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Sales Force Ineffectiveness, Conjecture On The Future Of The Profession, Part 3 of 3 – What Do We Do?

by David Brock on May 8th, 2009
If you’ve made it this far through the series of articles, you probably want to quit your sales job and become a hermit in the mountains. I’ve certainly created a bleak picture. Thank you for your patience and dligence in hanging in with me!

However, I am tremendously excited about being a sales professional and for the future of sales professionals. I think the dismal picture I’ve portrayed, also provides an opportunity for real progress and growth for sales professionals.

Note—I’m focused on a small audience—people who are or who are committed to becoming the highest levels of performance in sales. I’m not talking about people that sell. I am neither naïve enough, ambitious enough, now willing to waste my time on changing sales. As with every function, there will be a tremendous number of “schlock” peddlers (call a New Yorker for translation). There will also be a large number of people who are in the middle—I see great hope for them, but led by inspired sales professionals.

I think the problems and challenges provide the opportunity for true professionals and those that aspire to be professionals to separate themselves from the rest of people who peddle.

How do we improve, how do we focus on becoming truly effective and high performers? Where does the leadership responsibility lie? I believe each of us can take ownership in driving change.

First, we can’t be naive, a lot of the structural and systemic issues I identified in Part 2 can’t be fixed — will take more people working together (within and organization or across organizations. But, we don’t have to let these constrain us, we can still get a lot accomplished and drive a lot of change that will improve our effectiveness — as groups, teams, or individuals. We can’t let these constraints become excuses for non performance.

To be honest—at least from an organizational point of view, I am tempted to point the finger at management—not just sales management, but corporate management. I do believe that poor leadership or no leadership is one of the key reasons sales (and organizations) perform at a far lower level than they could. I think leaders must set better personal examples, invest in getting things done through their people—which means coaching and developing them. I believe they must fight the systemic issues that block them from driving sustained performance improvement.

At the same time, only the top executives will be able to have any significant impact on the systemic issues. What does this mean for most of sales management? If I got my wish, I would hope that sales managers focus on three things: Doing their jobs as leader/coaches. There are coaching opportunities in every meeting—just the questions you ask have a tremendous impact your team.

Second, rather than reacting, changing priorities and strategies on a daily basis; stick to your principles, processes, and tools. Use them, presumably you implemented them because you believed in the results they could produce, give them a chance to work, monitor, adjust, modify. Follow through on them, diagnose what’s working and what’s not working. There are a lot of good processes, tools, and programs out there. Choose those that work best for you and use them. Don’t become victim of the program du hour mentality.

Finally, execute your processes and lead with passion and excitement. Inspire your people, your peers, your management to follow your example.
Individual contributors have a responsibility as well. Seek to become the best in your profession. Constantly learn, seek out the best professionals you can find, network with them, and learn from them. Develop your own processes, or internalize your company’s selling processes—adapting them for your use. The processes and tools work! They produce tremendous results, learn how to leverage those results for yourself. Invest in planning and thinking. It will get you to your end goal more effectively and efficiently then by reacting to your competition, customer demands, or your management. Set an example in your own performance for your peers.

Whether you are a leader or individual contributor, becoming disciplined and process focused, committing to follow through on these, exploiting the tools produce results. Leverage these processes and tools, not because your management tells you to, but because they help you become more effective.

I don’t believe change only comes from the top. I believe change comes from committed, passionate people at all levels of the organization.

Thanks for your patience in working your way through my diatribe. I have not hit all the issues, I think I may have a bit of a warped view on many issues. My greatest hope is not that you agree with my ideas, but that it stimulates a healthy discussion. Your discussion and comments will be better than my rambling posts! If I’m off base, please correct me.

In case you started at the end and want to go back to the beginning, here are the two previous posts.

Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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