The Politics of Sales Success

By Tony Cole

Normally, one would not connect politics with sales success, but if we allow ourselves to think about it, politicians are always selling.  They are either trying to sell us or sell each other on their ideas, programs or interests.  Please ignore the politics of the individual I am about to discuss because his specific politics are not important to the discussion.  I would like to focus on a comment in his book.  

I am in the middle of reading Decision Points – The Presidential Memoir of George W. Bush. In the chapter Leading, he discusses his decisions that led to the “No Child Left Behind” legislation and he makes the following statement:

“You cannot solve a problem until you diagnose it.  Accountability would serve as a catalyst for reform.”

I read this, stopped, and thought about the dozens of sales organizations we have worked with in the past and those we are talking to today as prospects.  In almost every instance, the chief executive’s objective is to achieve some variation of reform.  The clients we work with are not broken, but they universally realize that they are perfectly designed for the results that they are getting today.  They realize that, for various reasons, they need a different set of results or outcomes.  And, they realize that in order to get a different outcome, they need to change or reform.

In his book, the former president goes on to discuss, in education, everyone knew the symptoms; the fact that the USA finished 3rd to the bottom only above Cyprus and South Africa in mathematics.  There were not any standard accountability measures in place to help schools and school reformers determine how to duplicate success or fix failure. Accountability was needed as the catalyst for reform in education.

So, let’s get back to the business of selling. If there is anything in your company, specifically with your sales team, that you can no longer accept or have to change, then you must get beyond treating the symptoms (for example new CRM or new sales process).  You must diagnose the root cause of the problem.  Our company helps other sales companies with this very critical “diagnosis”.

Traditionally, this is what we find out when we help companies with the diagnostics:

  • Crucial Elements of Success are strengths or weaknesses that impact growth and the ability to be coached.  These include desire, commitment, responsibility and outlook.
  • Major Performance Factor deficits impact execution of ANY sales system. These factors are need for approval, money issues, poor record collection, and non-supportive buy cycle.
  • Strategies and priorities for the business are not aligned between senior management and sales management, therefore creating a disconnect between what should be executed and what is executed.
  • Hiring – the population that is supposed to execute the strategies and priorities are incapable of doing so because the wrong hiring criteria has been used and there is normally a lack of a consistent process to keep the candidate pipeline full.
  • On-boarding – Accountability standards to execute sales activities to drive early success are missing.  New hires exhibit slow starts and are either fired too early or kept too long.

These are just some of the major issues we uncover and then deliver training to help companies with their ‘reform’ efforts.  But these few issues have a dramatic impact on the results they are getting.  As you think about the “problems” that exist in your sales team today, clearly you know the symptoms and chances are, you’ve been attempting to treat the symptoms with some success.  However, long term change, improvement and growth will eventually require deep diagnosis and accountability.

To get you started, take advantage of these free assessment tools.