Ten years ago, I was approaching the Ballas Road exit off of westbound Highway 40/64 (pictured) in suburban St. Louis when I reached the point of utter exasperation. After having tons of success and fun as both a top individual producing salesperson and as a consultant and coach to sales teams, to say that I was struggling mightily in my first sales executive role would be an understatement!
So I did what any 38-year-old struggling executive would do after tiring of banging my head against the wall: I called my dad. Not just any dad, but the former big-time New York City sales executive dad who had forgotten more about sales management than I ever hoped to know. He picked up the phone and I exploded on him sharing my pent-up frustration about everything from the CEO who wrongly thought he was a sales expert to the fact that I had never worked harder or longer yet felt like I was accomplishing so little. It was a cathartic experience just to get all of it off my chest, but it was my dad’s response that really got my attention:
“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’ll be able to read the juicy details of that entire dialogue with my dad in Chapter One of my new book on sales management coming this fall.
Just last week, I completed the manuscript and turned it in to my wonderful publisher, AMACOM Books. So if you’re wondering why this blog has been so quiet lately, the very simple answer is that the past couple of months have been dedicated exclusively to serving my existing clients and finishing the book. My sincere thanks for your patience as I’ve spent more time than I can recount at my various secret local writing spots, and a special thanks to Dierberg’s Market in Des Peres whose mezzanine cafe served as my home away from home the past few months!
The book is divided into two parts. Part One is a loud wakeup call for senior executives and sales managers (much like Chapter Two from New Sales. Simplified. is a wakeup call to salespeople). I am brutally honest about the sales leadership attitudes and behaviors getting in the way of sales team success. Be forewarned that I didn’t hold back or mince words about…
- entrepreneurial executives who don’t provide clear a clear strategy or sufficient direction to their sales teams
- desk jockey sales managers attempting to “lead” their teams via email with heads buried in CRM screens
- unhealthy anti-sales cultures and control-freak micromanaging founders who care more about seeing call reports than whether their salespeople hit their goals
- silly compensation plans that underpay top-producers, overpay underperformers, and reward reactive sellers for babysitting accounts sold years ago
- the stupidity of tasking the very few true sales hunters with an obscene amount of admin and account maintenance work
- sales leaders continually shopping for shiny new toys and tools in search of the magic bullet to fix their sales team instead of simply focusing on the basics of sales management
Part Two of the book offers a very simple and easy-to-implement framework for creating a healthy, high-performance sales culture and getting exceptional results from a sales team. I discuss the sales leader’s highest-payoff activities and offer practical tips on topics ranging from regular results-focused 1:1 meetings between manager and salesperson, best practices for getting out and working with salespeople, to ways to spice up sales team meetings. Sales leaders are presented a simple grid to improve talent management and ensure the retention of A-players while quickly coaching-up or coaching-out underperformers. And sales managers are also challenged to take back control of their calendars in a quest to be more selfishly productive — so more time is spent leading the team and driving revenue than sitting on committees and corporate conference calls!
Now that the book is done, here are two promises: First, I’ll return to my regular blogging schedule. Feel free to shoot me a note with a request for a sales or sales leadership topic you’d like me to tackle. And second, I promise that you’ll hear more about this book in the near future because I’ll need your support. As necessary as I felt New Sales. Simplified. was to help salespeople become more effective at developing new business, I am convinced that this next book for is even more critical for sales success today. You cannot transform sales organizations solely by improving the salespeople; we must address sales leadership to create the type of culture conducive to producing long-term performance improvement.