Executives define the sales culture in their organization, be it good or bad.
At one extreme I have seen executives practice a rigid, nearly unyielding adherence to doctrinaire. This results in illogical “activity-based” management, such as the expectation of a minimum number of face-face calls per week, number of demos, number of proposals, etc. Such “metrics” take away from and significantly impact sales effectiveness by incenting the wrong behaviors. These dogmatic approaches also result in many of the top quartile performers (the “Eagles”) leaving the company. The analogy is that of a “dictatorship”.
However, managing in the opposite manner normally results in a “wild west” sales operation. I have seen the wild west approach work quite well in very small sales organizations who have brought in a highly seasoned sales team made up of “Eagle” sales people who, often times, were given stock in the company as an incentive to join. But Eagles do not flock; they tend to be solitary and are hard to find (perhaps 15% of the sales population). Because of this the sales model doesn’t scale. Further, this culture also results in too many managers having an excuse to abdicate their managerial responsibilities. While fires rage around them I have heard many (poor) managers say, “I don’t need to manage my people; I only hire the best”. Right. They are truly kidding themselves. The net is very little accountability, predictability, or ability to develop people. The Internet bubble occurred for many reasons. This was definitely one of them. The closest analogy here is that these operations devolve to a level of “anarchy”.
On the other hand, executives can create a highly proactive sales culture, driven top-down. Our executive/management methodology put the proactive coaching theories of “Situational Leadership”, developed by Blanchard and Hersey, into practice. At its essence, they say that executives and managers should manage “situationally”, based on both the organizational need and individual needs. Our objective was to build process and metrics to help management “keep their finger on the pulse”, and then manage where management is needed, not drive it in a dictatorial manner or run it like the wild west. The net result is that management is able to rapidly and proactively identify problems very early on and then rectify them, well in advance of the problem creating a serious issue. At the heart of this methodology are a set of surgical leading performance metrics (see our video, Managing Sellers Using Surgical Performance Metrics). This is not an operation run as a “dictatorship”, nor is it one that devolves into “anarchy”. I liken it to the US Constitution, recognizing that freedom, flexibility, and creativity in sales are keys to progress, but within certain logical management parameters that provide predictability, accountability, growth, and both personal and operational improvement.