- February 17, 2009
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
A CEO of a fairly large-sized but under-performing OEM asked us to evaluate his sales force. One of the three regional managers, who assessed as poorly as any regional manager could, called to complain about his results. In addition to calling me a toad, Bob said that in the eighties he used to sell and manage at IBM and he led the top performing team. He finished by letting me know that we didn’t know what we were talking about and, by the way, he would be picking me up at the airport for the kick-off of their national training initiative.
It was a quiet ride (his choice) to the site of the training, where, for the first three hours, Bob stood in the back of the room, stoic, arms folded, attempting to intimidate me through his thick, black glasses. (I don’t think it’s possible to accomplish the intimidation thing with me but he did try really hard!)
At the lunch break Bob approached me and said, “You know, I’ve learned more about sales and sales management in the last three hours than I ever learned at IBM. I’ve reconsidered what I said to you on the phone. Your assessment was right on. I don’t have the skills or the strengths you’ve been talking about. At IBM, we were the market leader, people wanted to buy from us and all I had to do was leverage our position in the marketplace. I apologize for giving you a hard time. But you’re still a toad.”
Even today, brand leaders, price leaders, and technology leaders all have a false sense of sales and sales management competency. Are they truly succeeding because of their sales and sales management effectiveness? The true tests always come when these successful sales executives leave to take a position at a company that is under performing. Can they repeat the magic? Can they extend their track record? Can they add another success to their resume?
Most find out, and rather quickly, that it ain’t so easy to join an underdog and succeed without a deep set of sales competencies, disciplines, strategies and tactics. Sadly, the executives that hire them find out too, that when they hire a sales or sales management star from a well-known company, their expectations will often fail to be met.