April 15, 2016

HBR Webinar for Executives & Entrepreneurs: Is It Your Leadership & Culture Causing the “Sales Problem?”

I didn’t want to write Sales Management. Simplified. I was compelled to write it because of what I was observing in company after company with less than optimal sales results:  frustrated executives, overwhelmed, overworked sales managers, and underperforming, confused, poorly led salespeople  – many of whom working in anti-sales cultures.

To say that I’m glad I wrote it and that we’re thrilled with the response to the book would be a major understatement. And much of the thanks goes to you – those who read these posts online and via email. So, THANK YOU! In its first year on the market, Sales Management. Simplified. is on track to become the most reviewed sales management book on Amazon. I’m humbled (and sobered) by the interview requests, the accolades from other sales improvement experts and authors, and the almost daily notes thanking me for sharing such blunt truth and offering a simple framework for sales leadership.

People ask why there’s been such a response to this book and this blunt, simple message? And why would Harvard Business Review ask me to conduct a one-hour webinar on this topic next week? The best I can tell, there are two reasons:

1. There is a ton of pain out there. The picture painted in the opening paragraph above is, unfortunately, an accurate description of many organizations when it comes to sales and sales leadership: Frustration. Confusion. Anger. Underperformance. Complacency. Micromanagement. Anti-Sales cultures. High-ego executives demeaning, demotivating, and embarrassing sales reps. Faux leadership via email. CRM addiction. Desk jockey sales management. Painful and pathetic sales team meetings. Visionary, wildly gifted entrepreneurs who don’t understand that their people aren’t as gifted as they are and require a tad more clarity and direction in order to sell successfully. Misaligned sales talent where zookeeper salespeople are asked to hunt for new business while top hunters get tasked with admin and project management responsibilities. Goofy compensation plans that create complacency, overpay under-performers, under-reward top-producers, and for some inexplicable reason, pay the same commission for babysitting existing accounts sold years ago as they do for acquiring net new pieces of business. A lack of mentoring and coaching that’s creating a generation of amateur salespeople who get treated like nothing more than vendors and commodity sellers even though they represent highly differentiated, value-creating companies and solutions. I could go on, but the point has been made. There is a lot of pain, and…

2. In more cases than not, the “sales problem” in many organizations turns out to be a leadership, culture, and talent management “problem” more than a true sales problem. Am I saying that the salespeople cannot improve? Nope. Not for a second. Absolutely, the sales team can do better —  better proactively targeting strategic accounts, better at getting meetings with key prospects, better at structuring and conducting consultative sales calls, better at probing, presenting, proposing, following-up, managing the pipeline and owning their calendars and activity metrics. There’s plenty of room for sales teams to improve. And no one loves to help with those issues more than I do. However, and this is a big however, what I typically observe is that the bigger issues hindering long-term sales performance improvement lie with the executives and managers over the sales organization, the sales culture they’re creating, and how the team is being led. Ouch.

Are these strong words? Am I taking a risk by holding up a mirror uncomfortably close to the very people who engage me to help improve their sales results? Do I realize that the vast majority of my revenue comes from speaking to and training salespeople? The answer to all of those questions is yes. I get the risk and understand that this message may offend. So be it. To transform sales team performance, we must tackle these issues!

If this message intrigues or angers you, if you know someone who needs to hear it, or if maybe you would just like to hear more, please share this link and join me next Wednesday, April 20th at Noon Eastern, 11:00am Central (where the cool kids live) for the HBR Webinar sponsored by Citrix.

Here’s my promise: I won’t bore you and I will not be pitching anything. I will not hold back or mince words. You will hear true stories about real executives in real companies and blunt truth about the sales leadership dysfunction that is so prevalent today. And I will offer practical help and a very simple framework for getting the most from your sales team. All in one hour and all free (thank you, again, to Citrix). Click here for more info and to register.