I had an interesting email exchange with two people I trust and admire very much. It was about my Sunday newsletter (you can sign up here). They were concerned about last Sunday’s newsletter, in which I had written about the two most important factors when it comes to sales success. First, I listed all of the things that are not number one or number two. I included things like a good sales process, good sales methodologies, tools, and technologies. Then I listed the two most important factors.
Number One with a Bullet
Number one is the individual salesperson. I believe that nothing is more important than the individual salesperson (salespeople).
Number two on my list is the sales manager. I believe that leadership matters as much or more than any other single factor in any organization. Look at any high-performing organization and you’ll find good leadership, guaranteed.
One of my friends emailed me to tell me that while he agreed with my choices, as an organization reaches a certain size making number one and number two the sales person in the sales manager is no longer scalable. Instead you need the system to compensate for the inability to hire enough performers. The second friend asked how I intended to help people with this challenge now that I drew this line in the sand.
Will It Scale?
First, let me be clear about something. When it comes to building a high performing sales organization, everything is important. Everything! An excellent sales process is critical. Great sales methodologies are critical. The right tools and technology are critical. A great product is critical, and so is a killer value proposition. Everything matters! I am in no way suggesting that you can succeed without all of the pieces and parts in place.
Now let’s deal with the idea of how scalable this idea is. There are legendary sales organizations that have built great sales forces from scratch. I don’t have to say their names and three come immediately to mind, don’t they? There are sales organizations who have trained, developed, and coached individuals into excellent salespeople and excellent performers.
These companies have built high-performing sales organizations by making the decision to build great sales people. It’s worth noting that these same organizations have also built great sales leaders. None of this is to say they didn’t have the rest of the necessary components in place, too. Rather, they had their priorities in the right order.
Can you make it scale? Here’s some questions to consider.
How different would sales organizations look if they decided to build great sales people? How different would they be perceived by their customers if they focused on providing their customers with the very best, value creating sales person possible?
What activities would you take if you were focused on building a great salesforce instead of trying to compensate for poor performers through the use of tools, technology, process, and methodologies?
I know that some people won’t like that last question. So let me say it another way: What if you built a great sales rep first and then armed them with the great sales process, great methodologies, and great tools and technology? Why should these two goals be mutually exclusive? Why should they be in any way at odds?
Would it be worth taking your salespeople off the field for some period of time each week if you continually notched them up to greater and greater performance?
I don’t believe that you can hire enough star performers. And if you can’t hire enough star performers, you need to build them.