Death of a Sales Force

I tend not to waste time trying to close prospects that aren’t ready to buy, even if I could REALLY help them. I blow them up and move on. It’s not unusual for me to schedule some of these prospects for follow up every 6-12 months to see if they realized just how wrong they were to let me walk away. In 2006, Mike Eagan and I went through the process with a couple of college friends that owned a company. One of the partners had started the company, hired several family members, including his father and built a reputation. When the second friend graduated, he came in as a partner to handle the sales side of the business. They were very visible, pretty successful, and making some money. We met because they wanted their salespeople to sell more and they wanted to recruit better salespeople.

They were a $6 million company and the “sales” partner was selling $2 million. The other 6 salespeople did the other $4 million. When we visited the office, the sales partner had the company pipeline on a big board in his office and the question that he asked us was, “How come so much of the board was his?” I was sure that he used to ask his salespeople the same question in the same tonality. He was proud to be the top sales guy. His ego not only demanded that he be the top guy but he had to be the top guy by a lot. He was the problem. He couldn’t develop salespeople because he was too busy on his own agenda….his pipeline.

There were other issues in the company, but nothing would change until the sales guy learned how to manage or they replaced him in the function. When I mentioned this to the founder, he said, “Sales is his responsibility. If he wants help, he’ll hire you. If not, I’ll back him all the way.” I asked, “Even if it means you’ll never grow and may eventually go out of business.” He replied, “His call.”

Last time I called, the two partners were suing each other. The founder was in control of the company, but wouldn’t hire us because he hadn’t determined what he wanted to do.

Yesterday, I learned that they were out of business. I no longer have to follow up.

How was my title? Are you willing to allow your inadequate sales manager to kill your sales force and maybe your company?

Do you know that we can evaluate a sales manager as a sales manager as well as salespeople as salespeople?

If you’re willing and you care, forward this post to every CEO that you know.

4 thoughts on “Death of a Sales Force

  1. Hey Rick, The hardest thing for sales managers or even owners to do is relinquish their control. Yes, it is great to be adept at selling but I often ask myself “Do I want to do this my entire life?” The answer is always a resounding “NO!” Taking the time to develop your sales people may take away a few sales in the beginning,but in the long run, after they have learned from some mistakes, you’ll be able to leverage your efforts through the people you have trained. Too many great sales people leave positions because they are being micro-managed by sales managers who are fearful of their jobs if you become better than them. The best compnanies allow their people to grow and appreciate the various styles of achieving the same goals.

  2. Sometimes a downturn is good for a company as it will bring or impose change:- change of products or solutions- change of managementIf there had been a downturn in the example case, the top selling sales manager would have missed his sales numbers. Then change could be imposed by the board of directors.

  3. Hey – nice blog, just looking around some blogs, seems a pretty nice platform you are using. I’m currently using WordPress for a few of my sites but looking to change one of them over to a platform similar to yours as a trial run. Anything in particular you would recommend about it?

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