Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 13, 2012

Guest Article: Breathless Business, by Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

We’ve become a generation of “good enough” business leaders.

We’ve traded a relentless focus on being extraordinary for the justification that we are following the rules. That we are doing what we’ve been told we should be doing — college degree, MBA, and 5 year subscription to Smart Business magazine.

Nothing too risky.

Nothing unexplained.

In place of wonderment, we’ve adopted process, policy, and politics. There are rules for everything. And when that doesn’t work we can always blame the “nine-to-fivers” for not doing enough.

If something goes wrong then we unwire the entire business process and start strategizing around the uncertainty that we just experienced.

But maybe this whole drive for understanding the process is why we find it so tough to stay motivated. To stay focused on our mission. To take the road less traveled.

We’ve lost our sense of breathlessness. Our curiosity for achieving the impossible.

If we can’t predict it, project it, and plan for it, then we aren’t interested.

But the magic behind success is what happens in spite of our anticipations — what emerges from chaos and confusion.

Maya Angelou made the poetic observation that: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Breathless business.

Leadership needs an overhaul — we need breathlessness.

  • Our customers crave it.
  • Our employees thrive in it.
  • Our ambitions demand it.

It’s the missing ingredient in our struggle for finding success.

We’ve tried everything else. We’ve tried to manage chaos; attempted to manufacture passion from school plans. We even have a bevy of tools to help us automate empathy.

And none of it has worked.  None of it is working.

Customer loyalty is at an all time low.  Employee retention continues to exasperate progress.  Selfish sales and marketing processes dampen client engagement.

We’re missing guts.

We’re missing the guts to be amazing — choosing survival over the extraordinary.

It’s time to start being amazing.  Being predictable and eliminating uncertainty is what is holding you back.

Be breathless.

Speaker, writer, strategist, Dan Waldschmidt is at war with conventional business strategy.  His Edgy Conversations© have turned hundreds of companies into rock-star businesses and the Wall Street Journal calls his blog one of the” Top 7 sales blogs” anywhere in the world.  He’s on a mission to empower millions of high-performers all over the globe.  For more information about Waldschmidt Partners Intl, go to or call at 202-630-6730.

November 4, 2010

Guest Article: “Questions to Lead By,” by Keith Rosen

Questions to Lead By
by Keith Rosen

Let your employees tell you how to motivate them

Motivating employees is often exhausting and time consuming work. Managers provide incentives, set goals, acknowledge top producers, even use consequences or threats. They use these tactics in an attempt to stimulate some level of interest in their staff, trying to push them into action.

Yet, when that external stimulation is no longer present, people have tendency to slip back into their old ways; not moving unless someone is there to push.

Although worn out from this exercise, business owners tell me they believe their primary role is “problem solver” to their employee’s challenges- a role probably learned from their predecessors and mentors. Many attempt to control their environment, working within the limits of what they already have. Some spend their time extinguishing fires. Others derive their energy by keeping certain challenges alive, providing them with some sense of purpose.

Perhaps the real issue is not tapping into what might drive employees to motivate themselves.

Seth Hallen, owner of Home Security Inc., discovered this. His 25-person staff had a tendency to deviate from company procedures that continually resulted in production delays. Deciding it was because they were unclear about their responsibilities, Hallen had his staff write up their own job descriptions and career goals.

The results were surprising. Telemarketers wanted flextime and opportunities for career growth. Salespeople cared more about job stability and receiving positive acknowledgment for good performance rather than commission. In response, Hallen adjusted the job descriptions and procedures, creating individualized incentive programs geared to each employee’s goals and strengths. He empowered his staff by seeing and acknowledging their natural abilities, while supporting their personal vision of what was important to them.

Hallen found this simple exercise made a dramatic difference in how his staff approaches their career. “There’s less friction or communication breakdowns. People are taking ownership of their responsibilities, providing a greater sense of accountability and direction,” Hallen says. “I also find they are much more responsive to changes in our company that support the corporate vision we can all be pulled towards, rather than pushed to achieve.”

Continually providing employees with solutions can train employees not to be accountable. It will likely result in the lackluster performance you are working so diligently to avoid. It creates an environment of dependency, preventing employees from sharpening problem solving skills or discovering their own solutions.

Today’s enlightened leaders instead are coaching, more than managing their staff. The difference is that you give strength or inspiration by uncovering what internally motivates them based on their beliefs and values, as opposed to stimulating interest externally based on your beliefs. Tapping into a person’s previously unused talents advances personal growth, challenging people to discover their best.

Coaching utilizes a process of inquiry which allows your staff to articulate what they want, then access their own energy to achieve it. Otherwise, you’re using your energy to get someone else in motion. To uncover each person’s internal drive, ask questions. Invest the time uncovering what is truly important to your staff in order to improve performance and align their efforts with the company’s vision and direction.

Here are some suggested questions:

  What do you want in your career that you don’t currently have?

  What do you want to be doing that you aren’t currently doing?

  What are you doing now that you don’t want to be doing?

  What areas do you want to strengthen, improve or develop?

  What is most important to you in your life/career? (What does a successful career/life look like?)

  What is the legacy you want to leave behind when you are gone?

  What are the three most important things you would like to accomplish right now?

  What is your action plan to achieve those goals?

  What do you need that’s missing which is preventing you from reaching those goals?

  How can I best support you to achieve these goals? (Uncover how each employee wants to be managed/supported.)

Invest the time asking your staff questions, listening for their responses and asking more questions as you uncover what they most want. Sure, you need the right answers to stay in business. However, to get ahead, you need the right questions. Allow questions to become the cornerstone for effortless leadership that generates long-term results.

Keith Rosen is fanatical about increasing your sales and helping you achieve what matters most to you. That’s why almost half of the Fortune 1000 Companies and the top companies in six major industries chose his training and coaching solutions. He is the Executive Sales Coach that top salespeople and managers call first to attract more prospects, close more sales and develop a team of top performers. Visit his website.

October 27, 2010

Squeezing Boils–A Disgusting Sales Management Post

A recent LinkedIn discussion reminded me of Ted, a sales manager I knew years ago, who mentioned a couple of times that he was dreading going into the office because he had to “go squeeze some boils.”  After his second or third time to mention his need to squeeze boils, I asked—more than a bit hesitantly—what he meant by having to squeeze boils.  He explained that he had some underperforming salespeople who he had to let go before they poisoned the rest of the sales team.  He had to drain the pus before it infected the rest of the body.

In some respects Ted had the right idea; he just wasn’t nuanced enough (my God, I sound like a  Democrat).  Ted treated all underperformers the same.  To him, an underperformer was an underperformer.  A loser.  A waste of human flesh.  If you weren’t performing up to his standards, you were a boil that had to be squeezed and drained out of the sales body. 

Ted understood that there are underperformers who can and will infect other sales team members.  His mistake was believing that all underperformers are the same and consequently they should all be treated the same—summarily get rid of them. 

The result of Ted’s one size fits all death penalty for being an underperformer was a sales team that feared him far more than they respected him.  It resulted in a sales region that was always short of team members–and short meeting quota.  And it resulted in an unhappy, unsatisfied, disgruntled manager.

The problem wasn’t that Ted sought to squeeze the boils and get rid of the poison before it could spread throughout the team.  The real problem was that he didn’t recognize that not all underperformers are boils.  Although all underperformers must be dealt with, not all are full of pus.

Over the years I’ve found that there are basically three kinds of underperformers:

Parasites: Parasites are those team members who are simply hangers on, sticking around because they’ve found something worth milking—salary, draw, benefits, whatever.  They have no intention of ever performing.  They may talk a good game.  They may use every trick they can think of to appear to be a contributing member of the sales team.  Bottom line is they’re going to take advantage of the ride as long as they possibly can—or until something better falls into their lap.

Destroyers:  Destroyers are the true pus filled boils Ted was fearful of.  Destroyers are usually, but not necessarily, underperformers.  You’ll find Destroyers bitching and moaning about how crappy a deal the company is giving the salespeople, how lousy the company’s products are, how unrealistic the sales quotas are, how the only reason that big producer always hits her numbers is because the manager gives her all the call-ins.  Destroyers intend to hurt the company.  They delight in destroying morale.  They find great pleasure in bringing another salesperson over to the Dark Side.

Slow Developers:  Slow Developers are as far removed from Parasites and Destroyers as you can get.  Slow Developers are sellers who have the potential and the desire to succeed but for whatever reason aren’t up to speed.  Maybe they lack the necessary skills such as listening, asking questions, or finding and connecting with quality prospects; maybe they need intensive individual coaching on how to apply what they’ve learned; or maybe they haven’t learned a reliable, effective sales process.  These are men and women who can become, and want to become, great producers but who need more time and attention to mature into the seller you want and need them to be.

Pus Filled Boils Will Kill Your Team
Ted was right to drain the pus from the sales team body.  One of the responsibilities of every manager is to protect the integrity of the company and the sales team. 

Parasites and Destroyers must be mercilessly eliminated immediately upon discovery.  There is no room in any organization for Parasites and Destroyers.  Mercy and compassion has no place in dealing with these men and women.  The idea that letting these folks go is in their best interests should play no role in the decision making.  Frankly, they’re not worth the concern, worry or loss of sleep.  They are sucking the blood from the team.  Why in the world would you lose sleep over letting someone go who is intentionally or even unintentionally destroying you?

In fact, if a manager allows any of these boils to stay that manager should be immediately fired; it is simply too serious, too damaging to the future of the company to allow the sales team to become poisoned, and if the manager won’t take care of his or her team, they are worse than the boils with which they refuse to deal.

Slow Developers Aren’t Boils
Treating Slow Developers in the same manner as Parasites and Destroyers is both morally wrong and a bad business decision.  I’m not saying that you cannot let a Slow Developer go.  You not only might have to let one go every once in awhile; I’m sure you will have to let some go.  But letting a Slow Developer go should be a last resort, not a first.

Obviously the first step in getting a Slow Developer up to speed is to figure out what’s missing.  Hopefully you’ve got a good idea already.  Enlisting the aid of a quality assessment tool would be a wise decision. 

After you’ve identified the area or areas that are keeping the Slow Developer from becoming a valued producer, sit down with him or her and work out a training/coaching/development action plan.  The plan should:

  • Have a realistic timeframe based on your sales cycle and the specific areas to be developed.  Too short a timeframe and you’re not giving the salesperson a realistic opportunity, too long a timeframe encourages a lax attitude and performance
  • The plan must be based on objective, measurable actions, not generalities or mushy goals.  Instead of a goal to “increase daily cold call dials,” put a definite number on it such as “make a minimum of 75 cold call dials per day.”  Instead of a goal of “increasing line items per order,” set a specific goal such as “average 8 line items per order.” 
  • Progress must be monitored with frequent review sessions and specific, measurable progress landmarks.  Reviews should be set frequently enough to make sure the salesperson is staying on track, as well as to identify problems and make necessary adjustments. 
  • The action plan must specify the specific training and/or coaching, as well as who is responsible for the training and coaching and when it will take place.  Leave nothing to chance or some iffy future scheduling.  On the other hand, use common sense when some part of the action plan needs to be changed or rescheduled.
  • The action plan must have a specific outcome:  either the salesperson has met the action plan goals or they will be separated from the company. 

Slow Developers can become some of your sales team’s most reliable producers if given the chance and help in developing their potential.  Although it takes a commitment of time and resources, it is cheaper to cultivate your Slow Developers than to hire a replacement and you have a moral responsibility to work with those salespeople you’ve hired who have the desire and potential to grow into quality producers.

Like Ted, you must drain the pus out of your team before it infects the entire body.  Unlike Ted, you have to recognize that not every underperforming salesperson is a boil on your sales team’s butt.  Unfortunately the most common problem companies have isn’t an overzealous Ted but rather a sales manager who takes the easy route and simply allows the boils to fester and the Slow Developers to fade away out the door—often out of sales completely.

Sales management is a proactive position that, along with its rewards, on occasion requires some hard decisions be made and some unpleasant actions to be taken.  Squeezing boils isn’t pleasant.  Working with your Slow Developers is hard work.  If you’re not willing to take on both, you don’t deserve to retain your job.  If you’re on top of both, you’re in an elite class of managers.  If you haven’t recognized the need to deal with your underperformers, take them on.  It won’t be fun or easy but you’ll shortly find your team’s morale and production increase and your team easier and more pleasant to manage.

September 14, 2010

Making the Sales World a Little Smaller and a Lot More Valuable

Sales 2.0 … Networking online … Standing out …  Crystal clear messaging … global business.  So many ways to reach out to prospects and clients and so many pitfalls.  So little time to assimilate the very best practices.

What’s a busy sales professional to do?

Glad you asked. Just this week a dynamic, exciting new (and free) international sales community launched. I’m participating in Top Sales World because it provides the very best support from people like me who are out to help busy people like you achieve greater selling results while deriving greater reward and satisfaction from your own efforts.

We all want to get better what we do. Top Sales World brings together top gurus in the United States and other countries who provide unparalleled information in the form of how-to-guides, one-on-one advice, webinars, articles and much more. Get help on a specific problem. Learn to focus on your goals on a daily basis. See the latest trends. Read about the latest Sales AllStar or Featured Contributor.

Top Sales World evolved from Top Sales Experts and incorporates regular webinars  on everything from “Sales 2.0 and Selling to Big Companies” to “How the Most Successful Companies Develop Their Sales Teams” to “Turn Your Connections into Cash” and “Elevator Speeches that Sing” and “The Dynamic Value Proposition.”

Each event gives you top information and tips you can put to use immediately. Download each presentation  from Top Sales World when it suits your timeframe.

Better yet, new, live webinars are taking place all the time.  On Sept. 16, join Wendy Weiss, the Queen of Cold Calling, for “Cold Calling 2010: What’s Working Today?” Dr. Tony Alessandra presents on “What Exactly is Collaborative Selling” on Sept. 21.  A panel of experts shares “How to Stride into the Final Quarter and Finish the Year Strongly” on Sept. 28.

What’s not to like? I strongly recommend you visit Top Sales World and see for yourself.

August 11, 2010

Guest Article: “If Your Sales Training Department Ran Your Church,” by Charles H. Green

While doing a bit of reading, I ran across this older article by my friend Charlie Green that addresses the same subject I wrote about yesterday but more elegantly—and with humor too–than my post.



If Your Sales Training Department Ran Your Church
by Charles H. Green

What if your sales training department ran your church? (Or synagogue, or mosque; this is meant to be an equal-opportunity religious metaphor).

Suppose you move into a new community, and are looking for a place of worship. The minister (I’m just going to use the one metaphor from now on, please infer your preferred tradition) meets you, and says:

“Welcome. First we’d like you to fill out this spiritual needs-assessment instrument, so we can appropriately benchmark you for your level of sinfulness and spirituality potential.

“Part I evaluates your sinfulness; we prefer the so-called “Ten Commandments” instrument; Part II measures your level of mastery of the behaviors and habits of Highly Spiritual People (HSPs).

“You can fill it out over there in the cubicle; be sure to use only the Number 2 pencils provided.”

You do so. You take it back to the minister.

“Well, let’s see what we’ve got here, let’s pull the quick-scoring answer template. Hmm, only 5 out of 10 on the commandments. Well at least you go the biggies right, didn’t kill anyone lately, am I right, heh heh, sorry my little joke there…”

“You’re also scoring at a “meets expectations” level on your HSP. You probably know the Golden Rule, that sort of thing; but you probably don’t give alms to the poor, right? And tithing, fuggedaboudit! Am I right? Heh heh heh thought so, yup.

“OK, your achievement levels put you into the AIS group; Advanced Intermediate Spirituality. It’ll be a bit of a stretch, but we have some remedial online CBT programs that you can study up on. They meet at 11AM.

You sign up. Your kids are admitted to their own appropriate Sunday school classes. Embarrassingly, at higher levels than you.

You show up Sunday early, to be greeted at the door by a deacon.

“Please fill out this expectations document for today’s service. You can write in your own expectations if you want, but the multiple choice checkboxes are enough for most people.

You go in. You listen to the sermon.

“Today I’ll talk about Daniel and the lions. You will learn the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. On leaving, you will be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main levels of faith, and to be reasonably faithful yourself. And we’ll do some faith role-plays (what we like to call “praying”) to make it realistic. So now let’s get started, shall we?

You sit through the sermon. It concludes with:

“The sermon today has been about Daniel and the lions. You should have learned the skills and behaviors associated with Advanced Intermediate Spirituality with respect to faith. You should now be able to recognize faith when you hear it, identify the three main types of faith, and to be reasonably faithful. And, you’ve experienced the behaviors of faith through role-play (“praying”).

“Please take a moment now to complete your evaluation document that the deacon handed you on the way in.

You read the document. It asks:

“The sermon for today met my expectations” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“I am now able to recognize basic faith” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“I now have a moderately high faith level” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

“The minister trained well today” (1 definitely, 2 mostly, 3 sort of, 4 not really, 5 not at all)

You leave the church; the minister greets you on the way out the door. “How’d you like the service?” he asks, sneaking a glance at your evaluation document.

“Well, I’m still not sure I feel like I really have faith,” you say apologetically.

“That’s OK,” says the minister. “Just fake it ‘til you make it. You’ll get the hang of it. Continue to meet your metrics, and everything will work out—just have faith in the process.”


Hopefully you enjoyed that. In case it’s not clear, I’m trying to suggest that when it comes to certain “soft” subjects, the traditional management-by-numbers and train-by-behaviors can feel inadequate to the task.

How is this relevant? In training, I hope it’s clear. Different techniques suit different subjects.

But I think it speaks to issues of management and leadership too. Do you believe in values, missions and belief systems? If you’re trying to manage a values-based organization, what approaches work?

Managing through behavioral metrics doesn’t quite do the job when it comes to motivating people to higher-order beliefs.

Or, to put it nakedly, if still metaphorically: what’s the ROI on believing in a God? And what’s wrong with that question?

Charles H. Green is founder and CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates LLC; read more about Charlie at

February 16, 2010

Hey, Sales Leader, How Are You Taking Care of Your Customers?

Over the years I’ve asked hundreds of sales leaders that question. 

The answers are enlightening.  Most of the time, the response I get is about how the sales leader participates in taking care of the company’s customers.  Every once in a while I get a response that takes a very different view of who the sales leader’s customer is and the conversation centers on how the sales leader addresses the wants and needs of upper management.

Once in a blue moon I have a sales leader who interprets the question to be about how he or she services the needs of their sales team.

As sales leaders shouldn’t our primary focus be on serving the needs of our primary customer—those sellers who look to us for guidance and support—the sellers who create our success or failure?  Why do so few sales leaders recognize their team members as customers to be served rather than servants to serve?

 I’ve heard many a sales leader make cracks about how lucky their salespeople are to have a job, how expendable and replaceable they are, or how underworked or overpaid there are.  I’ve also noticed how many companies have extremely high turnover within their sales team which is often attributed to just the nature of the beast.

 But maybe the high turnover is a result of poorly supported salespeople, of low morale, of undertrained sellers who are looking to move somewhere where management supports them, gives them the training and the tools they need to be successful, and where they feel wanted and respected.

Maybe some—maybe a lot–of the low performance, tardiness, lack of focus, and low drive within the sales team are our fault.  Maybe the way we treat our team members is reflected in their actions—or non-actions.

Certainly there are salespeople who no matter what we do will fail, who lack drive, who don’t have the discipline and desire to develop the necessary skills, who will whine and complain no matter what.  Those are the applicants we must do a better job of not hiring by learning to interview better and by using well designed assessments to help weed them out before they ever get hired.

But do those salespeople account for all of the frustration, failure, and underdeveloped skills we see in the sales team?  That certainly isn’t the case with most of these situations that I’ve seen over the years.

In fact, a good many of the team issues I’ve witnessed have emanated directly from management.  Most often when I find a situation where turnover is excessive, an inordinate number of salespeople are struggling with basic selling skills, and/or morale is low, the fault lies with the team’s managers.

Although some companies have excessive turnover and low morale by design (the churn and burn operations), many managers I speak to seem blind to their role in the situation. 

How can we effectively address this? 

To start with, it isn’t rocket science. 

Simply recognizing that the members of our sales team are our most immediate and important customers is a great start.  But recognizing that is one thing, managing as a servant is another.

Uh, oh.  That word servant probably isn’t sitting well with some.  But the definition of a servant is “a person working in the service of another” or “a person who labors or exerts himself for the benefit of another.”  Now certainly in common usage we think of a master/servant relationship where one is in mandatory servitude to the other.  That’s not my meaning here.  Servant here is more along the lines of a public servant, one who voluntarily does service for the betterment of the group.  Or to paraphrase Plato, you can’t be a good master if you aren’t a good servant.

What are our servant or customer service responsibilities to our sales team members?

Training:  We ask our team members to do a very difficult job—find and connect with quality prospects and then sell our goods or services to those prospects.  For many sales teams, if they aren’t successful in making sales, they don’t eat.  Even for those who are supported with a salary, in most instances the salary is designed to be only a percentage of their income.  We’re asking these men and women to make a very real investment in the company with the expectation of earning an income that will justify that investment.  We must justify their investment by giving them the training they need to be successful.  Whether through in-house personnel or from outside trainers, every member of the sales team deserves to be given proper training.  Anything less is dereliction of our duty to them.

Coaching:  Training without coaching is a waste of time and money.  The information salespeople get from training must be turned into action.  Turning information into action requires not only implementing the necessary actions but also working through the missteps and overcoming the problems encountered during the implementation stage.  In other words, coaching– and few salespeople are capable of coaching themselves to success.  Again, whether the coaching comes from an in-house coach or from outside the company, giving them real world guidance and feedback as they learn to turn training into action is paramount to helping our team members become successful sellers.

Support:   The members of our team expect and deserve more from us besides training and coaching—they expect us to be their go-between with senior management, to fight and advocate for them when necessary, to hold them accountable for their actions, and to demand the best from them at all times.  Unfortunately, some sales leaders offer little support of any kind yet still expect their team to produce results.  Most sellers seek only to be treated fairly and with respect.  If we as leaders can’t do that, we have no business in a leadership position.

Our job as sales leaders is to nurture and grow out sales team.  Our company depends on us getting the most from our team members.  In order to accomplish that task we must recognize our customer service–that is servant–responsibilities to our team members and work for their success because it is by demonstrating our servant-ability that we earn our leadership position.

January 17, 2010

Leading the Rapid Growth Organization

Filed under: Leadership — Paul McCord @ 4:09 pm

“I started this company four years ago.  We’ve grown but not nearly as quickly as I envisioned, and honestly, we really can’t grow right now because we just don’t seem to have the processes and procedures in place and I feel I’m stretched to the breaking point.  I see exactly where we need to be going and how we can blow away the competition; I just can’t figure out how to get there.”

Although that’s a direct quote from a recent conversation with the owner of a service business in Omaha, I’ve had that same conversation with more small and mid-size business owners and CEO’s than I can remember.  They believe they have the right product or service, the right market, and the vision of where they want to go and wonder why things don’t seem to be falling in line.

Obviously there could be a number of common, identifiable issues that are hindering their growth and success—and there usually are a number of them.  But in many cases I find most issues emanate from a much more fundamental issue within the organization—leadership.

We often think of leadership as a single thing—the ability to get people to follow, to work towards a common goal.  Although that definition works on many levels, within an organization there are three types of leadership that are indispensible to create a rapidly growing, dynamic organization.  Although each leadership type is needed in mature organizations, they are mandatory in any organization that seeks rapid growth and expansion.  Without these three leaders, organizations seek to grow rapidly tend to struggle, and growth tends to be much slower than desired–and painful.

The Visionary Leader
At the heart of any rapid growth organization is a visionary; one who envisions what could and should be.  The visionary leader works more from inspiration and imagination than from the practical.  Boldness and the impossible are at the forefront not limited by conventional thinking or industry norms.  The visionary leader wants to create more than simply build; she wants to make something that hasn’t been before rather than simply make the existing better.  The visionary leader sees the future and wants to create it NOW. 

The Managerial Leader
Vision is wonderful but useless without someone who can take the vision and implement the structure that will allow the organization to turn the vision of what should be into what is.  Sometimes the visionary leader is quite capable as the managerial leader also; very often though that isn’t the case.  Often the very traits that make the visionary leader the visionary leader hinder him or her from also being the managerial leader.  Their ability to envision what isn’t, that is the imagination and ability to think unconventionally, stands in opposition to the down to earth practicality needed in the managerial leader.  The managerial leader is more than simply a good manager; the managerial leader has the ability to take a vision and turn it into processes and structures that move it from the realm of possible into the practical.   

The Implementation Leader
Just as vision leadership is useless without managerial leadership, it is completely impotent without a leader who can implement the vision—the one who can inspire and drive the organization to realize its potential, the one we so often think of when we think of a leader.  Many times the visionary leader’s passion transforms them into the implementation leader—but not always (think of those visionary leaders who started the company but who are not the CEO but are instead the head of research and development—or some tucked away department that no one even knows exists).  In many organizations the implementation leader is neither a creator nor manager but may instead come out of the ranks of marketing or sales.  The implementation leader is the company evangelist, the one who takes the vision and turns it into excitement, sales and growth.

An organization with all three leaders in place is capable of not only rapid growth but of having an immense impact on its market and community, at times changing the very nature of an industry—think Steve Jobs. 

The difficulty for any organization is finding and engaging a full complement of leadership.  Seldom are all three leadership types found in a single individual, although those individuals do exist.  More common are individuals who are both the visionary and implementation leader, although even that combination is by no means a given as there are many companies founded by a visionary leader whose success or failure depended ultimately on bringing in a managerial and implementation leader. 

Are you a visionary leader whose company is struggling?  Has your earth shattering vision failed to come to fruition?  Maybe like so many others, you’ve failed to recognize that your company’s success needs far more than your visionary leadership.  If you’re not a leader capable of leading in all three areas, recognize your limitations and find the additional leaders your organization needs.  Vision without the processes and procedures is no vision at all—just a farfetched dream.  Likewise without the implementation leader to lead the charge and create the gung-ho team, an organization stands little chance of reaching its full rapid growth potential. 

Rapid growth organizations call for a unique combination of leadership skills that few single individuals possess.  Consequently, the sign of the true visionary leader is their ability to envision a full leadership team within their organization and then find a way to turn that vision into reality.

December 2, 2009

Management Lessons from the LSU Tigers

For those of you who watched the LSU game against Mississippi the other night, there’s only one thing you’ll remember about that game—how atrociously the Tigers mismanaged the end of the game.  LSU didn’t lose to Mississippi as much as they gave the Rebels the game because of their own lack of preparation and foresight.

For those non-football fans who are not aware of what happened, a brief recap of the end of the game:

LSU came into the game a favorite to win.  They were ranked number 10 in the nation—Mississippi wasn’t ranked at all.  Nevertheless, with just over a minute left in regulation play, the Rebels were leading 25-23 when the Tigers tried a desperation onside kick—and recovered the ball. 

A couple of plays later LSU was in field goal range—barely.  They needed to improve their field position in order to improve their chances of making the winning field goal.  But on the next play LSU’s quarterback was tackled for a loss, moving them once again out of field goal range.  After a short gain, the clock continued to run despite LSU still having a timeout to use.  The fans were frantic as no timeout was called.  LSU’s Head Coach, Les Miles, says he thought he heard people calling for a timeout–but apparently none of the officials heard it.  The clock continued to run off 17 seconds before a timeout was finally called with only 9 seconds left on the clock.

It appears the coaching staff decided there was only time to run one play so they went all out for a touchdown.  The play called; the team lined up; the ball snapped; the ball thrown and caught; the receiver tackled on the 6 yard line with one second left on the clock.

In college football the clock is stopped after a first down in order to have the chains and down marker moved.  Although the Tigers are now out of timeouts, the automatic stoppage of the clock gives them the opportunity to get their field goal team on the field, get lined up, snap the ball, make the field goal, win the game.  It would have been a tight fit to get all of that in, but they had the time since there was confusion getting the chains moved.   

It didn’t happen. 

No field goal. 

No win. 

Nope, instead a ton of controversy and blame on the coaching staff for blowing a win and maybe even an eventual BCS bowl game and big dollars to the university and conference.

After the pass that ended with the receiver being tackled on the 6, total confusion broke out on the LSU sidelines.  The field goal team wasn’t prepared to get onto the field; the coaching staff didn’t seem to know whether to try to stop the clock by snapping and immediately downing the ball (not possible with one second on the clock), running one last desperation pass play, or trying to get the field goal team out onto the field.

The coaches made the decision that there wasn’t enough time to get the field goal team on and apparently they decided they couldn’t run a play.  Their decision?  The one decision that would absolutely guarantee they lose—snap the ball and down it by having the quarterback throw it into the ground at his feet.    No matter how quickly they down the ball after the snap, at least one second will expire off the clock—meaning time will have expired and the game will be over.

How could one of the elite teams in the nation—with one of the top coaches (managers) in the country—have screwed up so monumentally? 

The same way we screw up with our sales teams and just like with us and our sales teams, it wasn’t that hard.   Fortunately, we can learn from Coach Miles and his team what great managers don’t do:

Great Managers Don’t Abdicate Responsibility
As the 17 critical seconds were clicking off the clock, Coach Miles says he thought he heard others calling for a timeout.  It is common practice at the end of the first half or the game, when managing the clock becomes critical, for a college coach to let one of the officials know that he will be calling a timeout at some point and the coach asks the official to keep an eye on the coach so that the timeout can be called without any delay.  Coach Miles didn’t do that.  Not only did he not forewarn the officials that he would be calling a timeout at some point, he didn’t even take responsibility for calling the timeout; instead he relied on others to do his job for him and the result was no one called for a timeout until it was almost too late.

Great managers know, accept and fulfill their responsibility without hesitation. 

Great Managers Don’t Fail to Plan
Coach Miles’ failure to take responsibility to call the critical timeout was hardly the only management disaster on the part of the LSU coaching staff.  Although 9 seconds isn’t much time, it is easily enough time to run a football play and still have a few seconds left on the clock if the play results in a first down or the ball carrier gets out of bounds.  With almost half a football field to navigate, there was a more than reasonable chance that the play would result in at least a first down, stopping the clock with a couple of seconds left to play.

Since there was a reasonable expectation that there would be an opportunity for one additional play, it was mandatory that the LSU coaching staff plan for that contingency and have made sure that everyone on their sideline knew what to do if it came to pass.

They didn’t plan past the immediate need—one play. 

After that?  Well, they’ll deal with that if and when the time comes. 

Well, the time came—and went, and they lost because they had no plan.  Coaches, some of them considered to be among the best in the profession, who had combined decades and decades of top notch experience, who combined had seen almost everything to see in the sport didn’t have the foresight to plan for a reasonable possibility. 

Great managers plan—they take into consideration and are ready for all reasonable contingencies.  Luck or the lack thereof doesn’t control their team’s destiny. 

Great Managers Don’t Panic
One of the most memorable scenes at the end of the game was the LSU quarterback on the field looking at the sidelines for some direction—and seeing a coaching staff in total disarray.  One coach signaling to do this, another to do that.  That pandemonium and indecision was transferred to the quarterback who was obviously confused and panicked. 

Since Miles had not planned for the occasion, he couldn’t let his coaching staff know what the plan was. Consequently, each coach was left on their own to try to figure out what to do.  Chaos ensued, and that chaos on the part of management was transferred to the players. 

Panic begat chaos, and chaos begat the worst possible decision that could be made in the situation to be made. 

Great managers know that their team will respond as they do.  Consequently, great managers maintain control instead of letting the situation control them.

Great Managers Don’t Blame Others for Their Failures
For Miles, the end of the game was not the end of the management failures.  At the post game news conference he was naturally asked about what happened at the end of the game.  His explanation was not only did he have no real clue. but he had no idea who on the sideline told the quarterback to down the ball, thus guaranteeing a loss.

That explanation may have worked 50 years ago.  Not in 2009.  Television cameras caught every second of the action on both the field and the sideline; including the panic stricken Miles running along the sideline desperately signaling for the quarterback to down the ball. 

Is it possible that Miles was so panic-stricken at the moment he was telling his quarterback to do the one thing that would guarantee a loss that he honestly didn’t remember doing it?  I guess maybe possible, but I certainly doubt it likely.  I think more likely he was being consistent with his previous actions and not accepting his responsibility.  Instead of owning his failure, he sought to push the blame on someone else—didn’t matter who as long as it wasn’t him. 

Great managers own their decisions—right or wrong, good or bad. 

It was just a football game, but one that in the course of less than a minute and a half demonstrated exactly how not to be a great manager.

November 16, 2009

The Last Thing Your Sales Team Needs is a Manager

Does your sales team need someone to:

  • Monitor every activity in the sales office?
  • Be every salesperson’s best friend?
  • Close the deal for every team member?
  • Set sales goals designed to make them and their team look good?

Over my three decades in sales I’ve seen lots and lots of sales managers.  The vast majority fall into one of these four types:

The Hall Monitor

The Hall Monitor sees their job as one of chronicling activity, taking names, dispensing discipline, focusing on procedures, thinking those are the keys to generating results—or at least to keeping their job.

Hall monitors tend to be oriented to process, are organized, and have a strong sense of discipline.  All admirable characteristics—but they’re misguided.  The Hall Monitor makes a great bureaucrat, a lousy sales manager.  He’ll make sure everyone knows their place and that procedure is followed—at the cost of morale and sales. 

Although the Hall Monitor is focused on enforcing procedure on subordinates, she feels justified in fudging (lying) to upper management when completing reports.  She has no intent of letting her subordinates hold her down or put her job in jeopardy.  If numbers aren’t met, margins aren’t being held, or sales calls aren’t being made, she is fully capable of showing management why it isn’t her fault. 

The Visitor

The Visitor is going places—fast.  Their current assignment of managing the sales team is temporary—and the more temporary, the better.  Their key to moving is getting some numbers to catch the eye of management.

The Visitor cares about no one other than himself and that translates into demanding sales at all costs.  Price is never an obstacle—sell it no matter what.  His message to his team members is get out and get orders and don’t come back until you got ‘em.  His implied message to the sales team is “the quicker you get the numbers, the quicker you get rid of me.”

Need help?  Need advice?  Need coaching?  Don’t ask The Visitor because frankly, he doesn’t give a damn.  If it isn’t something that’s going to help him get the next promotion and get it NOW, forget it.

Have a suggestion or advice to give?  Don’t bother because The Visitor doesn’t care—doesn’t plan on being around long enough to implement it anyway.

The one thing you can count on from The Visitor is a sales goal he is sure he can easily obliterate.  Oh, yeah, management will see those numbers destroyed, guaranteed.

The Good Buddy

The Good Buddy is everyone’s friend.  Managing is a popularity contest that he intends to win.  He’ll be a great drinking buddy, a top notch shoulder to cry on, a guy you can trust to cover for you.  He’ll make sure the office atmosphere is loose, that everyone feels welcome, that the office is a fun place to be.

Discipline?  Well, that’s not something you’ll find in his office.  An insistence on hitting quota?  Something else that isn’t a priority.  Coaching?  Nope.  Lots of back slapping and high fiving, but no coaching.  Decisions?  Don’t expect The Good Buddy to make the hard decisions because he might hurt someone’s feelings. 

The Good Buddy is weak and lets his team members run the office.  Ultimately, most everyone in his office ends up unhappy.

The Super Closer

We all know the Super Closer—the guy or gal who believes they can close anyone, anytime.  They generally have a massive ego, more than likely a strong sales history, an A type personality, and little respect for the others on their sales team.  The Super Closer sees their charges as grunts who know nothing about sales and whose only job is to go out, work through the chaff to find the prospect, then call in The Super Closer and watch the master work.

The Super Closer is concerned with one thing and one thing only—today.  Get today’s numbers, Numbers, numbers, numbers.  By gosh she’s never missed a quota and she’s not going to start now.  If you suckers can’t get the business—and God knows you can’t, she’ll close it for you.  Her sales team doesn’t have to worry about anything except getting her in front of a prospect.

Planning?  Who needs it?  Reports to management?  All they care about are quotas being met and exceeded, so she’ll tell them what they want to hear and then worry about making it true. 

The managers above have developed their own definition of what a manager is because:

  • They misunderstand the nature of their position.  Most companies don’t train their new sales managers.  The assumption is that good salespeople will know what needs to be done.  Consequently, most companies simply instruct new salespeople to call their manager if they have questions, maybe give them a day or two introduction to the reports and paperwork they’ll need to complete. 
  • They believe that today is more important than future days.  Get today’s numbers today and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.  This often comes from a demand by management—stated or unstated—that numbers be met today.  Many senior managers mouth a long-term growth philosophy while demanding numbers be made today so they get their bonus–and to hell with tomorrow (Wall Street anyone?).
  • They aren’t manager material to begin with.  A great salesperson will not necessarily be a great manager.  Often great salespeople make terrible managers.  They know what they are good at and want to continue being the sales superstar but with a management title.  Converting to be a real manager is impossible for some of these sales stars.
  • They can’t make the adjustment from being one of the group to being the leader of the group.  They want the new position but they don’t want their relationships to change.

The Sales Leader

Fortunately, there is a fifth type of sales manager—the real deal.

Currently it is common for sales managers at all levels to be called ‘Sales Leaders.’  Nice title that really doesn’t fit most managers.  A true sales leader is very different from the more typical managers we saw above.

The true sales leader:

  • Isn’t focused on today but rather is looking into and planning for the future with the intent of molding the future instead of being molded by it. 
  • Is looking to coach his or her team members to stardom, not to be The Star themselves. 
  • Manages through demonstration and inspiration, not intimidation or fear.
  • Is a student, open to suggestion, criticism, advice, and continual education. 
  • Leads by being trustworthy and demonstrating integrity and honesty.  His/her team members may not like The Sales Leader’s decisions, but know the decisions are honest and based on what the Sales Leader believes is best for the team.
  • Is a decision maker, not afraid to make the hard decisions and to live with the consequences. 

The Making of a Sales Leader

A Sales Leader doesn’t just happen, they are created, they’re formed, they’re developed.

The development starts with the selection of  the new manager.  Traditionally companies have selected top producers to become the new frontline sales manager.  Sales management is viewed more as a reward for production than as a critical job in its own right.

What makes a great manager isn’t what makes a great salesperson.  The activities are very different.  The relationship building needs are different, the communication, planning, and organizational needs are different.  Unless a company is seeking a Super Closer or a Visitor, promoting a top producer may not be a wise idea.

Although the management problems start with the selection of the new manager, more important is the “training” most new managers undergo—none.

One of the most common training formats companies have is upon promoting the new manager, the new manager is are given a day or two training on hiring and firing procedures, how to handle sexual harassment issues, and how fill out payroll paperwork.   From there, the new manager is told to call his or her manager if they have questions or need guidance.  After the first few questions directed to their manager, they begin to notice their phone calls aren’t returned as promptly as before, their manager’s tone of voice is a little sharper, the answers and guidance more and more abrupt. 

Soon they realize they’re on their own to sink or swin as they can.

No wonder they have no idea how to be a leader.

To create a Sales Leader companies must invest in their new manager.  They must either create a multi-disciplinary in-house management program or hire an outside company.  In addition, each new manager needs a coach—either an in-house coach or an outside professional manager coach.

Each new manager must be schooled in the skills of management, but more importantly must be guided in the roll of and skills of leadership.  Filling out paperwork, creating a sales plan, assigning territories, and resolving issues with shipping are all important, no doubt. 

But far more important to the success of the company and the sales team is getting the most out of team members, developing team members who have the desire to succeed, who are willing to invest the time and effort to be the best.  These aren’t instilled by a manager, they’re brought out by a leader.

The last thing your sales team needs is a manager.  You need Sales Leaders. 

If you want Sales Leaders, do the things necessary to develop them—investing in them is investing in your company’s future success.  Refusing to invest in them is an investment in your company’s failure.

September 5, 2009

Guest Article: “Position Yourself as a Leader,” by Mark Hunter

Filed under: Leadership,sales,selling — Paul McCord @ 11:13 am
Tags: , , ,

Position Yourself as a Leader
by Mark Hunter

It’s been said that to be a successful salesperson, not only do your listening skills have to be great, but your closing skills have to be even better.  However, I believe that while these skills are helpful, they are not essential.  In my opinion, to be a top-performing sales professional, you must be a great leader.   It is a fundamental character trait.  Although we have all known salespeople who have had stellar years based on the luck of a few great clients, those with sustained, long-term success always exhibit great leadership skills.

What is a leader?  Leaders are people who empower others to do seemingly impossible things, whether individually or as part of a group.  They help people see issues and opportunities they would not normally see themselves.  Most importantly, they instill a level of confidence in people that make them pro-active in dealing with situations they otherwise would be hesitant to handle. 

These leadership traits are essential for top-performing salespeople to exhibit on a daily basis.  By demonstrating these qualities to your prospects and clients, you are communicating your value to them.  They will see that you have their best interest in mind and are not out to just “make a sale.”  You will create the confidence they need to desire to do business with you.  Salespeople who see themselves as leaders are far more likely to provide the client with the services necessary to help them achieve their long-term goals.  For example, a salesperson who is a leader will wisely show a 25-year-old the significance of buying life insurance both as an investment tool and a “peace of mind” policy.

Top-performing salespeople understand how positioning themselves as leaders can further their success.  You will increase your profits by selling more to an existing customer, so it only makes sense to display leadership to them.  In addition, because the best new clients often come from referrals, your existing customers will be much more apt to confidently recommend you.  In my experience, I have observed that salespeople who behave as leaders are less likely to need multiple closing techniques to make a sale.  I firmly believe that the higher the degree of leadership in a sales professional, the less time spent on closing the deal.  Similarly, the opposite holds true, and the result is a loss of valuable time.

Over the years, I have come to believe that “sales is leadership and leadership is sales.”  The more salespeople with whom I work, the more I confirm the validity of this statement.  Although it’s important to work on both your ability to listen and your closing techniques, fostering your leadership skills is far more essential.  Begin today to set yourself apart from the competition by positioning yourself as a leader to your employees, your clients and your prospects.


Mark Hunter, “The Sales Hunter,” is a sales expert who speaks to thousands each year on how to increase their sales profitability.  For more information, to receive a free weekly email sales tip, or to read his Sales Motivation Blog, visit

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