Sales Growth Book Review
No.

 

This contribution, from arguably the world’s most respected management consulting firm, to the sales body of knowledge is welcomed.   McKinsey has a lot of clout and when they speak people listen.  I thank the authors for elevating the sales effectiveness conversation into the board room where it belongs.  Writing a book is a lot of work and I truly appreciate the author’s efforts.

 

But, unfortunately, they missed the mark.

 

Why?

 

The Research Method

The research methodology was flawed.  McKinsey spent two years interviewing senior sales executives inside 100 global companies with a track record of outperforming their peers.  The profile of the companies studied averaged $31 billion in revenues, 86,000 employees, across 10 industries. Two thirds were B2C companies.

 

The “five proven strategies” that emerged from this are:

 

  1. Get to growth opportunities before competitors.
  2. Use multiple channels.
  3. Use sales ops and technology.
  4. Balance the short and long term.
  5. Gain commitment from the organization.

 

These findings fall into the obvious category.  You, the educated sales leader, will be upset you wasted three hours of your life reading 256 pages to receive such basic recommendations in return.  This is what happens when the research is limited to interviews with primarily B2C executives.  McKinsey would have been better served if they added a few of the following methods to their research approach:

 

  • Sales Rep Ride Alongs- it is essential that the researcher gets in the field and makes sales calls with the sales reps to see what actually happens.
  • Prospect Interviews- the researcher must always get “both sides of the story”.  McKinsey only heard one side of the story, that of the seller.  They did not talk to the buyers.  Do the buyers value the five proven strategies?
  • Competitor Mystery Shopping- the companies profiled in the book have outperformed their peer groups.  Yet, McKinsey did not engage the peer group to understand their sales approach and how it differs.
  • Metric Benchmarks- simply comparing top line revenue numbers to broad industry indexes is insufficient.  Sales data analysis requires deep causality research.

 

Lastly, how many of you work inside $30 billion companies with 86,000 employees?  It would have been a better read if the research had included companies of more modest scale.

 

The Authors

The McKinsey authors have never led a B2B sales force.  Thomas Baumgartner, has spent the last ten years as a consultant and prior to that was a university lecturer.  Homayoun Hatami’s experience is as a member of the MIT board of trustees.  Jon Vander Ark is a partner at McKinsey focused on B2C industries such as travel, consumer durables, and automotive. 

 

I am sure the three authors are highly intelligent and capable. McKinsey only hires the best.  However, unless you have had to make a number, quarter in and quarter out, you simply do not understand what it takes to be a successful sales leader.

 

The Findings

Here are a couple of examples of their findings to give you a feel for the book:

 

  • McKinsey advises you to look 10 quarters ahead. The focus of our work is to help the head of sales make the in-year revenue quota.  The average tenure of the chief sales officer is 6 quarters.  B2B sales leaders do not have the luxury of looking 10 quarters out.
  • Find big growth in big data.  Sales organizations today are getting dirty data from the field and have to battle untested assumptions from corporate.  To suggest a sales leader can implement a big data strategy is irresponsible.  This recommendation highlights the disconnect between academics and practitioners.

 

There are some sections worth reading.  Pay attention to the sections on blending online and offline selling, engaging the customer early in the cycle, and brining your expertise to the table. Beware:  there are so few practical recommendations for the B2B sales leader, it takes a lot of patience from you to find them.

 

Alternatives

If you are looking for a sales book to read, here are a few that are a better use of your time:

 

 

Lastly, if reading a full length book is of no interest, here is an ebook  we put together that can be read in 30 minutes.

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Greg Alexander

Leads the firm's focus on the CEO’s role in accelerating revenue growth by getting the product team, the marketing department, and the sales organization into strategic alignment.

Greg is the host of The SBI Podcast, the most listened to sales and marketing podcast on the internet.

 

He is the host of SBI TV, a monthly television program broadcast on the internet featuring top B2B sales and marketing leader sharing their strategies to grow revenues.

 

Greg is the Editor-in-Chief of The SBI Magazine, the leading B2B publication focused on sales and marketing effectiveness.

 

He is the author of two critically acclaimed books Topgrading for Sales and Making the Number.

 

Greg has authored over 100 articles on SBI’s award winning blog, The SBI Blog.

 

He graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a BA in English and received his MBA from Georgia Tech.

 

Video:

 

Transforming the Sales Organization inside Fortune 500 Companies

Greg Alexander and John Gleason, Chief Sales Officer of Ryder, talk about the unique challenges of transforming a sales team inside of very large enterprises.

 

A Better Way to Structure Your Sales Force

Greg Alexander and Tony Capucille, Chief Sales Officer at Heartland Payment Systems, discuss the pros and cons of the 7 B2B sales organizational models.

 

Build a team of A Players Inside the Sales Organization

Greg Alexander and Todd Cione, Chief Revenue Officer at Rackspace, talk about hiring, onboarding, and developing exceptional sales talent.

 

Articles

 

Fill Every Role on Your Team with an A Player

In this article, Greg Alexander makes the case for applying the TopGrading methodology to the sales team, and outlines how to do so.

 

What CEOs Need to Know About Their Marketing Strategies

In this article, Greg Alexander and Rashid Skaf, CEO of AMX, discuss the role the CEO plays in crafting a company’s marketing strategy.

 

What CEOs are Looking for in a Sales Leader

In this article, Greg Alexander and George Norton, leader of Heidrick & Struggles Chief Sales Officer practice, discuss what CEOs need in the chief sales officer role.

Read full bio >