It’s not easy leading a sales organisation.

The pressure from the executive team and the board to generate sales is unending. This pressure is often accompanied by a lack of interest in how the revenue is generated and what challenges the sales organisation faces. In many companies revenue generation has simply been delegated to the sales director.

Additionally the sales force may feel best served by the sales director simply leaving them alone. Having accepted their quotas, they often believe how they pursue this quota is best left to the individual sales person. How they conduct sales, and which customers they approach, may, in some companies, be determined by the individual sales person.

When sales are going well, this may not be perceived as a problem. When sales are falling behind, the pressure from both above and below may be excruciating. Being a sales director is then a dangerously exposed position.

We see this is a situation frequently in Scandinavian companies. The reason, we believe, is that the companies rely too heavily on individual people doing a good job, rather than building strong sales organisations.
– Executive management relies on the sales director orchestrating the revenue generation
– The sales director, in turn, relies on the sales person making his quota.

We know there is lot to be gained by broadening the involvement in sales related issues – both up and down in the hierarchy. The leader of the sales organisation therefor needs to work both ways to create a wider commitment.

1. The sales director needs to commit executive management:
– To set the agenda and the working practices for the sales organisation.
– To decide on key performance indicators and reporting procedures connected to this.

2. Additionally, the sales director needs to ensure deeper involvement in the work of the sales force:
– Insert himself in the determination of which customers should be approached and how.
– Transfer reporting requirements down to the individual sales person.
– Instil in the rest of the sales organization the expectations laid on the sales director. When the pressure is distributed among the sales people, the sales director is in a much better position to drive the sales force.

It’s not easy to open up a sales force that is used to working without manager intervention, but it can be done. Successful intervention will be rewarded with increased productivity, profitability, and transparency.