#1 Question To Ask Your Salespeople…”do you have control over that”?

As a salesperson how much time do you spend on issues that do not directly impact your business? Be honest….

Just the other day I had a conversation with one of my mentees regarding a possible management change that could change the reporting structure for herself and her team. This possible change was having a negative impact on  her mentally to the point she was starting to lose her sales team. As head of sales for Mexico she has always appeared to be somewhat burdened with the tremendous responsibility for the country’s sales profits…now she seemed to be burnt out with the thought that she could possibly have a new boss. Looking to be consoled her mentor (me) throw’s a cold bucket of ice on top of her mental stress by asking a 7 word question: DO YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER THAT? To which her obvious answer was no. As someone who has been a salesperson and sales leader I fully understand how easy it is to become distracted with things that have no impact on delivering sales…yet no matter the industry this problem effects sales professionals worldwide. For years in the sales industry there’s been a great deal of emphasis on sales force effectiveness aka “SFE”, there are even job titles, categories, disciplines dedicated to this business adjective. Well, I’d like to also throw a bucket ice on what I think is a now an obsolete adjective to a more concise verb…Sales Force Efficiency.

Sometimes I like most get caught up in business language rather than the real application. “Sales Force Effectiveness” is that ambiguous business language that quite frankly has very little real application. Isn’t sales force effectiveness just a sexier way of saying sales force efficiency? With all the tools that fall under the SFE umbrella (e.g. salesforce, SAP, Netsuite etc), the question becomes do these resources truly deliver an effective sales rep? My answer to that is NO. These tools are efficiencies that support specific behaviors but they do not in themselves help the sales rep to be effective…sales training, coaching, development, leadership do. This post is not meant to bash CRM and all the other components that bolster its reputation; I do concede this sales technology resource provides value. My argument is making the distinction between “Efficiency” and “Effectiveness”, I think our sales forces today need to think and behave more efficient…leave effectiveness to effective COACHING. I’ve led sales teams both domestically and internationally and I can tell you the biggest challenge I faced was minimizing the “non-controllable” my sales teams faced, and having them focused more on the “controllable”. Coaching effectiveness for me was easy because I was coached well (which is key), keeping salespeople focused on the efficiencies of their role…well let’s just say that was a work in progress. Having the various CRM resources at my disposal certainly helped various efficiencies with regards to prospecting, targeting, territory/region management etc, however, I learned very quickly these tools became a “depended” not an independent resource. Like many of you out there that have led sales teams I use to have to put up with the constant barrage of complaints about the data (“I don’t have the correct accounts loaded”, “My profiles are incorrect”, “It’s not recording my call activity”…). I found I spent a great deal of my time dealing with “sales crutches” versus “sales effectiveness”. Call me old school but “sales” comes down to good ole fashion blocking and tackling…create value, sell value, and close value. However, we’ve seen a shift where “sales tools” are being packaged as “sales effectiveness tools” and this is causing the blockage to real sales excellence performance. Sales force effectiveness is a commitment to a roll up the sleeves policy that draws in an intimate sales coaching process between the sales leader and sales person and holds each accountable to the desired sales performance behavior. This is why I’ll always argue that if we continue to ambiguously confuse “Effectiveness” with “Efficiencies” companies will realize “sales crutches” rather than sales results.

Coaching “Sales Efficiency” in 2019

My most important job as a management consultant is trying to identify that “Blue Ocean” space for my clients, that wonderful picturesque landscape that my client’s competitors haven’t discovered. In the sales space there’s this thirst to find the “magic sales tool pill” that will alleviate every company’s efficiency pain…that thirst still hasn’t been quenched. I wrote a blog a couple of years ago about business efficiency perhaps the below passage from that blog will inspire you to rethink how you’ll coach your sales team in 2019 and create that Blue Ocean:

The word efficiency while it has an official definition (“describes the extent to which time, effort or cost is well used for the intended task or purpose”) each of us interpret its use differently thus execute it differently. We’re moving into a time where there’s no advantage to just throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks….it’s analogous to throwing money at a problem and thinking that’s the remedy to all of our ails. How we best utilize human capital, finances, and importantly TIME is what’s going to separate the good companies from the great companies (that “Good” to “Great” philosophy). The trick is to become better strategic in your thinking on how you look at your business and ultimately the customer. I have to tell you I have been looking forward to this day where everyone is forced to take another look at how they evaluate performance or for that matter success.  In recent years strategic thinking in the form of “Efficiency” has been literally MIA and with the current global economic conditions that has caused a significant shift in how we look at our personal lives and careers, just about EVERYONE is grasping for ways to do more…..with less. This has positively in some ways created a push to develop different skill sets outside our current competencies. For example, if your entire career has been in a sales capacity you may be of limited value for a company looking to streamline its sales capacity and looking for someone who has both sales & marketing skills thus avoiding hiring two people. Every company I’ve come in contact with and I would guess even those I have not are moving to what’s called in corporate America “Centers of Excellence” which is a fancy way of saying efficiency. I am very familiar with the “Centers of Excellence” philosophy as far back as the early 90’s and its funny how many companies today are just now adopting many of the principles associated with the theory. In my humble opinion business success in 2014 will be predicated on your aptitude at being more efficient through the strategic placement of 3 resources (“Human Capital”, “Finances”, and “TIME”). Sales and Marketing processes such as “customer targeting”, “call planning”, “marketing asset planning”, and “brand management” are going to take extreme efficiency measures going into 2014. I’m predicting companies in 2014 and beyond will be aggressively searching for talent that have competencies in a variety of areas, and maintain a level of efficiency (“Centers of Excellence”). If you are looking for work or additional responsibilities at your company you would be wise to develop additional skill sets so that you’re a part of this “efficiency” type thinking moving into the future.   

I still believe today that being better at efficiency can predict whether or not a company stays in business…or a sales professional keeping their job. Since writing the above passage in 2013 I’ve seen an uptick in companies becoming more thoughtful on how they operate their business more efficiently (not saying due to my advice…but I’ll accept the credit LOL!). For example, auto giant and family owned Toyota has taken operating an efficient business to a new level. Take a peek below to see some examples of how Toyota remains not only the most successful family owned company in the world, but is the definition of “Centers of Excellence”:

Toyota…“We do not just build cars, we build people”

  • Enjoys a market value that’s twice the combined market value of its next five competitors—with only one-sixth as many employees
  • Has never laid off an employee due to economic downturns in its entire corporate history
  • Has learned to treat employees/unions and suppliers as partners, defusing potential labor problems before they ever start
  • Makes a strong and genuine commitment to environmental improvement, in an industry widely known for its stonewalling on the issue
  • Will sometimes compensate an entire class of customers, as they did to all Lexus purchasers in 1996–97, following complaints about tire life; every purchaser got a $500 coupon, whether or not they’d complained

Sales force effectiveness is a commitment to a roll up the sleeves policy that draws in an intimate sales coaching process between the sales leader and sales person and holds each accountable to the desired sales performance behavior.



Andre’ Harrell

AH2 & Beyond Consulting

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