Job description for the 21st Century Sales Leader


So much is different. So much is the same.

Today’s Sales Leader needs to have all kinds of knowledge and skills that couldn’t even be defined 10 or 15 years ago – the technology that brought these things into existence simply did not exist. That’s in addition to a whole host of knowledge and skills that have been hallmarks of the sales leader’s job requirements for decades.

salesVPSo here you are – the executive to whom the Sales Leader reports… Or maybe you are a Sales Leader who has been asked for an opinion… What goes into the job description? What metrics should be used to determine the sales leader’s bonus? My opinion follows (with a bit of extra commentary.)

A. Responsibilities

1. Sales Process Engineering

Ensure sales force buy-in to a clearly defined and documented sales process that supports the organization’s goals, objectives and strategies. Continuously improve the quality of that sales process, train the sales force on it and provide tools to assist with its execution.. (This cannot be accomplished without a very clear sales strategy and a never-ending willingness to change. More info on SPE here.)

2. Opportunities & Obstacles Management

Maintain a program to identify and address the Top 5 Opportunities we as an organization are positioned to exploit. Maintain a program to identify and address the Top 5 Obstacles that inhibit greater sales achievement. (“O & O” is critical to ensure continued focus on the important vs. the urgent.) Use these two programs to manage the linkage between Sales and Marketing.

3. Sales Process Media

Develop and deploy digital media (text, image, audio and video) that supports and offloads work from the sales force. Coordinate SPM actions with Marketing. (The perspective needed for effective use of SPM follows:  “Our mission is to remove the human element from sales. We know we will never achieve it. But in pursuing it we will demolish sales process obstacles.” More info on SPM here.)

4. Sales IT

Work closely with IT resources to ensure adequate systems are in place to support Sales Operations. Ensure that these systems are fully utilized. These systems specifically include, but are not limited to a robust CRM system and Sales Process Media Platform.

5. Leadership

Maintain adequate staffing of the Sales Department. Minimize turnover of the top 50% of performers. Coach weak performers up to at least average performance or out of the organization. (Great sales leadership results in top performers who continuously improve, are highly satisfied with their jobs and have zero desire to go elsewhere. Notice the wording here addresses “what” needs to be accomplished, not “how” to accomplish it.)

B. Metrics

1. Financial

(Some things will never change!)

  • Meet or exceed revenue target
  • Meet or exceed profit target
  • Meet or beat expense target

2. Sales Process

  • Sales Forecast Accuracy (An accurate forecast is dependent on effective use of the CRM system to track sales opportunities, which in turn means the sales force has bought into the sales process. This is the critical metric for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Engineering.)
  • Funnel Performance (These are the critical metrics for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Media. Better performance on any of these metrics means that sales work is being offloaded to SPM, enabling sales personnel to become more productive. It is also a deeper-level set of metrics for judging the effectiveness of Sales Process Engineering.)
    • Number of active opportunities per stage
    • $ Value of active opportunities per stage
    • % of opportunities advanced by stage
    • Cycle time by stage

3. Leadership

(Together, these two metrics ensure that the right number of the right people are “on the bus” and “stay on the bus.”)

  • Headcount Plan Met (Yes or No)
  • Sales force turnover

Download an outline of the Sales Leader Job Description.

The Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering

There are countless ideas, principles, facts and nuances that alone and in combination contribute to a truly outstanding performance in sales or sales management.  We read the books and articles, listen to the speeches and lectures and learn from our own experiences and mistakes.  But what is the best way to organize all that knowledge so we can apply it most effectively?  The answer lies in the Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering.

Principle #1 – Continuous improvement of the sales process is fundamentally essential.

Who can argue with that statement?  It’s motherhood and apple pie.  It’s blatantly obvious that both individuals and sales teams must continually work hard at getting better.  If we stand pat and the competition improves, relatively speaking, we’re falling farther and farther behind.

speNo need to belabor the point.  None of us has any real choice other than to embrace and commit to the concept.  Just be aware that it’s one of those seemingly innocuous statements that carry implications with some seriously sharp teeth.  In fact, by accepting principle one, you have also just accepted principles two and three.

Principle #2 – Objective metrics – lots of them – are required to judge the quality, the amount and the pace of improvement.

Are you (and your sales team) better than average?  My company surveyed over 300 sales executives, and this was one of the questions.  Based on the responses, we “concluded” that 83% of sales teams are above average.  Hmmm…  Think about that.  Does the bell curve not apply to sales?

Consider a different question.  By what percent are you improving the quality of execution of each of your most critical sales activities?  If you are unable to produce the statistics, you have no valid means of answering the question.  You have no facts; nothing to back up your own subjective opinion.  In other words, you just violated your commitment to principle #1.  If you can’t show me your rate of improvement, how can you or I know if you’re improving at all?  Maybe you’re getting worse!

Here’s yet another question.  How many sales metrics are enough, how many different sales activities should be measured?  The hard, cold fact of the matter is that most sales organizations formally and regularly track only two; revenue and profit.

Take a different perspective and consider the big league baseball manager whose team is on a losing streak.  He calls a team meeting and informs the players that after a careful examination of the key metrics – both of them – he knows exactly why they are not winning and what needs to be done.  He informs them that all they need to do is score more runs and to keep the other team from scoring so many.

Gee thanks, coach…  In the context of baseball, using only two metrics is ludicrous.  It’s not possible to effectively run, no less coach and improve a team with only two after-the-fact, “results” metrics.  “Process” metrics – and lots of them – are requried before any kind of reliable coaching can be done.

In the words of W. Edwards Deming, “What gets measured, gets done.”  To that I would add, “The more that gets measured, the more that gets done.

Principle #3 – A well-defined sales process is a pre-requisite for determining meaningful metrics.

Humor me for a minute…  Take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the three key measurements you would use to judge the quality of the performance of your wicket-keeper.  I’ll wait…  Got them?

Maybe you recognized “wicket-keeper” as one of the players on a cricket team.  Odds are quite low (unless you are from the UK or India) that you were able to come up with any meaningful metrics.  Here’s the point…  If you don’t know anything about the wicket-keeping process, there’s no way on earth you can define even one meaningful wicket-keeping measurement.  In other words, until you implement principle #3, you cannot get started on implementing principle #2.

This concept also applies to sales.  You must have a clear, detailed, written sales process, embraced and used by everyone in your company.

Without that clearly defined process, development of meaningful metrics is simply not possible.  Without metrics you cannot know if performance of any given key sales task is improving or declining, or at what rate, or how you compare to others in your company or industry.  Not knowing if you’re getting better or worse or where you stand competitively to begin with, means you don’t really care that much about continuous improvement.

Think About It…

In God We Trust …everybody else bring data

What if you as a sales manager had data about your sales process like the example below.  Study it.  Think about it a bit.  The sample company has annual sales of about $46 million and uses a six stage sales process with cycle times and success rates by stage as shown.  (Your process might be 4 stages or 7 stages with different definitions for each, but that doesn’t change the point one iota.)

At the time of this snapshot, they had a total of $271 million potential sales at the top end of their funnel.  Historically, they know it takes 98 days to qualify 51% of that potential and move it to stage 2; another 31 days to get 54% to stage 3; etc.


Now it gets interesting.  What if?  A sales manager can ask all kinds of “What ifs?” with this sort of data.  For example, what if all the cycle times, success rates and profit margin could be improved by a mere 1%?


As you can see, sales would go up better than 7% to over $49 million and profit would go up 8+% to more than $13 million.  Hmmmmm….  Well it’s hard to  improve that many things all at once.  What if this company focused on just one thing; like reducing the cycle time of Present/Propose.  For them, this stage is totally internal – completely under their own control.  What if they took it from 18 days to 7 days?


As you can see, that last “what if” would mean a 6 1/2% increase in sales and profit.  Get the point?  If you:

  • Have a defined sales process, and
  • Have collected data for few months

You can use this simple model to make data-backed decisions about where your coaching efforts should be directed.

It’s not guessing or gut feel.  It’s coaching to improve performance of execution of the parts of your sales process that will yield the greatest improvement to the bottom line.

Think About It…

What part of YOUR sales process is stupid too?

My daughter who lives in Brooklyn paid a visit a few weeks back.  We had a great time, but when she packed, she forgot her brand new $90 electric toothbrush.  That’s what led me to discover a stunningly dumb aspect of the sales process of our friends at the US Post Office.

By the way, the USPS operated at a $16 Billion loss over the past year. Something tells me they might have a few more dopey practices in force.  But I digress…  I bubble wrapped the toothbrush, put it in a large envelop and took it to the post office.  I was delighted to be able to use the self-service machine since the line, served by a single clerk – a single surly clerk, was 14 people deep.

I pressed all the buttons, answered all the questions, accepted the weight and fee calculated by the machine and went on my merry way in less than 3 minutes.  Annoying toothbrush errand complete!  Well, not exactly…  Today – six days later – the envelope shows up in my mailbox with 56 cents postage due.

Brilliant, right?  It jacks up their revenue by 30%!

Who wouldn’t jump all over an opportunity to make the value of a transaction 30% higher?  You can hear the proud sales rep, “Do the math, boss.  $2.17 is 30% more than the original $1.87!”

So let’s look a wee bit closer at what happened.  An organization that just lost $16 Billion re-weighed my envelope, kicked it off to someone who rubber-stamped “Postage due:” and hand-wrote “56 cents” on it, then shipped it back to me.  That involved some amount of sorting and carrying and loading and driving and delivering cost.

Next I took it back to the post office.  (“Only” 8 people in line this time, served by 2 non-surly clerks.)  I timed how long it took to handle my issue.  Just a tad over 4 minutes to weigh the envelope yet again, recalculate the 56 cents due – again, print and stick an additional stamp on the envelope, rubber stamp something else on it, put a bar code sticker on it and process my American Express card payment.  (I just HAD to use my AmEx card with it’s at least 8 cent processing fee charged to USPS for the additional 56 cents revenue to add to the ridiculousness of the whole shebang.)

OK, picking on the Post Office is way too easy.  That said, I guarantee you have equally stupid, painfully costly practices firmly embedded in your sales process.  Hunt ‘em down.  Fix ‘em.  Otherwise I’ll write another blog post making fun of you.

PS to Jill:  Now you know why your toothbrush isn’t there yet.

An Indispensable Sales Productivity Tool

Without fail when I talk about E-Rep and the use of social media in B2B sales the, “I don’t have the time,” issues comes up.  Ughhh…  Are you kidding me?

Here’s a simple question:  Do you have enough time every day to deliver the two-minute version of your product/service overview to enough decision makers and influencers?  (If you answer, “Yes,” you’re nuts, by the way.)

The following video has been on The YPS Group web site for six months now and has been viewed over 1,100 times.  That would be 1,100 X 2 minutes or 36+ hours of me (more accurately my e-Rep) talking through the Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering.  Stated differently, my e-Rep saved me a full week’s worth of time over the last six months.  That’s an extra two weeks a year of selling time for me.

And that’s just one simple video that took less than fifteen minutes to produce and post..

You Don’t Understand. We’re Different.

In kicking off a session with a bunch of sales reps and managers, I always try to start with a group discussion that establishes a common bond.  Last week I decided to focus on something a lot of customers say that derails a sales call.  The first thing I did was project the following words up on the wall:

You don’t understand.  We’re different.

It worked wonderfully.  We had a lively discussion.  The first example was a customer maintenance manager in auto parts manufacturer A who totally dismissed a rep’s 20 years of experience at auto parts manufacturer B as not relevant; brushing aside his perspective with, “You don’t understand.  We’re different.”   The whole group chimed in about how unbelievably narrow-minded “those maintenance types” could be.  Example after example of “customers who refuse to think” followed.

Interestingly, the group then went on (and on…) about how widely applicable their own plant maintenance and engineering services were.  They waxed eloquent about how the same fundamental service from them could provide genuine value to not only auto parts plants, but any discrete manufacturing plant building anything.  In fact, the exact same service could also be productively applied in chemical processing, forestry, mining, waste water treatment, pulp & paper mills and a wide variety of other industries.

As a group, we agreed on two things.

  1. A business process – any business process – is at its core basically the same in any company in any industry
  2. The real challenge is to get those executing the process to agree on a common set of terminology and metrics

Then we got down to the real business of the day, defining and documenting this company’s sales process.  I know you already know what happened next…

I, the out-of-town consultant, “did not understand,” support staff “did not understand,” the marketing guy “did not understand,” the CEO “did not understand,” even reps in different territories “did not understand.”  Fortunately, due to the initial discussion, it all quickly became a joke — with a hard, serious edge of truth.

Hopefully, this little vignette will be useful for you to keep in mind as you’re out there in the field.  Conversations with customers about complex business processes can be quite challenging.  They require an open mind, a flexible perspective and a dedication to always remembering…

You’re unique; just like everyone else!

Don’t Waste Money On Sales Training

Conventional wisdom holds that continuous sales training is essential. I wonder why there isn’t more of it going on…

Ask any sales manager about the need for continuous sales training and you instantly get agreement that it is important. So why isn’t there more of it going on?

The fact is, most money spent on sales training is wasted. Typically, it annoys most reps, bores many and is totally forgotten within 30 days.

This is true due to three missing links:

  • Credibility – “Who is this sales seminar leader and why on earth should I follow his/her advice?”
  • Relevance – “Maybe this stuff works in the X industry, but I don’t see how it applies here.”
  • Reinforcement – “I’ll implement these new ideas just as soon as I have the time.” (…yeah, right…)

You can get around these issues and reap bigger payback from your training budget with a Sales Excellence Council. Put the best of your best reps on it. (i.e., those who are most respected by the rest of the team) That alone takes care of missing links one and two.

Next, provide proof that you’re serious about mining the brains of these folks for the benefit of all your reps. In other words, provide funding for and relentlessly conduct monthly 1/2 day “SEC” meetings. Their objective is to identify, clarify and communicate sales best practices – the tactical actions that produce the fastest, most tangible results for your business.

At the risk of being repetitive …the mission of your Sales Excellence Council is to:

  • Identify the best sales practices of your best reps
  • Clarify – write them down in specific detail
  • Communicate – make sure ALL your reps know how to replicate the power of each best practice

Many firms find it helpful to use an outside facilitator to start and keep the ball rolling. This person would need all the classic qualifications of a sales trainer PLUS expertise in knowledge management and process engineering.

I’ll conclude by stating the obvious… Your best reps will always be the best source of sales tactics and strategies that work. Don’t waste time and money on standardized sales training. Tap into the gold mine you already have on the payroll. Fund it. Plan it. Do it.

Spanish SPE – El Delfín y la Vaca

Later today, I’ll be flying to Monterrey Mexico to kick off a Sales Excellence Council.  The YPS Group has done work in Canada and Bermuda over the years, but this is the first foray south of the border and I’m quite excited about it.

Only real difficulty is that my Spanish is …ummm… pretty much non-existent.  Despite my good intentions, I didn’t do any studying.  Ah, well.  Good thing the client is ahead of me.  They’ve generously translated my first book.  Take a look!

El Delfín y la Vaca
Cómo Vender Más y Más Rápido con Ingeniería del Proceso de Ventas

…or if you’re an “Ugly American” like me, there’s still the English version.

The Dolphin And The Cow