Every successful sales leader eventually gets a task so big he doesn’t know where to start. The biggest mountain for me was always the “new assignment.” Three times it happened because of acquisitions, and twice because of promotions. Each time, I got the same directive: decide who to keep. Decide who to remove. Immediately.
Maybe this has happened to you. Or maybe you just need a way to assess your new organization. Regardless of the circumstances, you’ll typically ask yourself the same questions:
- Where do I begin?
- How can I quickly assess the organization and its leadership?
- Where is the low-hanging fruit that I can address right now?
- What initiatives will position me to make the number, and maximize my compensation?
- How do I show the CEO I was the right choice for this opportunity?
Without a framework to ask the right questions, you risk an incomplete assessment approach. You ask a lot of general questions. The opinions your team expresses to you tend to become your own. Over time, instead of being an agent for positive change, YOU become assimilated. You get pulled into petty firefighting. You solve the problems of whoever is yelling loudest. The opportunity to take the team in a new direction is squandered.
The 17 questions in the tool are grouped into six areas. Let’s look at each area in depth and understand why it matters:
- Strategy – Strategy-based questions help you figure out how engaged your new team is. Can your team members articulate the corporate strategy? What about the sales and marketing organization’s strategy (if one exists)? Are the strategies aligned, or is the team thrashing from initiative to initiative?
- Planning – Does a tangible plan exist to convert the strategy to action? Can anyone explain it to you? The business world is overflowing with overcomplicated plans that never got implemented. They are also full of “jellyfish plans” – plans that flow along with the current.
- Processes – Similar to Planning above, this area covers items like Prospecting and Sales Process. Can the team explain how they work? Do you see evidence of processes in action as you travel throughout the company? Or have different teams implemented the corporate plan based on gut feel and tribal knowledge?
- Organization – learn if the team is set up correctly. Are there certain tasks and activities that can be completed by lower level resources? Do the right jobs exist? Is the organization in silos, with each operating independently and with much duplicative effort? What’s the talent level of the team?
- Execution – here’s where it all comes together. Are you giving your sales reps the tools they need to execute the strategy? Do your people have the necessary skills for the job? Are the right incentives in place to ensure the right actions are completed? Having a plan and executing a plan are different things indeed.
- Support – the right support keeps you from performing really well “some of the time.” It ensures there are systems to allow a consistent result. Are you able to monitor results and see problems before they occur? Do your reps and managers have resources to offload non-selling activities? Is your sales collateral providing your reps with ammo they need to be successful?
The benefit of this line of questioning is you accomplish 2 critical things simultaneously. First, the answers you get help you learn about the organization. Second, the answers help you evaluate the strength of your individual team members. You will be under pressure to move, add, or eliminate heads. Without a defined approach, you’ll succumb to making decisions based on gut feel. While this method occasionally works, it is by definition t
rial and error. Your CEO would likely prefer a more thoughtful approach.