Tag Archives for " Sales leader "

Lifeless sales people – whose fault is it really?

“There’s a lot of lifeless sales people out there.” ~ Larry Levine, author of Selling from the Heart

Before we go any further, would you mind going back to that opening quote and just pausing for a moment?

That statement is such a profound truth.

Consider the following:

  1. Only 30% of firms have 75% or more of their salespeople hit their quotas (CSO Insights). Sales leaders are struggling to get their sales teams into sustainable high performance.
  2. 34% of sales teams leave every year (The Bridge Group). Sales teams are churning through their people.
  3. 77% of executive buyers claim salespeople don’t understand their issues and where they can help (Forrester). Buyers increasingly ignore the attempts of sales people to make any kind of contact – let alone attempts to engage in meaningful conversations.

Mirror moment: Do any of the above statistics hit a nerve for you? Are you seeing struggling sales performance, high levels of sales team churn, and/or increased buyer resistance?

I see all of this – and more – on a regular basis and I have to ask myself why?

Why are sales people struggling to perform?

Why are sales people leaving their companies?

Why do buyers increasingly resist sales people?

I keep coming back to the conversation I recently had with Larry Levine. In his words, they are all empty suits. Too many sales people lack the presence, competence, and – most importantly – passion for helping their customers.

You know the stereotype. All talk, no listen. Pitch, pitch, pitch. Me, me, me.

It’s both mind-numbing and irritating.

But is it really the fault of the sales person?

My gut instinct says no.

My gut instinct says that sales people have become what we have told them to be.

Be “busy.”

Be a CRM guru.

Be a demo machine.

Be challenging/assertive/pushy.

Say this.

Do this. Not that.

Don’t think. Obey.

And it’s destroying our revenue engines. It’s destroying our sales targets and customer credibility. And it’s destroying our sales people.

If you are leading a team of sales professionals, please consider that the potential gaps in your sales team performance are self-inflicted. Maybe it is not your fault. Maybe it is your company’s fault. Regardless, it’s your responsibility to provide the kind of proactive leadership that sets the tone and establishes the definition of success.

Be explicit about what matters most. And what does not.

Be present with your people as they press toward success.

Listen to their customer interactions.

Coach them on what you see/hear.

Teach them what you know/do to be successful.

Run downfield to knock obstacles out of their way.

Empower them to have presence, competence, and passion.

And be the example of what presence, competence, and passion looks like.

If you are an individual contributor, looking for leadership to make everything better, you only have two acceptable options:

  • Option A – You can become the leader that you want. Proactively create your own energy so that you inject presence, competence, and passion into everything you do as a sales professional.
  • Option B – You can leave your company and find a leader who will teach you how to accomplish Option A. Because eventually, you will have to own your presence, competence, and passion all by yourself. That’s what true professionals always do.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

The most critical part of your business is…

Last week, the city of San Francisco was overwhelmed with Dreamforce. Not in a bad way, mind you. But any time that well over 100,000 people show up for something, it has a tendency to create its own gravitational field.

I went for just one day, and had a great time at a conference within the conference – Ops Stars. It had a full line-up of sales operations leaders and practitioners (which reflect a big part of my customer base). The big theme there was ABM (account-based marketing/engagement), but there were plenty of other things to talk about and explore.

All around me, everybody was trying to figure out technology stacks, process improvements, and revenue-generating business rules. Even the Dreamforce agenda was locked into ethics, artificial intelligence, and equality.

And it hit me – the centerpiece of everything we were really talking about is the most critical part of business.


I don’t care what your business is, it relies on people.

But that’s the funny thing. Everything looks great on paper, until people get involved…

People are the hardest part of business. And the best part of business.

But do we really pause and invest in understanding them better?

I just finished building a sales playbook for a small start-up business. The business has inspired leadership and a great value proposition. They have high quality mentors and solid operations. But they were struggling to turn their revenue engine on.

Now, it would be easy to simply white-label something that I had already made for someone else and just give them a new playbook. But that’s not how any of us should approach our clients, right?

Instead, we had to work together to get into the minds and hearts of the people involved. We started with their targeted customers, to truly understand how those customers made decisions. Then we paused to understand how their team approached sales conversations with those customers, to truly understand what they did well, what they didn’t, and why.

Only then could we build the content, tools, and behaviors that would harness all of that psychology.

It was very much like finding a current in the ocean and harnessing it. It’s not as easy as you think, but when you are successful, it generates its own sustainable energy.

Sadly, that is not how I see many businesses making decisions. Instead, they define a targeted result (like acquire X new customers or reduce employee churn by Y) and start seeking solutions that other folks have used to deliver those same results. Without considering context. Without considering motivation. Without considering competing priorities/activities/leadership.

Without considering the “people” part of the equation.

It’s the equivalent of buying a beautiful boat and not giving it an experienced crew.

So what exactly am I saying?

I’m saying that if your business involves people – real human beings – you HAVE to understand them before you can affect anything in a significant way. You HAVE to bring them to the forefront of your thinking before you start making decisions.

  • If you are going to affect customers, do you truly understand where they are today and where they are going? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • If you are going to affect employees, do you truly understand how clearly they are aligned to what you need them to do and how motivated they are to do it? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?
  • And if you are going to affect your leadership, do you truly understand their passions and dreams and what is getting in the way of achieving that? When was the last time you sat down and talked with them?

In other words, pause long enough to get the kind of clarity that only people can define. Ask them questions. Study what makes them tick. Learn how human behavior affects the way that we work together. Or don’t work together.

It will accelerate your thinking and drive decisions toward harnessing your people to achieve great things.

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

PS – That small start-up business that I helped has already gotten a tremendous lift in sales results. If you or someone you know needs to get better performance from the sales team, let’s set up a conversation to talk about it. Get on my calendar here.

Knowing what to do – and NOT doing it

This week, I have been thinking about why we don’t do what we KNOW we should do. It’s inspired by so many examples – from business to personal to social…

As my friend, Dave Brock, illuminated perfectly today in his own blog, “there is a chasm between what we know to be right and our abilities to execute it.”

Knowing and doing. It’s the greatest tension in all of us.

So, why don’t we “do” better? Why is it that smart/talented/experienced people execute poorly?

We want to blame things like politics, laziness, etc. Frankly, those are the outcomes of the issues at hand. They are not the root causes.

I know there are the usual suspects.

Lack of clarity: the expectations for what success looks like are not clear. Many of us don’t have solidly defined goals with clear metrics and detailed, thoughtful requirements. Instead, we define a “hope” to be achieved (or worse, just a metric).

Lack of empowerment: we aren’t equipped (or equipping) with what is needed to achieve success. For example, did you see Vendor Neutral’s latest research that showed that CRMs are the #1 issue where technology hinders sales? Sales leaders are actually hindering their sales by “helping.”

If I want to generate politics, laziness, etc. IMMEDIATELY, I can take away clarity and empowerment. They are that powerful. (Conversely, clarity and empowerment clean up politics, laziness, etc., just as quickly.)

But why are the lack of clarity and the lack of empowerment running so rampantly today? I mean, we already KNOW that they are important/vital.

My current line of thought involves:

  • Is stress overtaking smarts, talents, and experience and blocking clarity/empowerment? People are stressed, and stress causes poor decision-making and shutting down. Have we reached a point where stress is literally running the show?
  • Do people recognize when to shift from influencing the situation to adapting to it? And vice versa? Stress is inevitable. How we deal with it, therefore, is critical. If we can’t influence the situation, we must adapt to it. Do people even know the difference between these healthy choices – and can clarity/empowerment be affected by them?
  • Are people being given the freedom to adapt and influence – or are they being expected to “control” 100% of the time? Being expected to “control” will only increase the stress – and force more bad effects. (Side note: control is a myth. Just sayin’…)

When it comes to helping our clients, team mates, family, and friends, I suggest using these questions to identify how we can do something to improve the situation and enable better, healthier action.

When it comes to personal application, I’m running through all of these questions to see what blocks me from doing my best in every part of my life that I see sub-optimal performance. I literally replace “people” and insert me.

  • Is stress overtaking my smarts, talents, and experience and blocking clarity/empowerment?
  • Do I recognize when to shift from influencing the situation to adapting to it? And vice versa? And can clarity/empowerment be affected by them?
  • Am I giving myself the freedom to adapt and influence – or am I expecting myself to “control” 100% of the time?

What are these questions telling you?

I mua. Onward and upward.

By Tim Ohai

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