Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why Most Sales Managers Fail

I take a lot of heat for saying that very few “Top Dog” sales people make good managers, but it is true.  The difference between being a successful Sales Manager and a Top Dog sales person is that you are responsible for other people’s results. A sales manager’s career and paycheck are dependent upon how hard others are willing to work for him.  A first line sales manager is responsible for attending meetings and helping others succeed.  Succeeding and keeping your job requires a mastery of leadership, motivation and sales process. 
Creating a desire in others to listen to and learn from you is the most difficult and satisfying part of any young sales manager’s job.  A Sales Rep’s willingness to listen to you or follow  your lead is based on his having the confidence that you have the ability and desire to help him.   If you are managing members of your former team, chances are that you seldom, if ever took time to help them.
A great sales manager possesses an understanding of how to motivate individuals.  This requires excellent coaching skills combined with a recognition that each individual is motivated quite differently.  To gain their confidence, you need to display confidence in their abilities.  You can achieve this by helping and listening to them, not by micromanaging or intimidating them.  I’m not saying that fear is an ineffective motivator.  Fear is very effective in motivating your top performers to work for someone else.  Those who have choices will exercise them. 
One of the biggest mistakes a new sales manager makes is assuming that his team is motivated in the same way he is.  Reps will have varying degrees of ability and talent.  Some members of your team will be more successful than others, and they will need you to tailor your leadership and assistance to their particular abilities.  Consider of a football team:  Not every player will be the high scorer, but you can’t have a winning team without some charismatic leaders, moderate scorers, and punters.  It is the job of the sales manager to highlight each team member’s role, recognize their contributions, and maximize their results.
The sales manager’s role is to help other people sell, not to do the selling for them.  Taking over sales calls or relationships will not help anyone on your team.  This will humiliate, anger and frustrate even the most talented reps.  Sales managers with the best overall performance are excellent coaches and motivators.  An NFL coach cannot run out onto the field and kick a field goal or catch a ball for his team.  His own performance is based on how other people perform.  Every sales manager goes into a training class believing that he could teach the information better than the trainer.  That is because they are seldom listening.  They are either doing all the talking or spending time or their laptops managing spread sheets. 
A good coach attends practice and is a good listener.  Can you imagine if the QB calls a time out to ask for his coach’s opinion and finds out that the Coach was on his blackberry the entire time?  A coach cannot improve his players’ performance if he didn’t see them practice.  It will be difficult to convince your team that you care if you cannot take the time to help them or listen to them without interruptions on your phone and blackberry. 
There is no sales manager in the world good enough to do his own job and sell enough to meet the entire team’s quota.  It is imperative that you realize early on that you need every Rep selling at his individual best quickly.   Adults learn by practicing, by reviewing their mistakes, and by creating and owning a plan for improvement.  You cannot hold your Reps accountable for their failures if you are taking credit for their successes.
An inspired sales person will multiply the motivation, excitement and inspiration of others, making the sales manager’s job much easier.  Ask yourself:  Am I inspiring others to do better or trying to do it for them?  Do I revel in their success or am I attempting to take the credit? As a sales person would I have been inspired by my actions or humiliated by them?  Aspire to be the sales manager you always wanted. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

How to Recognize a True Sales Hunter

Recently a number of articles have appeared on the Social Media site Linkedin, regarding the traits of a “True Hunter”.  Several members followed up with me personally asking how to locate, verify and hire authentic sales hunters.  The favorable reaction to my replies caused me to write this article outlining and summarizing the persona of the “True Sales Hunter”.  Enjoy!
1.       The Hunter has an extraordinarily high level of assertiveness.
The “myth” that all sales people are dominant types comes from the Hunter persona.  These individuals are dominant, assertive, competitive, take-charge types, who need to win, need to be in control,and require recognition.  They have a “take no prisoners” attitude when it comes to getting what they want.
2.       The Hunter is a risk taker.
The true Hunter thinks big.  If selling software, they will want to close the biggest deal, they will call on the C-Suite, and they will not hesitate in asking for what they know is denied to others, including their own coworkers.  The hunter is willing to take on Sales Managers and Executives within their own organization.  They think nothing of going straight to the CEO if their own manager denies them something. 
3.       The Hunter is a social animal.
The Hunter is generally outgoing, and needs a great deal of interaction and approval.  This does not mean they are people pleasers, instead that they are very persuasive and empathetic, with excellent communication skills.
The hunter needs continual positive reinforcement from high level managers.  While they are often loved by their customers and managers, others in their organization will see them as pushy or aggressive.  That is often due to the “impatience” mentioned later in this article.  Hunters don’t always take time for the daily niceties that are deemed necessary in other roles. 
4.       The Hunter is a problem solver. 
Hunters like to solve problems on their own and will often go above or around someone who is seen as “part of the problem,” even if this person is their own boss.
A Hunter is never slowed or impeded by obstacles.  They will quickly work to find a solution without waiting for approval from a Manager or Superior.  They know that slowing a deal down introduces uncontrollable risk.  Good hunters are fond of saying “It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  
5.       The Hunter is a natural leader. 
Many Hunters were leaders in school either on the sports field or as class officers.  They will always want to take the lead on any project or committee where they participate.  They typically want to present first, be promoted first, and come in first in any contest, regardless of how significant the prize is.  The true Hunter hates training classes, but will always win prizes when attending.
Hunters will always challenge their managers, especially if they feel they are under appreciated.  It is important to give them independence and opportunities to interact with Executive team members.  At any company function, they will be found talking with or sitting next to the most prestigious Executives or guests.  If an important client is on site and they are not invited to the meeting, they will find a way to interject or interact.  In a group presentation, they will always be the dominant speaker.
6.       The Hunter is restless and easily bored.
The Hunter likes to be involved in multiple projects and committees.  A true hunter can prioritize and does not miss deadlines or fail commitments.  Hunters like to be viewed as someone of superior intelligence who makes valuable contributions.  If a “hunter” on your team misses deadlines or fails to meet commitments, you have a phony on your hands. 
7.       The Hunter is impatient.
An impatient person is restless and thrives on change.  They have a lot of nervous energy, are deadline-oriented, and multi-tasking.  Hunters are bored by routines and repetition, and need to be provided with new challenges regularly.  They want to contribute at many levels of the organization outside their own sphere of influence.
The hunter is easily bored and will adapt to change readily.  However, as they consider themselves leaders, the Hunter wants to be “in the loop” when decisions are being made that will impact them.  If you are changing territories, comp plans, or allocating office space, it is imperative to make the Hunter feel like he has input and influence on those decisions.
Hunters do not like to sit still for long periods of time and often have a very short attention span. 
8.       The Hunter likes to bend the rules.
That is why they are called Mavericks or Eagles.  They do not consider themselves part of a pack.  The true Hunter will say “it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  This is due to their sense of urgency in closing deals.  While this often works well in the sales cycle, it can create challenges for their management team.
9.       The Hunter is politically savvy.
Although they like to bend the rules, the Hunter knows whose egos to stroke and they will offer praise and recognition to lower level employees and team members who can help them get things done.  Not surprisingly, they will befriend the people who calculate their commissions, as well as those who approve their contracts or give access to Executives.   
They will quickly uncover the necessary processes for approval and they also know how to work with Executives at a very high level in order to get things done.  They are accustomed to going around management teams, both internally and externally.
Hunters know where their executives hang out and they will join the same club, ski on the same lake or attend the same church in order to be near both Executives.  I’ve known Hunters who put their kids in the same school as their own CEO and become major fundraisers in order to have access and visibility.  
10.    The Hunter will only respond well to a high risk, high rewards culture.
They expect to be well paid well and paid quickly.  If they are not paid well or as promised, they will quickly seek a position elsewhere.
Hunters resist supervision and are driven by incentive and recognition.  As risk takers, if they are given too much negative feedback, they will merely move on to another position or company.  They know their value. 
11.    The Hunter is very independent.
An independent employee is very self reliant, and often sees working with coworkers as introducing risk to their deals.  Although they have a high tolerance for risk, it is risks they can control, such as their own behavior, that will be tolerated.  They do not like rules or procedures and will often go out of their way to prove that the rules are not meant for them. 
12.    The Hunter is results driven.
They have a constant sense of urgency and thrive on deadlines.  Hunters require a fast-paced work environment that constantly offers up challenges and rewards.
13.    The Hunter loves to teach.
The Hunter loves to share and show off their own knowledge to peers, customers, managers, etc.   Hunters seldom like to attend training classes, but when asked to teach they will rise to the challenge and exceed expectations. 
The True Hunter is an assertive, social, impatient, independent person who thrives on change and recognition.  They have a constant sense of urgency, driven by deadlines and results.  They like working through people rather than within processes.  They will often mimic the hours of very high level executives in their own organization in order to give themselves access and visibility.   
The Hunter will pay attention to the details that matter in getting the deal done.  Other “details” like meetings, training classes and rules will be ignored or forgotten.  They will constantly be checking their phone and email and will plead that they are too successful or busy to do what is required of their peers.  In order to encourage them to be compliant, you will need to appeal to their ego and sense of leadership in the organization. 
Most hunters despise the menial tasks that are required of sales managers, but they will ask for every promotion that comes along, even if it is several grades above their current position. The true Hunter will require extensive training and mentoring to become a good Sales Manager. 
A person who is very social, but not pushy or assertive is not a true Hunter.   Hunters have an entrepreneurial persona.  They prefer positions that offer a great deal of Independence and will avoid jobs that have extremely cumbersome rules and processes.  
A Hunter is not necessarily difficult to manage, but they will present unique challenges and require more verbal recognition than the average employee.  A true Hunter will require a better manager, so if you are seeking to employee a Hunter, be sure that you have the right management team in place or you will not even be able to attract, much less hire or retain the “True Hunter”. 


Strategic Performance Management (SPM)  is defined as aligning your employees and their performance with your Company’s mission, goals and strategic objectives.  In sales, we also associate compensation with SPM, because as every sales manager knows, the most illiterate sales person in the world can read and sell to a comp plan. 

Successful SPM initiatives begin with a clear vision and a long-term plan of execution.  As Stephen Case, AOL's founder always said, "Vision without executions is pretty much a hallucination."  Some key aspects of Strategic Performance Management are:
·         Strategic Performance Management allows you to evaluate how your business is performing against stated goals and objectives in a Dynamic, changing environment.
·         Strategic Performance Management consists of strategy execution, performance modeling, motivating employees, business results, & defining key competitive advantages.
·         Strategic Performance Management includes Role Descriptions, employee development goals, learning initiatives, compensation structures, and strategic growth initiatives.

·         Link performance measurements to business planning. Tie performance metrics to overall business results.
·         Design Training & Orientation Programs to help employees understand how their own performance affects the company’s bottom line.
·         Involve teams in the PMP (performance measurement project) and get feedback on how the PMP will affect them. 
·         Link performance measurements with other people management processes (Coaching, mentoring, training).
·         Separate Professional Development and Performance Evaluation to help all workers increase skill & competency levels.
·         Successful PMP requires senior leadership buy-in.
·         Hire a management consultant to help you design a balanced scorecard including metrics for your Industry.
·         Consider using performance management software to establish baseline credentials and provide continuous measurement.

I.                    Create a compensation plan that aligns with the strategic corporate objectives.
a.       Avoid scenarios where Sales Professionals can achieve quotas without hitting strategic objectives (for instance, driving 50% of revenue from new accounts)
b.      Consider including components for customer retention rates, strategic accounts or margin preserving initiatives.

II.                  Motivate & Reward Achievements with contests SPIFs and non cash rewards
a.       This allows you to react quickly to changing product strategies or market shifts
b.      Create short term rewards to encourage long-term gains

III.                Model & Forecast your Compensation plans prior to rollout and deployment.
a.       Project how certain performances will affect cash flow & commission expenses
b.      Forecast commission expenses at a Macro (plan) and Micro (Individual) level.
c.       Monitor activity to gage actual attainment & costs against models in order to quickly react to unforeseen influences and results. 

IV.                Use Analytics to drive sales performance.
a.       Avoid allowing consultants and sales managers to measure their own performance.
b.       Plans should reward the Sales Professional and Company in equal measure (Otherwise sales will determine where they are best rewarded and sell to that plan). 

V.                  Integrate CRM & Compensation Management
a.       Determine Key Performance Metrics and Measure for at least 6 months before starting any new training or compensation program in order to effectively measure their impact. 
b.       Provides dynamic, real time Understanding of performance instead of a historical view, allowing for quarterly tweaks to drive performance. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Like many Sales Pros, I am often overwhelmed by the radical pace at which buying processes have changed since 2008.  B2B organizations have both failed and flailed in adapting to sales in the New Economy. Looking ahead to 2011, the pace of change is likely to increase exponentially as buyer requirements & demands intensify.  Sales managers and organizations may be facing their most extreme challenges to date as drastically altered buying patterns and processes echo in the new economy. 
Buyer behavior has adapted to the limitations put on them by restricted cash flow and truncated resources caused by massive layoffs.  Those same restricted spending patterns mean fewer conferences and trade show appearances by decision makers, spiking an increased reliance on Social Media and Sales 2.0 tools for purchasing information.  For 2011 and beyond, that reliance has significantly altered how sales functions are integrated into B2B sales processes.  Sales Pros hoping to access the “C-Suite” whether by phone or by door will need to develop the following skills:
Skill 1: A shift from Relationship Building Skills to Business Acumen & Industry Knowledge
Historically, Complex Selling (aka Enterprise Sales) has focused on relationship building known by such names as Consultative Selling, VITO selling, Customer Centric Selling, etc.  Today’s Sales Pros must develop skills that enable problem solving and industry expertise as opposed to focusing on relationship building and likability. The value of those long-term relationships has been diminished by mind-boggling turnover, rapid succession, and the constraints of Executives with scarce resources and limited time needing to show an immediate impact on the job.  Today’s CFO can’t be seen on the Golf Course with vendors, he needs to be viewed as the Chief Problem Solver   To get a CFO’s attention, you will need to prove that you can help hold up your end of a conversation about relevant business, industry, and competitive challenges and provide relevant scenarios for improving his business that doesn’t include product features .
Skill 2:   Sales Pros can no longer merely give lip service to being seen as an Executive’s Peer.
Sales Organizations need to shift from focusing solely on sales processes to creating a framework of the overall buying process.  Busy Executives do not have time to satisfy their ego or their amusement by meeting with people who do not enhance their standing or performance. 
Trend 4: Social Media and Sales 2.0 has improved and evolved the Buyer Experience
C-Suite Operatives have already done their research on you, your company and your product before you ever hold an extended conversation or get access to the door.  Strategic Marketing is no longer about merely “branding” the company and its products but about creating dynamic tools that can reach the Prospect or Customer before you ever know they are looking. 
Creating partner driven content, creating buzz within your existing customer base and being considered a subject matter expert on LinkedIn or other site will create a unique advantage and peak their interests.  Sales Pros must challenge themselves to create an enhanced and more enjoyable Buying experience for their prospects than their competition has done.  Executives don’t want to feel tricked, or manipulated, they want to feel like their interactions enhance their performance.  It is not unusual for my prospects to ask me to send a link to my published content or LinkedIn profile.  Sales Pros cannot be taken by surprise when their connections are contacted before they ever meet with the C-Suite. 
Skill 5: Sales enablement will create more “buy-side” economics
Sales enablement can improve the overall buying experience by focusing on a profound understanding of buyers’ process and influences.  Channels of engagement including those involving social media will increase demands for training and support to improve the ability of Sales Pros communication skills both for C-Suite Conversations and Social Media dialogues. Companies will be required invest heavily in acquiring market and buyer insight that elucidate buyer objectives, buyer personality types and buyer purchasing behaviors.   
Trend 6:   Becoming an Agent of Change will require an Understanding of Change Management.
No one makes changes unless they are pushed out of their comfort zone.  The number one competitor the Complex Sales Pro faces is the status quo—no change in vendors or circumstance. Understanding a customer’s business, having a familiarity with their most successful competition, maintaining a grasp on Social Media and branding yourself and your buyer’s experience will allow you to goad your client into adapting their vision as you paint a broader picture outside of their spectrum.  You will be a leader of change management, requiring you to understand Business Process Improvement and communicate it effectively enough to first access, and grab the attention of those who inhabit the C-Suite. 
2011 could very well become a watershed year in the evolution of B2B sales as organizations recognize the need to adapt to changing expectations as well as the maturity of social media integration into sales and marketing, causing the line between sales and marketing to fuse. Sales Pros who are caught, or surprised by the transition will find themselves going the way of the Dinosaur rather than adapting like the Centuries old Cockroach.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In Good to Great, Jim Collins outlines the difference between companies that can sustain success from those that can’t.  However, the difference between surviving and thriving often comes down to SALES.  While a good product, marketing, and investment are all important, it is the sales team that provides the lifeblood of the company—Revenue.  As Guy Kawasaki pointed out in Rules for Revolutionaries, "The best product doesn't always win."

NEWS FLASH!  Your customers don't care about your sales process.  "Packaged Solutions” are being commoditized by the Internet, Social Media and Microsoft.  Your sales team is no longer considered the best source of information about your product. 
Social media is the consumer’s first choice for acquiring product knowledge.  No one with the budget and power to make a six or seven figure decision is going to engage a sales person to watch a Feature-Advantage- Benefit presentation on 25+ PowerPoint slides.  Sales people who do not establish a “brand” are marching down a path to their own obsolescence. 
Today’s prospect & customer wants a Sales Professional who :
1.   Understands their business (Industry and Business Acumen),
2.   Who is going to be accountable for their decisions and actions, and
3.   Who will be an Advocate for the customer when problems arise in the relationship. 
That’s right, I said when, not if, a problem arises.  Every customer who has purchased technology knows that problems will occur.  Potential clients are assessing your sales team (not your product) to determine if that is a person who will answer the phone when they call and if that is the person  that they want on the other end of the line when someone picks up. 
Establishing a brand is not easy; if it were everybody would be doing it.  However, those who do will make far fewer cold calls than those who don’t and will be able to guarantee that their six figure salaries are justified in 2011 and beyond.  Establish a brand includes:
1.   Business Acumen – Understanding the client’s business, including their industry and their job specific challenges.  This includes financial, business and competitive acumen.  It’s not enough to know what they do, you have to know how their competitors do it and if they do it better or worse.  My friend Adam Shapiro who is with “Customer Centric Selling” says that he is shocked by how often sales people don’t even know what their customers do.
2.   Accountability – Don’t wait for the customer to give you a failing grade.  Proactively put mechanisms in place to measure how the customer will measure your performance.
3.   Customer Advocacy – Some call this a “can do attitude”.  When a customer has a problem or a need, it doesn’t mean that you have to give it to them for free.  It does means you have to solve the problem whether the solution comes from your company or a third party entity.   Otherwise, your competitor will solve the problem for them and erode or eradicate your presence & value.
4.   Empathetic Listening – I always say that the very best sales people draw pictures with their words.  They accomplish that by truly understanding what the customer is thinking and saying.  It isn’t enough to ask follow up questions or repeat what you have heard, you need the ability to understand how the customer feels and what would relieve their very real pain. 
5.   Executive Presence – Great Sales People are the type of person that an executive wants to hear from and isn’t embarrassed to take into a meeting with peers or customers.  It is absolutely necessary to “sound” like an Executive.  Next time you are in a meeting with an Executive or watching one on TV, listen to how they speak and think.  They have a presence that says “I’m important”.  They don’t speak quickly, use slang or unknown acronyms.
6.   Social Media – Once you have developed the skills and the vocabulary, you will need to create a presence on social media.  It is imperative that your communication skills and mindset are appropriate before executing this strategy.  While not everyone can write an entertaining blog, respond intelligently to a LinkedIn Discussion only requires a little time.  I usually write my answers in word so that I can print them, read them and spell check them before publishing.  Anyone can Tweet about articles and blogs by other subject matter experts so that customers can have quick and easy access to a host of resources.  For example:  “@CEO – I thought you’d love to see what your competitor did today (insert link),” or “@CFO loved your picture on the cover of Money Magazine last month (insert link)”.  It is imperative that your presence on Social Media reflect positively about you and everything counts – attitude, knowledge, punctuation and vocabulary.
Forget about “product” training – the product you need to sell is YOU.  Today’s Top Performing sales person will be a hybrid of sales and marketing expertise and they will be selling and marketing themselves.  The bad news is that the job just got much harder.  The good news is that the customers will follow the sales person and the company and its products will become the commodity. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Interview Top Sales Talent - A (non) Manifesto.

Top sales organizations are always recruiting for good people and not waiting for an opening.  If they find a good hire, they make a place for that person.  More often than not, my clients are unable to articulate what they are looking for when hiring sales people.  While this is not a hiring manifesto, it is certainly a good place to start. 
1.        Can they quickly break down their comp plan, targets and total earnings for you?
a.       What percentages did they earn and what were their accelerators? (I like to ask this in person so they don’t have notes.)  Does it add up?
b.      The candidate should be earning at least 80% of what they will earn on target with your comp plan.  Don’t hire someone whose total comp is $60,000 and give them a $60,000 base.  They may not be driven to succeed.
2.       Do they have a need for approval?
a.       Often people pleasers have impaired prospecting skills because they cannot handle the rejection or failure. 
b.      Tell them something you don’t like about them during the interview and see how they react.  For instance, “I think you are alright, but you really talk too much.”  See if they handle and overcome the objection or if they become angry or offended.
3.       What are their self-limiting beliefs? 
a.        Do they ask you about money easily or do they seem uncomfortable?  I tell them that I don’t talk about the comp plan on the first call to see if they overcome the objection.
b.      Are they afraid to call high, and do they feel more comfortable with purchasing agents than CFOs?
c.       Do they always believe their prospects or do they test the information they are given?
d.      Do they get detailed information about your hiring process?  I like to start describing and then get distracted to see if they come back and get the information they need.
e.      Do they mimic the sales process by asking to move to the next step or by asking for the job?  (50% of the time the top candidate never asks for the job).  
f.        Do they ask you to assess their performance at the interview or to rank them against other candidates? 
g.       Do they believe that Marketing or Inside Sales is responsible for generating most of their leads?  I like to ask them what % of their leads they think should come from Marketing. 
4.       Do they have business acumen?
a.       To what publications do they subscribe?  Can they describe a recent article?
b.      Ask them to name the last 3-4 books they have read and ask pick one to ask “how was this helpful in your job?
c.       Ask them if they review annual reports and what information they are seeking?
d.      Ask them how they get competitive information.
e.      Ask them what type of research they do on prospects and how they use it.
5.       What will be their challenges once you hire them?
a.       Ask them what they like/ dislike about meetings.  Do they “love” going to meetings with prospects?
b.      Do they talk too much?  Are they waiting to reply and stepping on your words, or do they listen to you and ask follow up questions? 
c.       Do they take notes while meeting with you and refer back to them?
d.      How often do they discount and why?
e.      Ask them the #1 reason they lose deals.  If they say” price”, PASS. 
6.       Are the skills they have mastered similar to the ones they will need while working for you?
a.       Ask them to list job titles they typically call on and how they “pitch” that person.
b.      How much supervision are they accustomed to having?
c.       What types of support would they like to have from you?  From Marketing?  From Inside Sales or Sales Engineers? During negotiations?
d.      Ask them if they consider themselves a power prospector, a power closer or a power networker and why?
7.       What Sales Skills have they mastered?
a.       Ask them to rank their skills in cold calling, qualifying and closing according to “master”, “competent”, and “needs improvement”.    
b.      Ask them for their favorite and least favorite steps in the sales cycle and why.  Can they clearly articulate what makes them good at something or do they give you stock answers such as “people like me” or “I like solving people’s problems”? 
8.       Tell me how you spent your last week at work on your last job?
9.       Are they Goal Oriented?
a.       Can they tell you their 6 month, 1 year and 5 year goals?
b.      Do they have them written down?  Ask to see them.
c.       What was the last goal they failed to reach and why?  (This tells you if they review their goals and hold themselves accountable).
10.   Are they trainable?
a.       Ask them about how much training they received at their last job, both formal and informal.  Ask them what they liked or disliked about it.
b.      Ask them which, if any sales methodologies they have used (i.e., Sandler, Miller Heiman, Bosworth.)  Ask them if they continued the training after leaving that company.  (Lifetime learners seldom discontinue their training just because they left a particular job).  Training can be via webcasts, reading books, etc. but I like to know if they have ever paid to attend training on their own. 
c.       Ask them what training, if any they would like to attend and why? 
d.      Do they have a positive outlook?  People who blame others for their failures are difficult to train and mentor.