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Avoiding Flavor of the Month Syndrome (A Note to the Sales Leader)

One of the reasons so many sales initiatives fail is because they because they are never given the chance to succeed. It’s not that they are intentionally abandoned. It’s just that something new comes along and the important initiative that was sold to the sales organization just slowly fades away. It dies of neglect.

We bounce from leveraging our sales force automation to adopting social selling to the pursuing the newest sales methodology and on and on, ad nauseum. It’s the flavor of the month. Here’s why it doesn’t work and what to do about it.

You Trained the Sales Force to Wait You Out

One of the primary reasons that your sales initiatives fail when you pursue the flavor of the month is that you train your sales force to wait you out.

They remember when you pushed sales force automation. And they remember how quickly it was abandoned. They remember when everyone was required to go through the training to learn the new sales process. But that process hasn’t been enforced in years. Then the sales force was given a new methodology that was going to make the heavens rain down opportunities, but that methodology left as fast as it was introduced.

Now, you’ve trained the sales force to wait you out. They have learned that they don’t really have to go all in on sales initiative, that this initiative is another flight of fancy, and that it too shall pass. They’ve seen this one before, and they know how this movie ends. It ends with another initiative being announced.

All the Way Over the Line

Truth be told, you can continue to add new tools to the toolkit. But not unless and until you have fully implemented and built the competencies around the prior initiatives. You can build one on top of another, but you have to build them one at a time.

Once the sales process becomes “the way we do business,” you can start to add a methodology around one area of the sales process. As soon as you add a methodology around prospecting, you can add a methodology around negotiating—but not until the first initiative is all the way over the line.

The trick is to pick one or two really big initiatives and stick with them until they are fully adopted. If it’s something big, like a sales process, that might take a year or more. It takes time for salespeople to gain the competencies needed. It takes time for sales management to learn to teach, train, coach, and develop the salespeople around the initiative. It takes time for the sales force to even begin to adopt the initiative because they believe it’s going to quickly fade away.

Once you pick your one or two initiatives, you have to hammer at way at these initiatives, giving no ground. The sales organization has to believe that this is forever, that there is no place to hide, that they are going to be called to account for results around your initiative. You have to speak about your big one or two at every meeting. You have to frame every discussion around your key initiatives. You have to sell them every chance you get.

You must avoid the failure that comes from pursuing the flavor of the month by choosing your one or two big initiatives and relentlessly hammering them home. Otherwise, you’ll never produce the sales results you are capable of producing.


How many current sales initiatives are you working on?

How many initiatives are there in the graveyard of killer ideas that were never properly pursued?

Why do we seek novelties and new ideas and avoid the fundamentals?

How long does it take for salespeople to gain a new competency, to fully adopt something new?

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  • Mark Lindwall

    Excellent post, Anthony. You’ve identified the cause for so many sales culture issues, AND for an enormous financial loss in unrealized ROI in sales effectiveness investments. It seems to be so much easier for a great many leaders to introduce a new idea or initiative (often at tremendous cost) than to have the (self) discipline to manage expectations and successfully lead their teams through change.

    You’re right that this is why CRM initiatives fail. This is why companies do not get expected ROI on technology and training investments. Success in any of these promising investments really does come down to whether the sales leaders and front line sales managers have the personal leadership effectiveness to ” hammer at way at these initiatives, giving no ground”, as you put it so well.

    This is a good reminder of why organizations need to actively develop their sales managers in the competencies of leadership (including managing change, performance management, etc.). Thanks for the great article!

    Mark Lindwall
    Institute for Sales Leadership

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thanks, Mark. I’m so with you on leadership and change management for front line sales manager. It’s really what the role is all about.