Dec 192014

When it comes time to choose a new sales manager one of the topics most discussed and considered is whether to hire internally or go outside.

On the one hand, companies need to provide a career path for their employees. Most companies have team leaders or salespeople who aspire to leading and managing teams of their own. Addressing those motivations and maintaining seniority or meritocracy are valid considerations. On the other hand, companies often feel the need to hire from outside to acquire a certain skillset and experience that is not immediately available within.

The most heated discussion happens when a successful salesperson aspires to or is about to be promoted into management. There is plenty of literature out there warning against hiring the best salesperson into a leadership role – and let’s be frank many do not do it simply because they do not want to lose the wins the salesperson brings in. There are also plenty of reasons (like career paths, motivation, respect, keeping knowledge and expertise from walking out of the door) to promote the person from within.

managing worldwide

Personally, I have both been promoted from within and been hired into an organization as a manager. At times it was a difficult transition, but it worked out at the end. Having said that, hindsight is 20/20.

Salespeople, very successful ones anyway, are tireless, motivated, single-minded, hungry and do not give up. Not every salesperson on every team answers perfectly to that description. As I have written often a decent manager is flexible, sees and understand diversity and gives plenty of room to making the circle whole by responding to different direct reports’ needs and aspirations.

Will a single-minded salesperson make that transition into a successful sales manager? Maybe and maybe not. Then again, it is hardly guaranteed that an outside person would be a successful hire. Rule of thumb remains: hire a good proportion from within and supplement it at all times with fresh blood to allow the latest and greatest seep into the department from outside.

Back to the internal promotion however. This new manager may be operating at two extremes with his or her new team. At the one end is choking the team with micromanagement and pressure. Experience (correctly) tells the new manager that hard work and intensity pay off. The manager demands to see that from the team. At the other end, the manager gives the team too much leeway and operates too often on faith. After all, the salesperson was self-motivated and went out there and made things happen. It would not be strange to expect that the sales team would act in the same way.

Again and again, we come back to keeping an open mind, understanding people and being flexible in approaching different people on the team in unique and personalized manners. That is the reality of sales teams and the material any manager must work with.

By the way, there is no other way. The sales team is now responsible for selling. The manager will be consulted and brought in. The manager will inspect and advise. The manager will become an escalation point and shoulder to cry on, but at the end of the day the manager cannot be the one doing the selling and must let go of the act of leading the sale to customers. It is obviously imperative that the manager quickly figure out what the motley of characters and personalities on the team need to make it happen.

*Things That Need To Go Away: not helping by putting them in the wrong position.



Mar 202014

Whether your organization is sophisticated enough to have systematic sales training and learning for its salespeople or budget for occasional education inevitably, routinely and necessarily the sales manager has a role in coaching the sales team.

Sales managers are tasked with running the department and ensuring sales success. There is a core numbers and revenue aspect to the role. However, earnest and forward looking managers give attention to the team’s sales coaching.

This is easier said than done. Time is always an issue. There is not ever enough time in the day. There are multiple priorities. The numbers need attention, reports need to be created, understood and presented. Someone else could do it. It can wait, so on and so forth. And it is all true.

Nevertheless, sales managers need to make time for training. Here are ten bullet points on coaching in sales:

1- Allocating time to sales coaching is not neglecting the numbers. Coaching salespeople is elevating the numbers.

2- Coaching is not conducted in one way. It includes listening, asking questions, listening to answers and explanations, offering praise and understanding.

3- Coaching is better when conducted in progressive steps. If it is new or has been omitted for a while it is best that the ‘first’ time is dedicated purely to listening and open-minded learning. Only on second and third appointments the sales manager/coach may venture into offering feedback and actual training. The velocity and progression depends on the salesperson.

4- Attach coaching points to numbers and objective goals.

5- Create a schedule and stick to it. This is a matter of discipline and necessity. More importantly, it creates a non-confrontational atmosphere where coaching is part of the process and the job and not tied to any potential or recent missteps or weak achievements.

6- Allocate time for an exchange right after the side-by-side, conference call, meeting or customer visit. The points are fresh and one is not relying merely on notes and memory. Feedback and coaching happens here. Be as detailed as possible.

7- Different salespersons have different perspectives, strengths and weaknesses. Acknowledge them by stating them and working with them.

9- What is the plan now? There has to be actionable items between now and the next scheduled session. Have it in writing and share with the salesperson. A review of this should also be the starting point of the next scheduled coaching opportunity.

10- Commit to coaching and do not shortchange the time or process.

Do not miss:

Sales training is also motivational:

One size does not fit all:

Jul 262013

The existence of hunter-type and farmer-type salespersons is an old understanding in sales circles. Hunters are after market share and winning new prizes (deals or customers). Farmers are maintaining existing accounts, maximizing profits, cross-selling (adding products to what the customer has already purchased) and ensuring a consistent and predictable stream of revenue.

Famously, most salespersons are not able to juggle both dispositions. Perhaps it is the duality of the roles or perhaps it is the difference in skillsets. Most companies do not have the recruiting capability or the talent pool to bring onboard both types of salespeople.

What is more, most companies should not try. Unless a company has the size and payroll capability of a Blackberry, Apotex or Sony organizations need to articulate either a growth and market share or maximizing profit and retention strategy. Again, most sales managers and business owners reading this will immediately balk at the choice opting (in other words hoping) for both, but with the wish being unrealistic a choice needs to be made.

famer and computer






So be it if your shareholders and investors are making the choice for you. Otherwise, articulate a strategy and hire for the part.

Is your business needing to grow fast and garner market share (perhaps additional cross-sell opportunities are in the product pipeline a year or two down the road) or is your business in the mood to maintain the customer base by providing a higher level of service than a poaching competitor could offer) and ensure the profitability of the business is not in jeopardy? Then hire accordingly.

*Things That Need To Go Away: hiring generically for a ‘sales’ position.


Jun 052013

How a decision is presented is detrimental in how the choices are perceived and considered. This is not anything new. Here is something more specific. According to an article in The Boston Globe people respond more favourably to a request if it is framed as securing a gain and not avoiding a loss. In sales it is more effective to keep a success in sales maintained and not as not having someone lose a job. The example given is of a charity. It is better to present a request to donate blood as a way to “prevent someone from dying” rather than as a way to “save someone’s life.”

Jun 052012

I firmly ‘believe’ that having belief is one of the keys to success. This is not some spiritual intangible. It is an imperative. Wayne Gretzky, a Canadian hockey player, is often quoted as saying, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” It is as simple as that. Believing is about doing. Time and time again when a salespersons is convinced that an effort is futile it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Successful salespeople know that when all hope is lost the worst possible thing to (not) do is to give up. One last e-mail beseeching customers, one more call exploring alternatives, one strategic question to a prospect may turn things around.

One needs belief however. The belief that something may happen. Ironically, it is the more experienced and tenured salespeople that often fall victim to a lack of belief. They internalize the mistakes, failures and objections and project them into various current situations. It should be the opposite. The more pertinent question invoking belief is ‘have I sold before?” or ‘have I interviewed for such a job successfully before?’ or ‘Did I win in a similar situation in the last year?’… then why not again?

Your believing not only determines what you do, but it also determines that you do it. Moreover, it is the duty of the management and company to give, instill and maintain that belief. Salespeople are humans. They need support as much as anybody.


Apr 222012

Could one of the traits of a good leader be erasing and ignoring stereotypes?

Not trying to espouse and pose a rhetorical question, but exploring the question.

Can a good leader erase clichés from his or her thought process and instead turn to assessment, listening, understanding, experiencing and learning instead?


Here are some:

  • Men are better executives.
  • Men are more aggressive salespeople
  • Immigrants do not do as well because they do not have local experience.
  • People who work from home are lazing.
  • ‘Command & Control’ gets better results than caring and accommodating.

The point is that these might be true for some people some of the time, but blanket statement and generalities are just that. A good leader listens and understands and draws conclusions based on information – not general and vague assumptions.

And there goes one cliché that needs to bite the dust: being cooperative and helpful detracts from the ‘executiveness’ of a person!

Jan 162012

Salespeople have a tough time of it.
Why is it that they don’t always sell more and occasionally not achieve their quantitative goals even though they are on a quota with a variable pay component, et cetra et cetra?
Shocker: Most salespeople do not care for the money above a certain level and are more concerned with something else. What is that ‘something else?’ Acceptance, promotion and stability. Yes, those things should coincide with hitting the quota, but understand that beyond a certain dollar amount most salespeople are ‘okay’ with not making more. That variable amount changes depending on the level or seniority of the salesperson, but most sales folk are concerned with looking good to their bosses, getting love and admiration from their company and winning with customers.
Consider that when you think about motivating the sales team. And think about that when asking yourself what the base/variable compensation mix should be.

Also, consult the salespeople on product direction and marketing efforts and customer feedback. Not only are they the frontline, but also they want to feel wanted. You could be getting a 2-for-1.

Dec 112011


I recently read and reviewed Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People To Stay by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. The book was a comprehensive digest of progressive management of people.

A review of the book is here:


I had the occasion to speak to Beverly Kaye about the contents of the book and bring you her answers and thoughts on topics covered by the book.

Bev, if you do not mind let me play the devil’s advocate for my first question. Is the concept of the book anachronistic given the tough times and the high unemployment rate?

Absolutely not!  The issue of engagement and retention is just as important in tough times as it is in good times.  The truth is that talented employees have choices, they can find other opportunities. Organizations or managers who feel they can relax because people aren’t going anywhere… or there’s plenty of talent out there… they will find themselves in hot water – if not already – soon.


When speaking with employees, or people in general, they seem to give more emphasis and credence to pay and salary than much of the research, including yours, implies. Am I speaking to a non-representative sample?

Many employees will use “better opportunity” or “higher salary” as reasons they leave, at least that’s what they write on their exit interviews.  But, if you take the time to follow them to their next job you will find that their reasons are often much more specific and many of those reasons have to do with their own manager.  Not feeling valued, appreciated, challenged, even noticed comes out higher on the list every time.  Not saying that pay is not a reason, or not important. It is, but if it is competitive and an individual is being challenged and talents are used appropriately then it will not be a factor in whether one stays or leaves.


The biggest criticism one could accord the book would be that much of its advice is beyond the power or reach of front-line managers. Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em insists managers are the most influential factor in whether employees stay. Could you reconcile these two notions?

I still believe that much of the power rests with the manager and that it is the relationship with the manager that is one of the most important factors in engagement and retention.  When we wrote Love ‘Em… we worked hard to make sure that most of the ideas were low cost or no cost, so I’d challenge you to find that the tilt is in the other direction.  Again, it takes a creative manager, willing to think outside the box, to take any idea we mention and tweak it so that it applies to his direct reports as individuals.  This means you need to know them first!


In your opinion, are modern managers getting better at leading their employees or are old-school habits persisting? Do you have any view or research in this regard?

I think the main old-school habit that seems to persist has more to do with the development discussion than the engagement conversation with a manager.  Managers have an erroneous belief that all of their people have a desire to move up in the organization and if those upward spots are not available they avoid that particular conversation instead of staying open and getting to know the career aspirations of their employees.  Career development and opportunities to learn and grow continue to be one of the major drivers for engagement and retention.


On the flip side, what would you reckon is the employees’ responsibility in regards to making their jobs and days pleasurable and successful?

When managers around the globe thanked us for the ideas in Love ‘Em  – not rocket science, but ideas that are easy to forget – and asked us my co-author and I wrote a companion book to Love ‘Em, what about employees (they asked)? Don’t they have a role in this? Shouldn’t they be responsible for their own job satisfaction?  The answer is ‘of course they do.’  We took the same 26 strategies and re-wrote the book from the employee’s perspective!  It’s titled Love It Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways To Get What You Want At Work. It makes a strong point that an employee cannot and should not wait for their manager to start the conversation. They need to initiate it as well.


Beverly Kaye is currently working on a new book, which is due in 2012. The new book is tentatively entitled Help Them Grow Or Watch Them Go and will be a book for managers to deal with career development issues. For more information visit the website of Career Systems International at


Thanks to Michelle Zionkowski and especially to Lorianne Speaks for coordinating and facilitating this conversation with Beverly Kaye.


Nov 282011

Salespeople: do you know why you should undertake a task? Do you have a reason you can convey to customers that explains why doing something is beneficial? Has your sales manager explained to you the ‘why’ of what you are being asked to do or shortchanged you in the interest of simplicity and saving time and only given you the ‘what?’
Managers: Have you explained the ‘why’ to your teams? People who know why they need to do something, why they need to do it a certain way or in certain timeframe do it better as they are armed with a reason, rationale or logic. Take the time.

Asking ‘why’ also helps instill continuous improvement by questioning why something is done in a certain way and if a better process could come to be. Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story Of Success has a detailed briefing on the risks of ‘soldier mentality.’ For example, Korean Airlines’ poor safety record in the 20th Century is partly attributed to pilots, co-pilots and other personnel never questioning an order and never examining the ‘why.’ It makes for interesting reading.

Sep 092011

Kristin Condon is a Toronto-based recruiter specializing in sales positions. We picked her brain on what recruiters recommend and look for, how to get a job and the state of the job market.



– Kristin, could you elaborate on your experience and career thus far. What is your area of focus?
I have 13 plus years of recruitment experience – both agency and corporate. My current area of focus is sales recruitment of all levels, for all industries.

– What is some advice you would offer to individuals seeking a sales role or seeking a team management role? What traits are needed and what background is desirable?
This all depends on the level of role and industry – and there may be specific experience needed or required for example industry experience, inside sales management experience over outside, et cetra. Overall, most sales management roles are looking for leaders that have previous experience managing a team, someone who has previous experience as a proven salesperson and someone who is passionate about coaching and mentoring others.
As for Salespeople, desirable traits are previous experience, motivation, drive and being incented by money is key. Any sales metrics where they can show and prove their success – ideally on an incline in their career is key, that is how each role provides new and additional experiences. As far as advice please make sure to have voice-mail on your cell phones! So many salespeople do not and be sure to leave your name and number when you leave a message. Have firm handshakes, know your metrics like what is your sales quota, did you meet it or exceed it and if so, by how much, were you number one on your team? What was your average sale size? What was the sales cycle? Who do you sell into? Et cetra.

– What does a recruiter look for when interviewing, filtering and assessing a candidate for the above-mentioned roles? What would a recruiter appreciate from the candidate?
The ideal candidate is someone who is truly looking for a partnership. They value the recruiter and what the recruiter can do for them which is to get them in front of the decision-maker, give them all the necessary details so that they can properly prepare and give them feedback afterwards whether good or bad. A recruiter needs the candidate to have the right attitude – positive, thoughtful – and to know what they want. It is very difficult to help candidates that are looking for any role in any industry and don’t know what type of role or environment they like or at what they have excelled. A candidate needs to prepare properly. At the end of the day a sales interview really is a sales meeting. It is up to the candidate to sell himself to the hiring manager and to close the deal – or at least get to the next step in the process.

– Conversely, what are the bigger mistakes or faux-pas you have seen from candidates?
Candidates that try to wing the interview and don’t prepare; are not specific in their answers and are vague rather than giving specific examples; that are negative about past employers; that have too many excuses about why they were not successful and that have jumped around too much.

– Any recommendations or thoughts for individuals who are interested in a career change into sales or group management?
You need to expect to start at the bottom. The best sales role to get into is a hunting or business development role even if you only do it for a year or two. It will give you great insight into sales and help you evolve.

– How is the market as of today? What is the job market outlook for candidates in your territories?
Great! Sales is one of the best roles to be in – no matter what the market looks like, companies are always hiring sales people – they help grow the bottom line (smiles)!
Kristin can be reached at or by calling 416-605-5964.