How to Weather a Perfect Sales Storm

*Originally published on

Finding the right sales talent to embrace the company culture and effectively promote the brand is more challenging than ever. Here are some tips.

Sales teams and their management operate on clarity of expectations, skill levels, measurable goals and monthly revenue results. Sales involve a lot of stress, high-paced work, deadlines, and effectively reading people and opportunities — otherwise you fail.

Finding the right sales talent to embrace the company culture and effectively promote the brand is more challenging than ever.

Coupled with the retirement of some of your most trusted, experienced and skilled sales talent, well, you have arrived at the perfect sales storm conditions. The sales tasks and metrics are simple. However, hiring great talent, developing new talent, sustaining motivation and preventing burnout is not. So what can you do?

It is often a mental prison sales managers build that prevent them from thinking of more strategic sales goals for the salesperson, themselves, their customers and the company. I think we can all agree that replacing salespeople is a VERY expensive proposition in more ways than you may think.

The hard costs of recruitment, interviewing, testing, onboarding and hand-holding time are probably well understood and hopefully measured, and can range from $50-$100K depending how long you hang onto nonproducers. The real hidden cost?

You don’t invest your valuable time in the right places or with the right people. A good sales manager can deliver results when they invest their time wisely, but many accept continually managing performance improvement plans as “the cost of doing business in sales management.”

It will be a vicious cycle where a salesperson is only as good as their last month’s performance.  It creates a rut that will infect the whole team. How do you get out of that rut?

A great sales leader develops, motivates and sets clear expectations to the individual salespeople and the team as a whole that builds a well-oiled sales machine. Most importantly, coaching sales teams out of “rut thinking” will develop the team to the next level of attitude, performance, and individual and revenue growth for a company.

The best news is that this type of sales leader will attract top notch talent to your company, significantly reducing turnover and hiring costs in the process. What can you do to change the trajectory and go to the next level?

Start by taking an objective assessment of your sales machine. If working with sales is a challenge for you, consider getting some outside help that can provide a professional opinion to gain better clarity and perspective. We call it our Weather Report and it is designed to deliver actionable steps in a very short engagement timeframe.

We take a holistic look at your company, as should you, to determine if there are other operational issues hindering the sales team’s performance. Then we establish a clear vision from a revenue growth, profitability and vertical market penetration perspective to provide the sales team target clarity. Then what?

Meet with your sales leader. Share that vision. Ask if it is reasonable, then gain their commitment and stay the heck out of their way. Challenge your sales team and your sales management thinking to identify common goals that move everyone forward toward the results you expect.

Ask what challenges they see, what training they need and what tools will enable their journey. Then address those challenges, communicate your commitment, ask for their commitment and again stay the heck out of their way! So what are the guard rails you need to construct on this new highway to sales success?

Establish the expectation of short, well-disciplined (with agenda items), and accountability orientated monthly meetings with the team. You should not focus as an owner on the “how” but rather on “what” progress is being made, challenges they are facing and roadblocks that need to removed.

Share the faith and confidence you have in the team meeting their commitments to the company. The “how” belongs to the sales leader and the team in their weekly meetings. Some advice is in order, so here you go.

Allow them to “fail forward” in this new environment you are creating. If the team has taken a step backward, and they will … trust me, your role is to examine what they learned and more importantly what they will do differently next time. If you recognize they are evolving through critical examination and actions to correct in the future, you and they are on the right path. Stay the course.

Next month we will continue this discussion with some personal experience insights to help you drive your sales enablement process to new heights!