How Many Great Managers Are You Creating?

Yes, you share responsibility for creating “great” managers!

Since National Bosses Day 10 days ago, a lot has been written about the “characteristics and habits” of great bosses.

Many of these articles paint a unilateral picture of a boss who possess unique traits which she practices, there’s little sense of collaboration or reciprocity, and sometimes a sense that good bosses are born, not made. I don’t know about you, but these portrayals don’t comport with the reality I live in as a COO and consultant to Sales forces.

Admittedly, there are still too few “great” bosses in the Sales Management ranks, but where they exist, in large numbers, they are created by cultures of shared ownership, collaboration, and incremental improvement. There’s no one-way street of top down application of great skills by managers to their subordinates. There’s bottom up meets top down collaboration with an eye toward forward progress and the attainment of shared goals.

So what can you do as an [Sales] employee to create great bosses?

To create and sustain a great boss, you should:

  1. Set Specific Shared Objectives. Ambiguity about your collective and individual performance sets the foundation for planning to achieve success. Without a clear set of objectives linking activities, interim goals, and long-term business outcomes, you and your boss will never know how to assess performance and course correct. For more on the Activities, Goals, and Outcomes framework, click here.
  2. Ask for and Provide DETAILED Feedback OFTEN. Constructive critiques by managers and subordinates reinforce a culture of collaboration and ensure shared ownership for results and performance improvement. The key here is to be detailed and specific. It’s insufficient to characterize your or your bosses performance with an adjective, both of you must focus on examples (good and bad) and suggest tactics to improve and ensure forward progress.
  3. Ask Questions and Share the Answers. Opportunities for improvement and growth are identified through dialogue up, down, and sideways in an organization, particularly dialogue that focuses on questions of Why? and How? Yes, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to be asked Why did you do that? or How did you decide to do what you did? But these questions get us to think and get us beyond the circumstantial (the land of Who?, What?, and When?) and into incisive moments of learning and growth.

If you like this piece and have had success building Great Bosses in your organization, particularly Sales Organization, please comment or follow us on Twitter.


Implications of Market Maturity and Decline for Sales Models

Your markets are maturing, even declining. Do you know how to evolve your Sales Model?

Lately, the topics of market maturity and decline have been coming up a lot in our discussions with CEO and business owners. There’s a growing sense, as the anemic economic recovery rocks along, that growth for many markets has peaked or is in a steeping decline.

You know the warning signs of maturity and decline:

  1. Profits are being harvested and paid to investors and management vs. re-invested in product innovation or market expansion.
  2. Consolidation of competitors is occurring at an increasing rate, and new entrants are innovating from the bottom.
  3. Price pressure is increasing significantly.
  4. Customer’s control over the buying process has increased markedly, it’s harder than ever to gain early access to stakeholders.
  5. Competitors are competing on brand, ancillary services that complement products, and process improvements instead of the products themselves.

Examples of industries in maturity or decline are abundant. One of the most prominent is the plumbing industry which is very mature in the developed world. And, immature in the developing world; it’s products are not well suited because the lack of public infrastructure, water, and energy. A short list of competitors: Sloan Valve, Kohler, Zurn, Toto, and American Standard have dominant market share and market share has been relatively static for long periods of time. Competition is somewhat oriented to products that conserve water, but is substantially oriented around price, and distribution channel control. So what must the plumbing industry, or others facing similar circumstances do to adapt their sales models?

Implications for Sales Models

Maturing and declining markets pose a number of implications of one’s sales model. In maturity, sales efficiency, or the cost of customer acquisition becomes critically important. Where as in decline, one’s ability to capture specific pools of profit becomes paramount. Here are strategies you should pursue:

In Maturity:

Sales Process, Sales Process, Sales Process. The first and most underutilized driver of sales efficiency is a sales process that is designed based on the customer’s buying process. Once you have a sales process that fits the customer’s buying process, it is critical to enable this process with a CRM system to measure and track sales cycle times and customer interactions, as well as tools to support quality conversations and information sharing with each customer stakeholder in the sales process.

Focus on Sales Management Processes. Having a sales management process that enables frequent inspection of sales opportunities and coaching of sales personnel around the efficient and effective execution of the sales processes is a critical, and often under-leveraged driver of customer acquisition cost.

Re-align Compensation. In the wake of maturity, it is important to ensure that compensation spending is aligned with the right revenue, profit, and/or product and market outcomes while appropriately rewards levels of performance. Quota setting accuracy, allocation of compensation dollars by product/market, and the shape of payout curves become critical drivers of cost of sales.

In Decline:

Customer Selection. Once decline begins, the identification and selection of profitable customers becomes critical. To do this, sales leaders, with the help of finance, must develop a detailed understanding of individual and customer segment behavior  and the drivers of profitability within the customer’s business and their own. These insights form the foundation of where and how to manage decline while sustaining value at the bottom line.

Channel Selection. Within decline, channel selection and, ultimately, consolidation become critically important drivers of sustained profitability. Before demand shrinks precipitously, sales leaders must begin reducing the number of channel partners while improving their ability, through informed selection and strong partnering programs (invested in and created by the channel partner and manufacturer) , to maintain customer access and ensure quality customer experience.

Sales Coverage. Similar to channel selection, the number and types of sales people deployed across markets must be adjusted as markets decline. Not surprisingly, many sales leaders face maturity without having developed much skill at coverage re-design. This is due primarily to the perceived risk of altering customer relationships by changing account assignments and team configurations. However, this risk is mitigated by maintaining a clear understanding of how, and from whom, customers want to buy – which informs the type and number of sellers required – and creates a basis for making regular incremental adjustments.

It’s not only critical to spot the warning signs of maturity and decline, but also develop the ability to adjust one’s sales model dynamically across the market life cycle, ideally in advance of each stage!

Is your market maturing or declining? If it is, how are you adapting your sales model? Comment here or on Twitter. Or contact me at


It’s Time for Mid-year Reflection – Are You Winning Ugly?

With mid-year fast approaching, now’s a good time to stop and reflect on your Year-to-Date (YTD) results. By reflecting, I don’t mean simply reciting the deals that you won and recapping total sales. While I am all for celebrating wins and big picture results, reflecting solely on them doesn’t teach us very much about how our sales model is functioning or scaling.

Thorough reflection means taking a close look at  the continuum of Activities, Goals, and Business Outcomes that helped you achieve your YTD performance. Examining the first six months of the year through these lenses, particularly Activities and Goals will help you and your sales managers understand whether they achieved their results in a programmatic manner or whether results were more random.

Sales Management Value Chain

This framework will also allow you to test the assumptions you made about the overall performance of the sales model and individual performers at the outset of the year and take corrective action in the second half.

In today’s economy, we can ill afford to defer to random chance (or win ugly, as a coach of mine used to say), we must work the Sales Mgt. value chain of activities, goals, and business outcomes.

So, take some time and reflect, the insights are well worth the price of admission.


Initial Thoughts from the Chicago SMA Panel on Enabling Sales Managers

Yesterday we held a great meeting with the Sales Management Association’s Chicago Chapter, which Evergreen co-sponsored with Cloud 9 Analytics and Brainshark.

Forty-five Sales leaders met for 90 minutes with three panelists: Craig Wortmann, from Chicago Booth; John Scuras, from Forum Corporation; and Steve Potts, from Callidus Cloud.

Here are several initial takeaways from our discussion:

  1. Sales Process is the Foundation. During the session, we concluded that a persistent understanding of your customer’s preferred sales process (customer acquisition processes are constantly changing) is critical. This understanding gives the Sales Manager the basis to judge whether opportunities are off or on-track, how likely they are to close, how to marshal the company’s resources to win cost effectively, a structure in which to place activities to be managed, and most importantly to ask high value questions of reps that help them reveal patterns of success or failure, develop new skills, and increase their efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. Activities are Often Under-managed and Misaligned. Our first observation about activities was that they are (despite frequently being well enabled with tools) all too often ignored by managers who defer to the big picture of business outcomes (managing activity, after all, is messy and difficult). Second, the group noted that a more critical issue is the alignment of activities, goals, and business outcomes and that this is the value chain for sales managers, where goal attainment is driven by purposeful activity and cumulatively leads business outcomes.
  3. Context is Key. One of the most useful insights for Sales Managers was that context – the interrelated conditions in which selling occurs – is essential to selling and managerial success. Until we understand the context of selling events or situations (frequently driven by customer priorities, needs, and behavior) we can’t adequately assess or tune our approach to the situation at hand. To do this, managers, and reps alike, need to focus on asking great questions that focus on why and how.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to enabling sales managers that these three insights, however, if your managers get these down, you will have a strong foundation on which to build to new heights.

Stay tuned to the blog for additional posts on our discussion at the Chicago SMA.

Let us know your thoughts on this post and  the topic of Enabling Sales Managers to Motivate and Lead.