The job of the sales leader is to maximize the performance of the organization. It’s the leader’s responsibility to make sense of the various pieces/parts that impact individual and organizational performance. The sales leader has to make sure the organization is working as effectively and efficiently as possible, executing the corporate strategy with the customers.
But, we can’t maximize organizational performance unless we have a framework upon which we base our decisions. Yet too often, that’s what happens with too many organizations. We have nothing in which to ground our decisions, no framework, context or structure to guide us. We move from decision to decision, address problem after problem, without understanding what these mean to our overall performance. We put patches or Band-Aids here, quick fixes there, plug up leaks somewhere else.
Overtime, what looked like a finely tuned speedboat becomes a leaky dinghy, where people spend more time bailing water than making forward progress. So much time is spent on “fixing” the organization or dealing with problems that sales productivity plummets. We miss commitments and goals, we miss our numbers. We fail.
It’s easy to start seeing organizations that have a “Band-Aid” mentality to managing organizational performance. The most obvious symptoms are consistently missing the numbers. But even before that happens, there are other indicators: Executives and leaders spending more time in internal conversations than in the field with their people, hopefully coaching and adding value in customer calls. Crisis after crisis. Constant shifts in priorities and direction. Constant finger pointing and problem resolution meetings where the primary goal is to assign blame. That “deja-vu” feeling as the same problem recurs for the umpteenth time. Plummeting employee morale, high voluntary attrition–or high involuntary attrition as managers seek to blame sales people with wholesale layoffs and firings, bringing in new people (otherwise known as fresh meat) to “fix” the situation.
The picture doesn’t need to be as dire as that I’ve painted. It could be the constant recurrence of little things–nothing big, but dozens to hundreds or little things. Each to small to worry about, but collectively they drain performance and energy from the organization.
So how do we deal with this? How do we start assessing problems and performance issues to make sure the organization has the ability to perform at the highest levels?
We have to have a framework within which to evaluate and make decisions. We have to have a Sales Management Operating System. This framework/Operating System, provides both a structure and context with which leaders can look at and assess overall organizational performance.
It allows us to analyze problems, see relationships between various issues and problems, look for root causes. It enables us to understand individual performance issues and how to address those. It helps us recognize systemic performance issues, developing more comprehensive solutions to address those.
The Sales Management Operating System has dozens or interrelated components, ideally meshing like the teeth of gears. When things are working, it looks like the proverbial “well-oiled” machine. When they aren’t the machine starts working less efficiently, until it grinds to a halt, broken.
At the highest level, I believe the Sales Management Operating System has 5 major pillars:
- Leadership: This embodies the overall culture, values, and purpose of the organization, as well as the role of the leader in the organization.
- Strategy: This focuses on what we want to achieve as an organization–not this year but now through the next few years. It looks at what we want to stand for in our markets and to our customers. It looks at how we are going to reach our customers most effectively and efficiently.
- Business Management: Focuses on how we execute on a day to day, week by week, quarter to quarter basis. It provides the structure, tools, systems, processes to everything we do.
- People: People are the core of our ability to execute our strategy. Having the right people, doing the right thing at the right time, executing to their full potential is what drives and sustains the organization.
- Coaching: Some might find this an “odd” pillar for the Sales Management Operating System, thinking it might be “buried” in one of the other pillars. But if people are the cornerstone of our ability to execute our strategies, then coaching is what sustains that ability. So we believe it’s one of the pillars to the sales management operating system.
Under each of these “pillars” are dozens of sub-components. For example, in Business Management, we have things like our sales process, systems/tools, metrics, compensation and incentives, training/enablement, and so forth. In Strategy, we have our “Go To Customer” and deployment strategies, our growth strategies, what we want to stand for and how we create value for our customers and many more. (For a comprehensive model of the Sales Management Operating System, just email me with your name, company name, company email. I’ll send you an “interactive” copy of the Sales Management Operating System.).
This framework provides us a context with which to drive performance and address problems. There is a hierarchy in this framework with Leadership and Strategy sitting at the top, then Business Management, People, and Coaching sitting just below. This framework provides a powerful tool to diagnose and address problems and performance issues. For example, recurring problems at the Business Management, People, Coaching levels are probably reflections of underlying Leadership or Strategy problems. But without a framework–we tend to address the problems in isolation–again the Band-Aid approach.
Every organization has problems and challenges. Challenges of individual performance are dealt with by managers, with coaching, training, and other methods. Operational problems and failures in execution will occur, and need to be corrected. It’s our job to deal with these on a day to day basis. But when they recur, as they become systemic, as they move from the individual to a drain on the overall organization, then the problems are rooted in Leadership and Strategic challenges.
It’s impossible to achieve and sustain the highest levels of individual and organizational performance without a framework or Sales Management Operating System to provide the context and structure to guide us.
Do you have a Sales Management Operating System?
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.