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A Stunning Display of Poor Leadership

The article is titled “Oracle Blames New Sales People for Missing Targets.”

“What we really saw was the lack of urgency we sometimes see in the sales force, as Q3 deals fall into Q4,” Chief Financial officer Safra Catz told analysts on a conference call. “Since we’ve been adding literally thousands of new sales reps around the world, the problem was largely sales execution, especially with the new reps as they ran out of runway in Q3.” CNBC

“A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.” — John C. Maxwell

I am certain that the sales force missed their targets; it’s right there in the numbers. I am certain too that the new salespeople didn’t put up the numbers that they will put up when they’ve had more time to build relationships, to build a pipeline of opportunities, and to become fully productive salespeople. Oracle is no slouch when it comes to running a sales organization and putting up numbers.

A Great Leader Owns the Failure

My experience tells me that the deals didn’t slip from Q3 to Q4 due to a lack of urgency on the part of the new sales force. My experience tells me that those deals should never have been forecast for Q3 in the first place.

My experience also tells me that the statement above is an enormous leadership mistake.

If the sales force failed to put up the number, it’s leadership that is to blame. Who’s plan was it that the sales force was executing against? Who had the power to question the plan to reach the number with 3,000 new salespeople? Who hired the sales force? Who trained the sales force? Who managed the sales force? Who had the power and the resources to do something to change the outcome?

Each individual salesperson is responsible for making their number. But leadership is responsible when the whole company doesn’t make their number.

Confidence in Failure

Ms. Catz made a mistake as a leader. She should have stepped up and taken responsibility for the failure; she owns it. She might have said, “I overestimated the impact our new sales force could make in this short of time.” If she wanted a different outcome than the one I imagine she is getting from the sales force now, she might also have said, “I am confident in my team, and I have the utmost confidence in our new sales force. This is an excellent group, and they will succeed like the rest of the Oracle sales force. I should have given them more time.”

We have confidence in leaders that admit their failures and take responsibility. The fact that they are willing to be accountable is part of what makes a great leader. We lack confidence in leaders that blame others and make excuses. It reeks of a failure to be held accountable … “It wasn’t my fault; it was the sales force.”

I might remedy this mistake as publicly as I made it. I’d want my sales force to know that I believed in them. And if they really showed a lack of urgency (doubtful), I’d do something about it.


When an organization fails, is it the fault of the employees or leadership?

Who is accountable for the failure?

If the organization needs to change to reach their goals, who has the power to make those changes?

Can the individual be responsible for their failure and leadership responsible for the organization’s failure?

Filed under: Leadership, Sales 3.0, Sales Leadership

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