December 11, 2007

News & Opinion: Excerpt from The Sales Manager's Success Manual

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 5:40 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The following chapter is excerpted from The Sales Manager's Success Manual by Wayne M. Thomas (AMACOM). This book covers fundamental sales management topics including compensation, forecasting, and motivation, along with more advanced topics such as dealing with internal politics, understanding generational issues, managing up, and developing intuition. It also shows how managers must be more productive than ever while relying more on partners and technology with reduced resources in the field. Chapter 19 focuses on the sales-oriented CEO.
The CEO and Sales Force Success
A real executive goes around with a worried look on all his assistants' faces.
Just as there are archetypal styles of sales executives, so there are model CEOs. Two that concern you most are:
  • The sales-oriented CEO

  • The technically oriented CEO

Why is this so critical to you? Unless you fit with the orientation of your CEO, your tenure may be a struggle and relatively short.
CEOs we interviewed who come through sales on their way to the top believe their experience is a blessing to sales and marketing. This is mostly true. They tell us also that CEOs without a sales pedigree don't know what they don't know, as it were. Technically oriented CEOs often see sales as a straightforward function without much nuance. It is sales' job to bring in the revenue assigned to them. Period.
The sales-oriented CEO understands the complexities involved. Under either CEO, either you deliver the numbers or you are out. However, having a work-style match with your CEO makes all journeys more pleasant.
While the technically oriented CEO does not second guess you and look over your shoulder, he does require that you make him comfortable with your approach. If you are the type who spends most of your time in the office handy to your CEO, you are already in harmony. He wants to know that you are always there watching the store for him. Be certain your reports are timely and detailed. Your forecasts must be accurate, as your CEO cannot fathom how you could be a competent CSO with inaccurate forecasts.
Evolved and Unevolved CEOs: Hurd vs. Fiorina at HP
There is another important axis on which to view your CEO. One of our experts termed this as "evolved" or "unevolved." A CEO, like any unevolved manager, is limited by a narrow scope of interest. One could argue that the primary focus for Carly Fiorina during her days as HP's head was, well, Carly Fiorina. In her later book, she blamed her woes on the machinations of others. Apparently, she remains unevolved.
Mark Hurd next assumed the reins and was swept into the HP Board scandal early in his tenure. He could have blamed others, but instead ceaselessly uttered mea culpa. Obviously, he demonstrated an emotional maturity that he was a team player who could be counted upon to shoulder his own share of the burden. He did not look for a scapegoat. This demonstrated that Hurd was an evolved player whom his managers could trust. Hurd and Fiorina are archetypes of the CEO behaviors just discussed.
Fiorina was fired, leaving the sales force a mess. Hurd arrived with eleven levels between him and the customer. He found half the sales force comprised of nonsales personnel. Hurd appears to be the salesman's salesman. His people perceive him--and he perceives himself--as HP's top sales officer. Where Fiorina may have been off making a speech, Hurd was in the office on the phone to work customer problems. From our interviews with insiders, we learn that it's not unusual to find Mark Hurd virtually huddled with a sales team or leadership of a key account. He may not be physically present, but he uses technology to join and chips in his ideas like any other member of the team. That is a strategic advantage for an HP sales team. When the team needs additional resources or better positioning, the team can count on him to deliver. Table 19.1 compares the styles of Fiorina and Hurd.
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Excerpted from The Sales Manager's Success Manual by Wayne M. Thomas. Copyright (c) 2007 Wayne M. Thomas. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

BackgroundOperations and sales background.25 years with NCR in sales and sales management. 49 years old--entered the workforce in 1980.
CEO orientationPlanning, vision. Sales
Actions speak louder than...Bought 2 Gulfstream jets.Sold 2 Gulfstream jets.
FocusPersonal legacy. Acquisition of largest competitorRevitalizing sales. Reducing eleven levels between CEO and customers.
Sales force timeLess than one-third of time spent with customers.Now spending 40% of time with customers.
Responsiveness to Took months to process new hire requests.Business units make their sales needs own decisions.
Organization ofFiorinaHurd
Centralize sales; give them all the products for one-stop customer shopping.Realign sales with the sales business units. Develop expertise in a solution area.
Personal visibilityVery high. Hollywood friends. The new HP way. She is the message.Work behind the scenes. The HP way. Tried to avoid magazine covers.
GoalsSplashy growth. Splashy acquisition of Compaq.Rebuild HP legendary sales force competence.

The point of this comparison is to contrast styles, not make value judgments. CEO styles come in and out of vogue. The critical issue is understanding how to work with whoever the boss happens to be.
If you reported to Hurd, would you employ a "be visible and available in the office" strategy? Hardly. Hurd would want you intimate with your sales opportunities. He'd rather know you were in the field with your team than supporting him by standing in wait in a nearby office. If a problem arose, and you were unavailable, he would handle it himself.
I can guess that Fiorina was too busy or traveling and thus unable to grab a hot customer call. She would expect you to keep those problems contained. After all, it is your job. Hurd is reachable with an email directly. Fiorina had processes, forms, and handlers that would take days to get through.
Will either CEO bend to your preferred management style? Certainly not. It's your responsibility to assess their needs, attitudes, and experience to serve effectively as CSO. Only a nonevolved, one-dimensional CSO would deny the importance of teamwork and perspective at the expense of a parochial ego.
This gets to the crucial currency of predictability. Everyone desires predictability. No one likes surprises, particularly embarrassing surprises that damage credibility. Think about the importance of the concept of predictability.
Nearly everything we do, we do in an effort at predictability. We may leave early for the office to miss the traffic. How do you feel when your easy drive turns into stop-and-go traffic? We go to a particular restaurant looking forward to perhaps the best calamari in town. This time they are out. We plan to send our children to the best schools we can. Doing this, we predict happier lives for them. We bring home two dozen roses. Why? We predict the effect they will have. Even going to the refrigerator for a cold beer is an action predicted to bring anticipated satisfaction. Predictability is nice; surprise is not.
My advice for dealing with your CEO, customer, rep, peer, or anyone else is to build a reputation for being a predictable partner, colleague, supplier, or boss. The concept of being that predictable person will require a different promise to each person. The value of your predictability will vary by person, too.
Predictable Failure
A CEO of a technology company shared this example of how his own Sales VP disappointed him before the board within months of joining the company. Ben, the new Sales VP, told the board he planned to open five new offices and hire twenty new reps to staff them. Six months later, he updated his progress. One board member questioned the meager results apparent from the company's significant investment in sales growth. Without much thought, Ben jumped to the defense of his new reps. Because he failed to predict the time required to ramp up the new branches, the board member assumed that that results would have become evident after six months. Ben was demonstrating, at the expense of his future credibility with the board, how much he still had to learn to become a competent Sales VP.
Fortunately, his CEO had been a Sales VP himself and stepped in to help Ben. He told the board of his own experiences bringing new offices on line. In particular, he stressed the need for a ramp-up time of twelve to eighteen months to evaluate a new location. The board agreed to wait another six months before evaluating results; however, Ben had already hurt his credibility. His CEO saved the day, but Ben would bear scars from the skirmish.
It is essential that the board and CEO understand lag times. If a new sales team needs twelve to eighteen months before it becomes productive, say so. That way, you will develop their trust by demonstrating predictable honesty.
In a major judgment lapse, Ben made the mistake of trying to defend poor interim results. He should have reminded the board of his warning that satisfactory results would take longer to produce. Now the board has had a new perception of him. He failed to display the courage that he once exhibited. Now he's a dissembler.
Excerpted from The Sales Manager's Success Manual by Wayne M. Thomas. Copyright (c) 2007 Wayne M. Thomas. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission. All rights reserved.