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Sales Managers Must Set The Example To Drive Change

by David Brock on April 24th, 2009
We read everyday about organizations not achieving what they want in leveraging sales training, implementing CRM, implementing Sales 2.0 tools, new processes–whatever. While it may sound surprising, one of the key reasons organizations don’t get what they want from these programs is that managers, at all levels don’t set a visible example in utilizing the tools, training, or processes themselves. Somehow, they become things that the sales people must do, but managers don’t.

If managers are not committed to set a visible example in any initiative, the organization is probably better off not doing it–saving the money and time.

Many years ago, I was brought into run a troubled sales organization. We had to go through a major reduction and completely re-examine everything that we were doing. We instituted new sales processes, brought in new training programs, and implemented a CRM system (almost before CRM was CRM). As we made these changes, I started getting push back from the managers and sales people—it was natural, change is tough for all people and there is a natural tendency to resist new initiatives and change–even when what you have been doing doesn’t work.

Managers came to me and said “We don’t have time to do these things, we just need to get out an sell.” Sales people said, “You don’t understand, I’ve been selling for years, planning is bureaucratic and wastes my time.” There were lots of excuses, some legitimate, most not.

I decided to simplify things. I told everyone, they were accountable for making their numbers and achieving their goals. I told them they could do whatever they wanted, that they were responsible for their own success.

There was one big caveat: While people could do whatever they wanted, when they engaged with me, they were required to do things a certain way.

I told people I was available 7/24 to make sales calls with them–my highest priority was to be with customers helping them close business. However, in order to get the most out of the customer’s time and my time, I said I had the following requirements: I wanted a written sales call plan–using the tools we had introduced in the sales training. I wanted a decision process map, and I wanted an opportunity plan. I told people that if I didn’t have those before I jumped on the airplane, I would personally call the customer and reset the meeting, apologizing because we were not prepared to use the time well.

I got some grumbling. It only took two cancelled customer meetings to get people to realize I was serious. They started completing the plans—though only for me. For every plan I got, I would take the time to call the sales person review the plan, we would revise it and come up with a stronger plan—all using the tools and processes we had invested in. It didn’t take too long before people started seeing that using these produced results. Soon they weren’t using them just for me, but they were using them to improve their own productivity and effectiveness.

We did the same thing with funnel, account, territory and opportunity reviews. I told the management team they could use whatever process they wanted, but in doing the review with me, they had to use the tools and processes we had invested in. In the first few review meetings, people would try to avoid this, I stopped the meetings, sending them out of my office to do the work the way we had agreed. Over time, people started seeing the value of this. Our meetings were shorter, much more productive. We had common languages, processes and disciplines. We were becoming more focused, more efficient and more successful in building the business.

None of this would have happened if I hadn’t set the example of using the tools and processes myself. If I hadn’t cancelled meetings, thrown people out of my office, we never would have made the changes necessary to achieve our goals. There were some painful times, there was some grumbling. I had to invest a lot of time in coaching people in how to use the tools and explaining why they would produce result—-but in fact that was my job!

My responsibility was to set an example for my team. To demonstrate my confidence in the tools, training, and processes by using them every day. To develop my people and their people, showing them and working with them in how they could improve their performance with the tools.

Over the next 12 months, we were remarkably successful, we took a terrible situation and turned it into a great success. We were benchmarked as “best practice.” The team was positive, they used the tools, not because I required it, but because they produced value to them and improved their results.

Change is difficult. It’s the manager’s responsibility to lead people in change and to set a personal example. When are driving change in the organization, it’s not them that we are changing, it’s us.

  1. sales coaching permalink

    That is a really cool story. I loved your example; by you changing, the rest of the managers and sales associates followed. As they followed your sales increased.

  2. Dave Brock's Blog permalink

    Thanks for the comment. While I know it’s obvious to you, if we don’t change, how do we expect our sales people to change.

    We have to set the example. Thank again.

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