You have been promoted multiple times because you made your number. In doing so, you had a set of performance conditions in the sales force.


  • You had a balanced quota and compensation plan.
  • You had some version of a sales process and it worked.
  • You had an optimal sales structure that helped you determine direct vs. indirect coverage models.


When you were making your number, these conditions were right. You didn’t push change as hard as you could. You were making your number and it was good. 


This is a natural human tendency. We are creatures of habit. I have included a Solution Guide to help you avoid the trap of success. You will see a company’s attempt at solving a sales problem using an old solution. It reveals how a sales leader can avoid this mistake and the associated pain.


The Solution Guide covers four problems that has sales leaders defaulting to their past. The hardest thing for any leader to do is look forward.  They solve a problem of the present with a solution from the past. They use a version of a known solution instead of the right solution.


Good in Disguise


The tough part is success doesn’t typically drive us to change.  Perhaps you were making the number because you had a great product. Maybe it was the competitors’ weak offer. It could have been great reps that were fantastic at hunting new logos. Maybe you were in the right market. High tides raise all ships. You must balance leveraging past success with new best practices solving sales problems. You have earned your position and promotions. Don’t let your success trap you because you keep looking back.


Breaking Free from Your Success Trap


Consider this alternative approach. A successful sales leader should leverage past experience. The trick is knowing how to leverage your past for maximum benefit.


Understand where your industry, product, company, and sales force are at a moment in time. A typical bell curve illustrates growth, maturity, or decline.  The visual below gives two examples.


Scenario 1The industry is mature, the company is in decline. They sell a mature product and have slow moving veteran sales force.


Scenario 2You see a completely different set of circumstances. Industry, company, product, and sales force on the rise.


Both companies are debating rolling out a new sales process. Imagine how each sales leader may take his previous bias in solving this problem?  The solution for each should be completely different based on these conditions. Each sales leader needs a completely different sales process. And chances are, the sales process from his old company is not the answer. The context of these four elements will help the sales leader avoid his past as a crutch.


sales leader scenarios


Executing what you have in the past will only yield similar success if the conditions are identical. They never are. The moment you rinse and repeat, you are holding yourself back.


Tomorrow’s Solution Guide


The challenge you face knows how to look forward. Below is an example from the solution guide. This was used to help sales leaders solve a forecast issue. Big deals were getting pushed into the next quarter. The number was getting missed. Yesterday’s Solution shows what the successful sales leader may have done in his past. Today’s Alternatives shows the contrast. The key is recognizing when you have yesterday’s solution.


VP of Sales


To see the complete case study and solution guide click here.


Are You Ready?


Think about the last sales problem you solved. Where did you find the solution? The majority of you will say your previous company. Your past success may work you right out of your job.  Three keys to prevent you from solving today’s problem with the wrong solution from your past:


  1. No two sales problems are identical. Each deserves a thorough review framing the problem. Use the life-cycle diagram above to help you.
  2. Free yourself of the usual, “What I did when I worked at ABC Company”. Instead, focus on the question, “What are all of our potential solutions?” Create an inventory of possibilities that will help you for the future.
  3. Spend 75% of your energy on implementation of the solution and 25% on design. Most sales leaders have this energy/effort allocation flipped. The heavy lift is always execution.


Have expectations gone up and left you wondering if you can make your number? Here is an interactive tool that will help you understand if you have a chance at success. Take the Revenue Growth Diagnostic test and rate yourself against SBI’s sales and marketing strategy to find out if:

  • Your revenue goal is realistic
  • You will earn your bonus
  • You will keep your job





Matt Sharrers

Studies and works with the top 1% of B2B sales and marketing leaders who generate above average revenue growth for their companies.

Matt is arguably one of the industry’s most connected, and physically fit, sales leaders. He “lives in the field.” As a result, he is the foremost expert in the art of separating fact from fiction as it relates to revenue growth best practices. Because of Matt’s unique access to the best sales talent, private equity investors tend to turn to him first when they need to hire remarkable leaders to unlock trapped growth inside of their portfolio companies. Matt’s recent engagements include work commissioned by private equity leaders Permira, TPG, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman.


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