The Bottom Line About Sales Leadership Performance

When CEOs look at their sales leaders, what responsibilities do they see they have? Do they see them as customer guardians? Or maybe customer relationship managers? How many CEOs see them as business managers? How many CEOs manage their sales leaders as business managers?From our experience, very few CEOs manage their sales leaders as business managers and often give way to the pressures often applied upwardly by them. Sales leaders have for many years been very good at diverting the attention of CEOs to non-critical tasks, taking actions that seemingly will deliver results but fail to do so. CEOs lose confidence in their sales leaders through the lack of timely actions being taken with deliverable and measurable outcomes. There is a disconnect in the timing with CEOs now talking in months and sales leaders continuing to talk in years.A sales leader can be one of the most important people for company’s growth. Their responsibility is to ensure the sales success of your company. They can try to pass the buck to salespeople but the bottom line is they need to step up and deliver the results with a clear understanding of their impact across the broader company.Sales leader’s decisions immediately impact company operations by the sales results they deliver, the product lines sold, the accuracy of orders taken, pricing decisions. The conduct of their sales force personnel can make or break a company culture and performance.They are responsible for:
The execution of the strategy of what direction your company is headed,
What your company sells and why they sell it,
Which markets to pursue and where the company is positioned in those markets,
The competitive capability against the competition and why you are better or different,
The delivery of the strategy at the customer interface, and
The bottom line of results in revenue and profitability.

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A sales leader who cannot develop effective strategies and execute them to full completion, is of no value to any company. The sales leader must enable systems and processes, administer training that is relevant to the strategy and market, correctly manage productivity and ensure a high level of efficiencies across the sales organization.A sales leader that does not acknowledge their limitation in delivering these fundamental business requirements must accept the consequence of their limitation when results are not delivered. For CEOs they must do the right thing by their company and be honest about where to place blame for struggles and failure to grow sales. The sales people are at all times a product of the sales leader and the blame must therefore fall squarely on their shoulders.The role of the sales leader has matured to such a point now that it is no longer just the narrow narrative of customers and relationships with a management style that allows the business to just flow with the market stream with little guidance. Those clinging to that are certainly not doing the right thing by their company. Sales leaders need to be able to create, implement, monitor, and revise their sales organization consistently, in order to deliver reliable growth. They must have well-defined strategies, processes, and management structure that rolls out through to well defined strategies and execution plans across the sales force. They must have deep measurement of performance of the sales business, not just the salespeople to deliver results.For CEOs that is the ideal person to be leading their sales organization. The reality is that sales excellence requires a multitude of skills and capacities to function effectively and efficiently. Few people in the profession are true management professionals; most individuals employed in management are ill equipped to provide a professional-as opposed to amateurish-level of performance in response to the demands of their positions.”CEOs that employ unqualified individuals will suffer their ignorance and incompetence unless they take drastic action to remedy the problem.”With very few professional sales leaders available or professionally trained for today’s market challenges, the focus for CEOs has shifted to sales leadership development rather than sales leadership acquisition. CEOs need to make hard decisions about their sales organization as this critical role can directly impact their future.They must consider who they are hiring or who they retaining in this critical role. In the absence of quality proven talent, they must to start with raw talent that can be developed and coached to excel. A person with tested core skills and not just rely on ‘gut feel’. A person that is open to being coached and capable of leaving their ego at the door and focus on their own personal development that directly impacts the sales organization.

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The sales leaders must be taught how to drive growth in an organization. Many sales leaders today are only capable of maintaining business and this is reflected in businesses that have stagnated or are achieving on minimal growth. Very few are capable of driving growth through changing markets.Sales leaders need to learn correct timing of decisions, understand how to deliver actions, changes and improvements in a timely manner. They need to change their decision-making from being emotive decisions to being based on hard evidence and facts that can be easily demonstrated to their peers. The facts must be based on consistent information over a period of time and not snap shots based on reactions to sudden (but long simmering) market or internal challenges.CEOs need to change how they manage sales leaders. They need to be critical of reporting and information presented ensuring that the right decisions are being made with consideration to the full impact of those decisions both within the sales organization and across the business.Only then can a CEO be confident their sales organization is being managed effectively.