Choices, Choices

08 December, 2014 by Ciaran Kinsella

I remember reading a Harvard Business Review blog a number of years ago posing the question: “If you had to decide between having a team of excellent salespeople with an average manager, or having a team of average salespeople with an excellent manager, which would you choose?”

I have observed both across the Sales teams I have worked with, and for me this has highlighted the importance of having both excellent sales managers and a clear mission to direct both the Sales Managers and their teams.

A clear mission is important in uniting the sales team to work towards a common objective – this can be as simple as setting a goal of winning external awards or as complex and far-reaching as changing the entire business model. Many organisations have either a beautifully crafted mission statement that is meaningless to the front line sales teams, or no mission at all. In each case the result appears to be the same – sales people focused solely on monthly revenue/volume KPIs so that they can hit target and get paid. This fosters a short-termist culture and fails to consider longer-term business objectives (such as customer lifetime value) which could be negatively impacted by such behaviour.

This highlights the importance of both great leadership and great people management and one without the other can creates issues. Leadership can create the vision, but unless it is translated into tangible business outcomes that are understood by the front line, then it is worthless. In my experience it takes an excellent sales manager to take a beautifully crafted mission statement and translate it into something that sales teams can buy into, while simultaneously feeling motivated about the role they play in delivering it. In cases where there is no clear mission or mandate, I have observed examples of top sales managers creating this mission to motivate their teams.

The benefits of a sales-focused mission include:

  • Linking the sales objectives with the overall business mission (which are often wider than pure growth)
  • Creating a motivating vision for the sales team to work towards
  • Providing a foundation for a range of KPIs that support delivery of the mission

In summary, a high performance sales culture that delivers against the corporate objectives is only created through defining clear performance metrics, which themselves are linked to the overarching corporate mission.

Therefore, define the overarching business mission and recruit great sales managers who are able to translate it into meaningful objectives that the sales teams ‘get’ and buy into. This in turn will start to drive the behaviours that support delivery of the mission and foster a high performance culture.