The Conversation Sales Leaders Must Have with Salespeople

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 15, 2015 @ 06:07 AM

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Thanks to another recommendation from my client and friend, Chris Collias, I am reading a terrific book called The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers.

On page 49 (of the Kindle Edition), there is a must-read passage for Sales Leaders who want to properly lead a sales force. The passage sums up what sales coaching and accountability are all about. 

After assembling a top-end sales force, he completely revamped the sales process and sent every salesperson through a rigorous and unforgiving training program. He demanded mastery. Any slip-up in technique, skill, or knowledge would be met with total intolerance from Mark.

We held a weekly forecast call where Mark reviewed every deal in front of the entire 150-person sales force.  On one such call, a salesperson described an account that he'd forecast in detail: "I have buy-in from my champion, the vice president that he reports to, and the head of purchasing.

My champion assures me that they'll be able to complete the deal by the end of the fiscal quarter."

Mark quickly replied, "Have you spoken to the vice president's peer in the networking group?"

Sales rep: "Um, no I haven't."

Mark: "Have you spoken to the vice president yourself?"

Sales rep: "No."

Mark: "Okay, listen carefully.  Here's what I'd like you to do.  First, reach up to your face and take off your rose-colored glasses.  Then get a Q-tip and clean the wax out of your ears.  Finally, take off your pink panties and call the fucking vice president right now, because you do not have a deal."

Mark was right.  It turned out that we did not have a deal, as the vice president's peer in networking was blocking it.  We eventually got a meeting with him and won the deal.  More important, Mark set the tone:  Sloppiness would not be tolerated.

 

I loved this passage. I'll read it at every Sales Leadership Intensive. I don't condone using the language [Update:  See comments below for clarification] with a salesperson, but the approach is spot on. The challenge, for most sales leaders, is whether or not they can do the following:

  • Can they see around the corner?
  • Can they anticipate 5 steps ahead?
  • Can they be cynical?
  • Can they be both optimistic and skeptical at the same time?
  • Can they push back and challenge their salespeople without being afraid of their salespeople hating them or quitting?

If you can't imagine a sales leader having any of these difficulties, then you are fine! If you have some of these difficulties, then you absolutely must attend my annual Sales Leadership Intensive in August.

Topics: sales management, Sales Coaching, accountability, sales pipeline, pipeline review

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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