited to help sales leaders and sales teams drive NewSales for their companies.