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Yet many front-line sales managers are slow to respond.  Why?  Because speed requires more time and effort from a sales manager.  It requires taking risks and learning from failure.  The average sales manager will avoid these requirements.


This post will explore ideas sales managers can implement to increase their speed.  One key technique we’ve found success with is taking an agile approach.  Agile was born in software development. It is a group of methods based on iterative and incremental improvement.  Agile encourages rapid and flexible response to change.  Here’s an example of why it should be applied to Sales Leadership:


Meet ‘Just Getting by’ Jeff

Jeff has been a sales manager for 5 years.  He was promoted after consistently high performance as a sales rep.  The last two years, his team has missed quota.  He doesn’t understand why his team has underperformed.  Jeff wants everyone to do their job so he doesn’t have to “micro-manage” them.  He tells his boss he wants to get promoted.  His actions and results say otherwise.  Deep inside he knows promotion just means more work and responsibility.  Jeff wants more without any additional effort. 


Jeff is slow to….


  • Fire poor performers
  • Change dated processes
  • Hold his team accountable
  • Acquire new capabilities
  • Execute new initiatives
  • Share new ideas
  • Adopt best practices


 Download the SALES LEADER AGILE CHECKLIST to outpace your peers and Make the Number.


You can find Jeff in the office between 8-5 almost every weekday.  describe the imageHe only attends sales calls at the request of his reps.  Jeff’s coaching is really just late stage pipeline management.  And typically starts with, “what are you closing this month?”. 


Jeff is being outperformed by his peers.  Or at least a few of them.  The truth is that Jeff is becoming the norm.  The population of top tier sales managers is shrinking.  The need to evolve is exposing many of them.  More sales managers are regressing to average as the market outpaces them.


Sound familiar?  Your organization probably has a few Jeffs roaming around.  The multiplier effect of Jeff is scary.  Jeff enables a culture of mediocrity. 


Meet  ‘Agile’ Anthony

Anthony works a few hours more than Jeff each week, but not many. But he focuses on value added activities. Instead of reacting to his boss and reps, he proactively focuses on incremental improvement. Anthony’s team knows what is expected of them. Anthony spends a good portion of his time in the field observing and coaching. His team is laser focused on customer needs. They broadcast best practices gained from customer interactions. They know their stats like a baseball player fighting to win the batting title. Leaders on the team hold others accountable and provide mentoring. Anthony has built a culture of peer accountability, incremental growth, and speed.


Anthony’s Key Activities for 2013

Anthony has studied the concept of Agile development and applied it to his team.  Agile activities drive results fast.  Anthony has developed a detailed checklist to ensure he is making progress. 


Download Anthony’s Agile Checklist for detailed guidance on how to implement each suggestion below.


  1. Develop a customer research cadence
    1. Social Listening – what are customers following, saying, and doing?  What terminology do they use?  How can you learn from their online behavior?
    2. Customer Interviews – learn more about each role you sell into.  Do quarterly research to understand trends and needs.
    3. Opportunity Win/Loss – learn from everyone by asking for feedback.  Look for misalignment between the customer buying process and your sales approach.  Spread learnings quickly to everyone on your team.
  2. Broadcast & Share – use Chatter, social media, email, weekly meetings, tracking board, etc.  Ensure you team receives updates on wins and losses.  Develop a culture of sharing.
  3. Empower Your Team
    • Coaching with questions vs. directing.
    • Turn your team into an idea factory by adopting ideas they recommend.
  4. Rely on Analytics – measure leading indicators.  Activity, conversion metrics, CRM data, etc.  Don’t rely on lagging results to make adjustments.  It will already be too late.
  5. Be Fast & Flexible – Build a sales culture based on speed.  Share wins and failures fast.  Adopt best practices before competitors.  Make changes to your processes on the run based on field testing.  Don’t search for perfection, search for improvement.


The Result

Anthony’s team uses these techniques to be responsive to change.  They produce new ideas, are self-aware, and they know their customer.  Other peers say that Anthony just has a good team and the right territory.  “He is the lucky golden boy”.  The truth is that Anthony has created a culture of speed by utilizing agile.


Anthony doesn’t even focus on the end number.  He knows that all these inputs will result in Making the Number.  Anthony’s goal isn’t to hit his quota.  It is for every person on his team to exceed quota. 


Look at your team.  Do you have more Jeffs or Anthonys?  



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Scott Gruher

Orchestrates and designs the perfect project strategy, one engagement at a time, to ensure that every SBI client makes their number.

Scott joined SBI in 2010 with years of hands-on experience in sales leadership and enterprise selling. Since his arrival, he has helped dozens of organizations dramatically accelerate growth, from Fortune 10 organizations like Phillips 66 to fast-growing cloud service organizations like InfusionSoft. Scott specializes in cross-functional alignment. He helps leaders align around the growth goal and design the right processes to bring the strategy to life. His unique combination of real world experience and a pragmatic approach to problem solving have made him one of SBI’s most demanded resources.

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