Sales Management Feed

How to Run a Sales Contest

AdamHollander_300Today's guest post is by Adam Hollander, CEO of FantasySalesTeam.




Over the last year and a half at FantasySalesTeam, we’ve helped companies run hundreds of sales contests. A few weeks ago, Joe Goss, one of our client success managers and our resident Excel guru, took it upon himself to examine data generated from 164 games among our 100-plus clients, mostly inside sales teams. The sales teams were as small as four reps and as large as 2,800 reps. What he found about motivation is worth sharing.

Lesson #1: Run your sales contest for one to two months.

Having spent my entire career in sales and sales management, I’ve participated in and run my fair share of sales contests. Some run for a week, others for a year. So what’s the average length for a sales contest?


According to our findings, the average game length was 44 days, while the median was 31, showing that most of our clients are running sales contests for one to two months at a time. We advise customers to reset periodically by stopping one game and then starting a new one with new metrics, goals, awards, etc. This gives players who may have fallen behind a chance to start fresh. Also, this cadence allows sales managers change metrics and point values to align with their most current and pressing goals and metrics.

Lesson #2: Balance activity metrics with results metrics.

We tell every FantasySalesTeam customer to balance games between activity/behavior metrics (e.g., calls, meetings, pipeline) and results metrics (e.g., revenue or percentage of quota). This helps level the playing field to ensure that traditional top performers aren’t winning every time. In our analysis, we found a fairly good balance, with 61 percent of the metrics being activity based versus 39 percent results based. 


The majority of our customers run inside sales teams, which are highly metrics driven. We found that many of our customers (15 percent) are measuring phone activity at almost twice the rate of other activity not related to the phone (8 percent), such as meetings or proposals. More importantly, pipeline is the top activity metric being measured (31 percent) and aligns well with our advice that pipeline metrics are the most important to focus on in a sales contest.


A number of our clients also incorporate bonus-point metrics into their games to increase the motivation factor. We pulled out some we liked best:

  • Best Team Picture
  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Sales on a Saturday
    And our favorite…
  • Number of Songs Sung to Customers

Lesson #3: Reward reps with experiences (not cash or prizes).

Based on general feedback that we’ve received from reps over the last two years – and we’ve talked to a lot of them – we recommend customers focus on giving experiences rather than physical prizes. Experiences tend to be less expensive, and more importantly, reps tend to remember them a lot more than they do a new TV or camera.


When we broke down the 393 different prizes (grouping together items such as cash or gift cards), we found that 53 percent could be classified as experiences, while 47 percent were physical items. (By the way, 73 percent of the physical items were cash, allowing winners to choose their own reward).

Here are some other motivation best practices for sales teams to consider.

  • Leverage team competition. Team-based games and incentives get players (reps) pushing and relying on each other and are far more effective than individual-based contests.
  • Create multiple ways to win. When you have only one way to win the incentive, inevitably players fall behind or out of contention. Create multiple paths to win and succeed to keep the team engaged longer.
  • Update results frequently. The more often you update the results from your contest, the more engaged your reps will be. Better yet, tie the contest directly to your customer relationship management or call-center management system so the results update automatically!
  • Make results highly visible. Ensure that the contest results and updates are front and center. Send out regular notifications, and display leaderboards throughout the office, ideally on TV screens.
  • Hold a proper kickoff. Don’t just launch the contest through an email blast. Get everyone together in a room or through a call/Web meeting and showcase the structure, prizes, etc. Make sure there’s real excitement on day one.
  • Get managers engaged. If managers are paying attention to the contest results, they will make sure their reps are paying attention. Find ways to engage the managers and ensure they are invested in the reps’ success.
  • Measure, measure, measure. The point of a sales contest or incentive is not just to have fun or increase engagement but to drive improved results and activity. Make sure you know how you’re going to measure success so you can prove the return on investment and have the ability to do it again!

For more information on FantasySalesTeam, visit or

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How to Create a Knowledge-Based Sales Process

Brian Dietmeyer Today’s guest post is by Brian Dietmeyer, president and CEO of Think! Inc. and 5600blue.



Does your sales process provide salespeople with the knowledge they need to win the short-term competitive advantage?

The paradox of today’s world is that long-term growth is actually driven by your sales team’s response to rapid, short-term changes. In her book, The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business, Columbia Business School professor Rita Gunther McGrath argues that the sustainable competitive advantage is quickly disappearing. Instead, business leaders learn to compete on a series of short-term competitive advantages.

Speed is the name of the game now, and most sales teams are not equipped to keep pace. Changes are occurring so rapidly that salespeople need rapid knowledge. Consider the following scenarios that call for agile responses and a real-time knowledge base.

  1. Your value proposition changes due to a new acquisition, divestiture, or new product/service.

  2. Your sales strategy changes, with emphasis on a new pricing or service model or ideal customer profile.

  3. Your competitors’ value proposition changes due to a new acquisition, divestiture, or new product/service.

  4. Your customers’ needs shift due to regulatory or geopolitical events. 

Legacy CRM, marketing strategies, and sales-training solutions do little to provide salespeople with real-time knowledge. For example, consider how these three tools are no longer supporting sales teams the way they used to.


American Management Association reports that 90 percent of what sales is getting from marketing is not being used. Marketing/product management needs to replace generic feature/benefit statements with real-time messaging and a knowledge base that reflects the rapid shifts in sales strategy, value propositions, and customer needs.


In this SlideShare presentation, “Improving Sales in a Brave New World,” James Rogers points out that 74 percent of organizations report low adoption of CRM. The fact is, CRM systems need to be turned upside down. Instead of using technology to ask salespeople to fill out forms, use technology to deliver competitive knowledge that salespeople can use to stay ahead of rapid changes in the market.


American companies spend $16 billion annually on sales training; CSO Insights reports that 70 percent of that learning is gone within 30 days. Make the shift from generic process and sales methodology to a knowledge-based approach that gives salespeople real-time data that allows them to compete at the speed of change. Salespeople also need to be trained in how to leverage knowledge in customer conversations rather than how to execute methodology.

5600blue has introduced the first-ever vertically integrated sales-enablement solution that builds a knowledge base that tracks with current changes at every phase of the sales process. The technology houses, distributes, and updates knowledge in formats salespeople can use (Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and email) and enablement in the form of sales training, deal coaching, and win/loss reviews.

This knowledge aligns with every step of the sales process and helps salespeople

  1. qualify customers and make pursuit decisions in line with shifting management priorities regarding what an ideal prospect looks like,

  2. understand market trends to gain access and add value to the executive- level customer,

  3. lead the customer’s buying process.

This knowledge also enables salespeople to leverage value throughout the sales process. For example, we know from 12 years of win/loss reviews among deals collectively worth $20 billion that winners win when they show customers how they meet their needs at higher probability and lower risk than the alternatives. We also know from our primary research that more than 85 percent of companies say they can’t deliver that knowledge to salespeople in real time.

Similarly, we know that 97 percent of buyer negotiation tactics follow predictable patterns. 5600blue puts knowledge in the hands of salespeople in advance of the negotiation to change that conversation early on.

The biggest changes in selling in the last 25 years are occurring right now.  This shift is driven by the digital revolution, which puts much more information in the hands of buyers and competitors. Start taking steps today to equip your salespeople with the knowledge they need to compete in the short term so that your team can win in the long term.

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What's the Difference between Sales Leaders and Sales Managers?

LaVonKoenerToday's blog post is by LaVon Koerner, Chief Revenue Officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. 



While the terms “sales leader” and “sales manager” are often used interchangeably, there is a huge difference between these two roles.

Leaders rally employees around a vision. They have the ability to influence, motivate, and inspire others to contribute to the fulfillment of that vision.

Managers, on the other hand, are more adept at directing employees on how to systematically execute the leader’s vision. They can see all of the intricate moving parts and understand how to sync them.

Leaders aren't always managers, and managers aren’t always leaders, but both are critical to the success of an organization. Properly pairing salespeople with either leaders or managers can have a significant impact on productivity, employee satisfaction, and revenue. 

Consider, for example, the characteristics of hunters and farmers. 


  • Assertive
  • Tolerant of risk
  • Hungry for recognition
  • Focused
  • Competitive
  • Impatient
  • Keen on variety 


  • Relational
  • Resistant to risk
  • Collaborative
  • Predictable
  • Dependent
  • Partial to known environments 

Hunters are tasked with winning high-risk opportunities (i.e., opportunities that are competitively held, were previously lost, or are in adverse environments) or accelerating the acquisition of new markets, geographies, and accounts. Meanwhile, farmers are tasked with cultivating, growing, and protecting revenue in existing accounts while achieving high customer satisfaction and building valued relationships.

Based on these definitions, you can probably guess the best pairings: Leaders will be more productive if they lead hunters. Managers will be more successful if they manage a group of farmers.

So why is it important to distinguish between your managers and leaders? We all yearn to be understood and accepted for who we are, and working for a boss who has very different DNA can be unsettling. You can see this disconnect clearly when it comes to motivation. Leaders and hunters tend to become bored when things are too predictable or comfortable; they love to confront new, risky, and suspenseful opportunities. Conversely, managers and farmers tend to choose comfortable surroundings devoid of risk and have an orderly approach to resolving challenges. They prefer deep relationships.

It’s certainly true that some managers can inspire, and some leaders can execute systematically, but these are not their core strengths or dominant characteristics. Understanding who your leaders and managers are will help you create an organizational structure that builds strong morale and a culture that effectively addresses core business functions and needs. 

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How to Exceed Great Expectations When Meeting with Executives

LaVon Sales 2.0 Conference May 2014

Today's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.


Your first meeting with an executive defines you and your company. You get one chance to make your pitch. It will either set you on a path toward mutual benefit and profitability or lead you to unanswered phone calls and being pushed lower in the organization -- or even out the door.

Making your first meetings with executives productive and engaging is one of the most important things you can do to dramatically improve your sales. So how do you meet their great expectations and ensure you’re providing a valuable encounter every time?

What Executives Don’t Want to Hear

Perhaps it’s easier to start with a couple of specific examples of what executives in today’s marketplace don’t want from salespeople:

  1. They don’t want to be asked questions that they believe you should have known the answers to before you set up a meeting with them. 

  2. They don’t want to invest their valuable time in educating you on their business.

When either of these expectations is violated, the salesperson is instantly devalued by the executive and in danger of being dismissed.

Given the amount of information readily available today, these executive expectations are reasonable. Sadly, old habits often die hard. Salespeople are still apt to drone on with their pet list of questions that always seemed to work for them in the past.

I’m not advocating that you stop asking questions. Rather, I suggest using a different type of question, which you may find more difficult to formulate; it is harder to ask the right question than to find answers to the wrong questions. 

How to Approach Meetings with Busy Executives

Executives are busy, but they always have time for a value-rich discussion that takes their mind to new places and reveals new ideas that could enhance the success of their organization. But just as executives don’t want us to go to on school them, we don’t want them to go to school on us. There has to be a fair exchange of value in which neither party feels taken advantage of.

The best approach is to set up a value exchange with consultative discussion through the implementation of high-gain questions. Simply stated, a high-gain question is an approach through which a sales professional gives before he or she takes. It is a way of asking a question that provides new value to the executive first but then closes with an open-ended question, enabling the executive to give value in return. These open-ended questions, due to their enlightening or compelling content, create the experience of thought leadership.

Here’s an example of a traditional open-ended question:

“Given the current economic forecast, it appears that the economy will not be growing at a pace that will be helpful in making your own accelerated growth rate. Given that gap, how is your organization going to compensate and offset the predicted slow economic growth?”

Now let’s take that same question and turn it into a high-gain question (notice the “give” before the “take”):

“Given the current economic forecast, it appears that the economy will not be growing at a pace that will be helpful in making your own accelerated growth rate. Given that gap, we have researched what different organizations in your industry are doing under these adverse economic conditions. Some have announced cutbacks in their expenses and the cancellations of any acquisitions and new market expansions. We have also found one that has decided to capitalize on the economic situation by getting funding to accelerate its activities to steal market share during these tough economic times while others are vulnerable. In studying these two very different approaches, we feel the second approach appears to be the wisest move for the following reasons. [Share reasons here, and ask the open-ended question after.] How has your organization decided to operate during these difficult times?”

When a high-gain question is asked, the customer’s thinking patterns are disrupted and become open to new ideas and different conclusions. This allows for an unusual, new conversation that the customer has not had with your competitors. Both parties walk away from the conversation a bit smarter and with mutual respect.

This type of discussion is seen as time well spent and results in both parties wanting future discussions. These future discussions will continue as long as each one is a fair and balanced value exchange. The formulation and planning of these questions will further your engagement with the customer in a business-advisor relationship, and it is the basis of long-term relationships in this busy, fast-paced world in which we all must do business today.

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10 Leadership Secrets from Captain America

BillWallaceToday's post is by Bill Wallace, vice president of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. To hear more from Bill, visit



The fictional character Captain America, a superhero and leader of the Avengers, a team of superheroes, may be a perfect exemplification of many of the fundamental leadership traits that are critical in today’s business environment. While Captain America honed his leadership skills over an exceedingly long lifetime thanks to genetic rewiring, you can learn and benefit from his approach in a much shorter time frame.

Below is a list of 10 leadership secrets I believe Captain America personifies. They illustrate that leaders are made, not born. Anyone can adapt and develop the traits of an effective leader.

  1. Have a purpose and vision.Captain America is very clear on what he needs to do and accomplish. He understands that his purpose is to right wrongs, fight for justice, and complete virtually impossible missions. Knowing this, Captain America is able to create a strategy that accomplishes the mission and execute the necessary tactics to accomplish that strategy. As a leader, you must have an explicit purpose and vision for yourself, your team, and your mission. 

  2. Be willing to both lead and follow. Captain America has an ego but will adopt a position of humility to advance the mission. He leverages the strengths of everyone on his team to accomplish the goal, allowing others to lead when their talents are stronger. He leads from the front, never asking anyone on his team to do something he wouldn’t do himself.

  3. Let every team member shine. As leader of the Avengers, Captain America is surrounded by the world’s most powerful superheroes. He understands their strengths and leverages them to best accomplish the mission. He lets each team member have a chance in the spotlight and willingly embraces team members’ ideas. Every superhero on the team has a unique skill that he can’t match, and that’s OK. 

  4. Focus on things that will have the biggest impact. Captain America has a laser focus on the important things that create the biggest difference. He doesn’t allow himself to be dragged into the small details that won’t make a major difference. Don’t get so wrapped up in details that you miss the big picture.

  5. Be a risk taker but not reckless. The job of a superhero, as well as a leader, is inherently risky. The Avengers understand the risks and trust Captain America not to put them in harm’s way unnecessarily. This inspires loyalty among his team. While your circumstances are not nearly as perilous, you may need to take risks to achieve your mission.

  6. Don’t be afraid to break rules when it’s necessary. When rules that were created with the best intentions yield unfortunate outcomes, leaders need to trust that their judgment and experience will help them make the right call. Many rules are made by people far away from the front line. While there may be a price to pay for breaking rules, leaders need to weigh the options and consider what’s best overall.

  7. Share credit with those who deserve it. Captain America isn’t in it to advance himself. By sharing the credit, he gains the admiration and respect of his team; his team is willing to follow him into battle. Effective leaders recognize the contributions of their team members – and even their superiors – who helped make the mission a success. Building the currency of others doesn’t hurt yours.

  8. Communicate clearly and openly. Captain America is clear about his objectives and ensures his team understands what is required. He praises openly and has the tough conversations privately. Instead of avoiding constructive conflict, he speaks up if he believes there is a better way to accomplish the mission. Captain America repeatedly communicates the necessity of actions and reviews the tactics with his team to ensure everyone understands his or her role and is focused on execution.

  9. Admit when you’re wrong. Captain America takes responsibility for his actions and readily admits when he’s wrong. He doesn’t worry about losing respect or being seen as weak. When he makes a mistake, he owns it and acknowledges that he must consider other actions. Don’t let being right stop you from moving on productively. 

  10. Be resilient. Captain America gets back up when he’s knocked down and never quits. He may get discouraged, but he is persistent and adaptable in order to find a way to win. He understands that intelligent actions, patience, and persistence are worth the effort.

Nothing that’s been outlined above is beyond the capability of anyone desiring to become an effective leader. If you follow the example of Captain America and work to develop the same attitude and skills, you’ll soon be overcoming challenges, creating greater results, experiencing success, and earning the respect of the superheroes who follow you.

Six Steps for Predicting Your Sales Forecast

DustinRugeToday's blog post is by Dustin Ruge, an award-winning sales and marketing professional with more than 20 years of successful sales and sales-management experience. He is the author of The Successful Sales Manager. 



"Forecasting is the art of saying what will happen and then explaining why it didn't!" —Anonymous 

"Those who have knowledge don't predict. Those who predict don’t have knowledge."—Lao Tzu

Most sales managers will spend 37 percent of their time forecasting sales, according to Sales Benchmark Index data. This means sales managers spend more time around a crystal ball and less time doing all the things they could be doing to help improve the sales team’s performance.

Forecasting anything, including sales, is problematic by nature. I remember watching an interview of an economic forecasting specialist (yes, these people really do exist) who was asked how he was able to predict the future of economic events with any level of certainty. His response to that question was, “If weather people can do such a good job of predicting the weather, why can’t we be able to do the same thing for the economy?” So there you have it! Sales managers are in good company.

Here are six guidelines you can use as a sales manager to better help you manage the forecasting process:

1.)  Know the difference between a sales forecast and a sales pipeline.

A sales pipeline is a view of all your potential sales opportunities at all stages. Your sales forecast, on the other hand, is a much smaller segment of your sales pipeline, with stages from close to closing that occur within a defined time frame (typically a day, week, month, or quarter). The problems we face as sales managers is that our salespeople will too often focus on their forecasted sales opportunities at the expense of their pipeline and future sales potential. Sales managers further reinforce this problem by managing salespeople in such a way that they focus on short-term forecasted opportunities to make a number, thereby encouraging bad sales habits that can be hard to break. By reinforcing successful sales habits that strike a strong and consistent balance between both pipeline and forecasted opportunities, you can better grow the long-term health of a business. 

2.)  Make your salespeople be salespeople and not fortune-tellers.

A recent survey of sales managers showed that only 23 percent of them trust their salespeople’s forecasts. Your salespeople should be responsible for selling, and you as a sales manager should forecast for them. The motivations and downsides to having a salesperson provide a forecast are far different from a sales manager’s. Your responsibility as a sales manager is to help provide sales guidance so your organization can help support it. The salesperson has other motivations, which are often focused on one thing: him- or herself.

You can read a lot into the forecasts and pipelines provided by your salespeople, but make sure the read is interpreted at your level before it gets any higher. If somebody is out looking for a new job while working for you, don’t be surprised if that person’s pipeline suddenly drops and forecasted sales artificially increase in the process. If you have an underperforming salesperson who has been warned about lack of prospecting, don’t be surprised when new pipeline opportunities are magically created while his or her prospecting habits remain unchanged. If you have new salespeople, they may be very excited and have high sales expectations but lack sales experience with your company, which is often reflected in their lofty forecasts that many will fail to initially achieve. 

3.)  Measure your pipeline in sales steps/stages and not by guessing. 

The worst thing you can ask a salesperson to do is provide a probability to close at all steps in a sales pipeline. By doing this, you are once again asking salespeople to become fortune-tellers and preventing a true read and efficient flow from a pipeline to a forecast. Always stick to sales steps first, and involve probabilities only when you reach the last step before closing. 

4.)  Forecast sales by activity and not by hoping.

In sales, timely and active follow-up is critical, especially since many salespeople fail miserably at it. Great salespeople control the sales process and are always moving to the next steps needed to close business. Those next steps are critical in understanding what is truly expected to come through the door when your sales forecasts are due, and therefore they should be the basis of your forecasts.

5.)  Measure and learn from your results. 

We are all human, and humans make mistakes. If we learn from them, the mistakes we made in the past help us make better decisions in the future. Because of this, it is important that you analyze and learn from past forecasting results so you can get a better read on how to move forward. 

6.)  Do not substitute insight and action with automation.

Only 65 percent of companies recently surveyed indicated that they have a defined sales process. Of those, 15 percent use a sales process provided by their customer relationship management (CRM) vendor. In short, one out of 10 companies uses a sales process provided by a CRM system. Yes, there are a lot of great sales management automation tools in use today. BookThe problem is, even the best CRM systems are still perceived by most salespeople as providing less incremental value to them personally. Because of this, salespeople continue to reluctantly use them, and typically, they do so at only a minimum level of required interaction.

The potential benefits provided by CRM systems today are still far greater for the companies than to the salespeople who have to feed them. The result we commonly see from this is bad forecasting and pipeline management – garbage in and garbage out. Because of this, you should not fully rely on sales automation to give you a truly accurate read on your sales potential. Moreover, doing so breaks a cardinal sales-management rule: never allow your salespeople to directly forecast their sales. CRM systems should not be an excuse for poor sales management, and they should replace only those functions that cannot be better accomplished through alternative means.

The Seven-Letter Dirty Word in Sales

MichelleVazzana_400Today's post is by Michelle Vazzana, partner at Vantage Point Performance and coauthor of Cracking the Sales Management Code.




Some dirty words start out as dirty words, but other words develop into curse words over time due to an association with something negative. There is one such word in sales; it started out as a good word but has since become the mother of all dirty sales words: process.

Process’s Bad Rap 

Sales process has become a source of frustration for sales managers partly because there isn’t a common framework or language to manage the sales activities and processes that drive performance. Sales managers still have precious little to build on when they want to implement processes that have been proven to consistently and predictably produce sales results. As sales leaders attempt to drive more predictability into the sales function, more processes are put in place in an attempt to gain some level of control. In the end, however, sellers feel smothered by controls, and sales managers are overwhelmed trying to manage countless, over-engineered processes that may or may not be effective in improving sales performance. No wonder process has developed a bad rap. 

The Proof Is in the Process

One might argue that sales is unlike other disciplines because it is influenced by the unpredictable nature of human relationships and buying decisions; however, the erratic nature and unpredictability of sales is precisely why sales needs more structure, not less. In fact, recent research from the CSO Insights 2011 Sales Performance Organization Report reveals that companies with more developed sales processes win 53 percent of their forecasted deals, compared to 43 percent of deals won by companies with ad hoc processes.

Further research from CSO Insights reveals that 65 percent of sales reps in companies with more rigorous processes achieved quota, compared to 56 percent in companies that lacked formal sales processes. In addition, 88 percent of companies with highly sophisticated sales processes reached their company’s overall sales goals, compared to 78 percent of companies with ad hoc sales processes.

Research also shows that formal sales processes are actually the answer to preventing one of the biggest productivity killers in sales: ambiguity – not knowing clearly how to succeed in the job. Sellers who have task clarity have higher levels of both motivation and performance, and process is the framework that provides both sales managers and sellers with clarity of task. Foundational research from the Harvard Business Review dating back to 1980 shows that clarity of task is strongly related to sales performance and on-the-job effort. Sales process helps define what results should be attained and the path, tools, and actions that will achieve the desired results. Sending sellers out into the field without the proper processes in place is like telling your team members to show up at the same location without giving them directions, a vehicle to get there, or an address. 

A more recent study published in 2013 in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science indicates that, when managers exert higher levels of process control (on seller activities and associated capabilities to execute those activities), sellers exerted higher levels of effort while reporting reduced role ambiguity. In the same study, high levels of role ambiguity had a direct, negative effect on sales performance. Salespeople want clarity and perform best when managers provide that clarity.

The Right Amount of Process 

Process is the only way that managers can effectively, efficiently, and predictably influence the behavior and activities of the sales team. Without process, there is no clear path for sellers regarding which results are to be attained and the activities that will lead to the desired results; however, too much process leads to frustration, low adoption, and burnout. The key to keeping “process” from being a dirty word at your organization is to put just enough rigor in place to get the job done and no more. When a high level of clarity is present through process, then motivation, commitment, and performance follow close behind.

The Plight of a Sales Manager

LaVonKoenerLaVon Koerner is chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm. Join Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, 2014.



No other role has undergone more change and is under more pressure to achieve greater results with fewer resources than that of a sales manager. Sales managers receive less support, training, and pragmatic tools for managing their ever-increasing number of direct reports and are expected to hit ever-increasing revenue targets in shorter amounts of time. 

The plight of a sales manager is intensified by the following:

  • Most sales managers have never been properly trained for the jobs to which they have been promoted.
  • Most sales managers have been revenue heroes but are unable to replicate their personal approach.
  • Most sales managers fall into the trap of closing business themselves because they do not have the time, methods, or science to develop such skills in their own people.
  • Most sales managers live a hectic life of reactively running from person to person and from pursuit to pursuit in hopes of finding a way to make their numbers.
  • Most sales managers have no coach, no coaching process, no developed coaching skills, no coaching governance, and work for a company that has no coaching culture.

Given these points, is it any wonder that sales managers are experiencing one of the highest turnover rates of any position in the corporate world? Here are two seemingly counterintuitive principles that aspiring managers should practice, although the principles may be both uncomfortable and unconventional. 

Be in the Game but Not on the Field

If you’ve watched or played sports, you may know that, when the manager of a sports team crosses into the field of play, you will immediately see a flag or hear a whistle signaling that a foul has been committed. In the business world, there are no flags or whistles to identify the violation of an important business-management principle. This judgment is left to the self-policing of a disciplined manager.

Generally, sales managers fall into one of two camps: the Post-Game Clips Manager, who focuses on the post-game analysis, or the Star Player Manager, who runs onto the field to ensure that the big plays are successful. While these two types of managers may seem very different, they both make the same mistake: trying to achieve short-term results rather than develop their people for repeatable gains. Both of these management styles are doomed to failure in the long term. Their misguided plans, no matter how well intended, will eventually come up short. 

In order to be in the game but not on the field, one has to be committed to the value of coaching. Coaching brings you into the game while not being on the actual field of play. If the manager does not have frequent and consistent coaching sessions built upon a well-designed and healthy coaching culture, then the chances of this principle being implemented are slim to none.

Following this principle allows the manager to advance the pursuit while still advancing the talent. Only coaching can produce both short-term and long-term sustainable results.

Be in Touch but out of Reach

Technology can be a wonderful thing. It enables managers to increase their span of control while reducing their time of control. Managers who feel constant panic from being behind and overwhelmed covet immediacy. 

As with all good things, however, too much can turn bad. Our marvelous new technological capabilities must be used with restraint. Immediacy and speed can become the adversary of intimacy, and quickness will be the enemy of quietness. Managers who deliberately make themselves unreachable by turning off their cell phones for set periods of time will be better positioned to develop their team and strategize for success. In our fast-paced, plugged-in world, there is no substitute for deliberate contemplation of people and issues.

Managers who spend quality time one-on-one with their people will reduce time to performance. How long does it take a manager to transform a new hire from a “cost center” to a “profit center,” which is when the new hire achieves increased self-sufficiency and role proficiency? This simply cannot be accomplished without uninterrupted, dedicated time focused on helping an individual overcome his or her personal challenges and skill deficits, so he or she can break through to the next level of performance. 

Leadership is not possible without vision, and vision is not possible without careful and thoughtful consideration. Stop the noise and think about the big picture. Take the luxury of dedicated time and apply it to a specific situation until breakthrough thinking is attained. Then, turn the technology back on and lead with the courage of your newfound convictions. 

Faithful adherence to these two simple but profound principles is key to raising your management proficiency.

Turnover: The Silent Sales Killer

TroyHarrisonToday’s post is by speaker, consultant, and sales navigator Troy Harrison, author of Sell Like You Mean It! Email him at, or visit



I answered the phone this afternoon, and an earnest voice said, “Hello, Mr. Harrison? This is Chris, and I’m your new representative with Company X.  I’m calling to introduce myself and see if we could set up a time to chat so I could learn about your business, and we could see if Company X could do more for you.” 

Company X is a vendor with whom I have done business for six years. I’m loyal to this company because it provides a service that helps me. I spend quite a bit of money with this company, and I’m sure that when Chris looked at my account, he figured he had a pretty solid customer and a good sales call. That’s why I’m sure that my response was a huge surprise to him (and it might be to you, as well).

“I’m sorry, Chris, but that wouldn’t be a good use of my time or yours,” I told him. Chris seemed shocked, so I decided to explain fully. 

“You see, I get a call just like this every six months from your company. About every six months, more or less, I have a new rep who wants to spend time being a resource to me. I’ve had several of these conversations, and I just don’t have the time for another. I’m already buying what I need from your company, so there’s no up-sell potential for you. I wish you the best. I have your contact information, and if I need you, I’ll call.”

He said, “Well, I do appreciate your candor.”  

I told him, “I’m not trying to be rude. I’ll tell you what, call me on your one-year anniversary, and I’ll give you all the time you want.” 

Chris was disappointed, but I meant what I said. I doubt, based on past experience, that I’ll get that call on his one-year anniversary.

Turnover in sales is a sales and relationship killer. Sooner or later, customers get tired of hearing, “I’m your new salesperson.”  For those salespeople who jump jobs and are saying, “I’m now with a new company,” your customers get tired of that, as well. In both cases, credibility and relationships are the victims.

The reason I wouldn’t speak with Chris was exactly as I told him: it wouldn’t be a good use of my time. By the time he’s getting it figured out, he’ll probably be gone, and I’ll be getting a call from yet another new salesperson. I like to train salespeople – but only when I’m paid to do so.

Here are the raw facts: there is a learning curve for salespeople in any job. Stats show that salespeople reach basic competence in six months, become profitable for the hiring company between month 12 and month 18, and don’t reach full productivity until year three or year four.  When salespeople change jobs within that three-year window (or worse, the one-year window), that tells me that they don’t know what it’s like to reach full productivity.

Ultimately, excess turnover is a problem for our profession, but there are a few things that salespeople, sales managers, and company owners can do to curb it.

For Salespeople

Stand and fight. There are many stated reasons that salespeople short-time a job; however, the main reason is that things get a bit tough, and the salesperson bails. Sales isn’t always an easy career, but the best, most successful salespeople fight through the problems and emerge victorious. 

Stop chasing shiny objects. One of the biggest reasons for turnover is that salespeople chase.  What do they chase? Shiny objects. To put it another way, they chase the new opportunity that seems so much better than the current job – more money, better technology, different territory, etc. I recently interviewed a guy who said that he was a “chaser of the best technology in [his] space at any given time.” This was to explain six job changes in the last 10 years, none of which produced significantly better results or income. Don’t get me wrong: I know that there are times when the only way to advance your career is to make a change, but those changes should be infrequent and well thought out.

For Sales Managers

Hire smart. Too many hires are simply future turnover in the making. Sales managers, lacking a good basis or tools for hiring, simply make “gut hires” that don’t produce results. Lower turnover is the result of good hiring practices.

Coach before firing. Once you have hired someone, you owe it to yourself, as well as to your hire, to give him or her every reasonable opportunity to succeed. That means termination should be a last resort, not a first. The first resort is to troubleshoot and coach your salesperson. You should terminate only when you can look at yourself in the mirror and honestly say that you gave your salesperson a shot. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that both hiring and coaching are well covered in my Unconventional Guide to Sales Management audio course.

For Company Owners

Take a long-term approach. Building a quality sales force isn’t something that happens week by week or necessarily quarter by quarter. It happens over the long haul. In the case of the sales rep who contacted me, I’m sure that ownership or upper management has established a set of standards that basically wash out new sales reps after about six months, hence my frequent calls from new reps. 

Hire a quality sales manager. Quality sales managers coach and improve sales performance; they are drivers of the sales effort, not the passengers. If that’s not your sales manager, it’s time to invest in coaching or training for that person – or rethink who you’ve put in that managerial position.

Turnover has many costs, but it doesn’t have to be a sales killer. The right approach to building a sales force can greatly reduce turnover – which puts profit on your bottom line.

How to Negotiate Successfully through the Sales Process

Marty FinkleToday’s post is by Marty Finkle, CPT, CEO of the Parsippany, New Jersey-based Scotwork North America ( Contact him at



It’s time to make a deal with the prospect, so you unleash your negotiation skills – but by then, it may be too late to make a meaningful difference. You need to incorporate strategic negotiation into the entire sales process, from start to finish, for each lead you qualify.

Be Curious and Ask the Right Questions

Begin by analyzing the key issues from the prospect’s standpoint. Be curious about the person’s intentions, goals, motivation, limits, and areas he or she can be flexible. Some questions to ask:

  • “What are your intended results?”

  • “What type of agreement would make you look good to colleagues at your company?”

  • “What are your priorities when making this purchase, e.g., price, service, or duration of contract?”

  • “On what terms can you be flexible?”

Listen carefully to the responses, and at various points during the negotiation, summarize the other side’s point of view out loud so there are no misunderstandings. These practices may also help you uncover a hidden agenda and recognize when your negotiating partner is ready to close. Plus, you’ll be able to shape your negotiation strategy throughout the rest of the sales process.

Practice 8 Steps to Successful Negotiation

1. Prepare

Clarify your objectives and develop wish and concession lists, while anticipating what will be important to the client.

2. Argue

Rehearse your opening statements, ask questions, listen carefully to the answers, and exchange additional information.

3. Signal

Be alert to the prospect’s signals (verbal and nonverbal), which may reveal needs that you didn’t pick up in prior sessions.

4. Propose

Trade with the prospect to secure specific and practical items of greater value to you (e.g., higher prices, longer-term contract, and later deadlines) while conceding items of lesser value.  

5. Package

Give those on the other side what they want – on your terms – and shape your proposal based on any uncovered needs.

6. Bargain

Set a price for the prospect’s demands, and put conditions before offers with this type of statement: “If you agree to sign a two-year contract, then we’ll provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months.”

7. Close

For a trial closing, you can ask, “Are you saying that if we agree to provide delivery at a 25 percent discount for the first twelve months, you’ll sign a two-year contract?” This type of question encourages the prospect to reveal any hidden issues and should enable you to close the negotiation.

8. Agree

Clarify potential ambiguities, and confirm that the terms of the agreement are acceptable and can be implemented by both parties.

Negotiate So Both Sides Come out Smiling

Don’t view success as “we win, you lose,” an approach that won’t lead to long-term relationships. Instead, seek to understand the prospect’s needs so you can offer a practical solution while at the same time getting what’s important to you, such as a longer-term contract, flexibility in service, and ultimately higher revenue.