Your Sales Are Up. Life is Good. Or, is it?

Jake is feeling pretty good. He’s the director of sales, and business is nice and steady. He has a seasoned sales team and their numbers are ahead of last year by about 6%. Management is happy. Life is good. Or, is it really?

Stepping back and taking a closer look at the big picture, we see that everything is not as rosy as it appears to be. There’s a boogeyman hiding in the background. If Jake is not careful, that boogeyman will soon turn his life upside down.

What’s the boogeyman? What’s lurking in the shadows ready to upset Jake’s applecart? In this case, a number of things:

First, the economy is booming. Most companies are doing well. In fact, many companies are showing double digit increases in sales. Jake’s company is being outperformed by several of his competitors. He is not keeping pace with the industry. Soon his share of market will start to decline. Not good.

Second, Jake’s sales team has become complacent. Sure, they’re seasoned salespeople. They know the industry and the products, and they’ve done very well in the past. They’ve built great relationships with their customers.  They’re making good money. In short, they’ve become fat cats, so they don’t feel any reason to hustle for new business. That’s a problem because their competition is not resting.

Here’s reality: 

  • The booming economy is creating additional sales for the company’s products. Increased sales are due to demand, not the efforts of the salespeople … they’re just riding the wave. When the current boom ends, and it will end, sales will drop.

  • Total dependence on existing customers to achieve sales objectives is almost never a good idea. Stuff happens. Customers get bought out or go out of business. Some customers can lose business to their competitors and they no longer need your products. At the very least, they don’t need as much as they did in the past.

  • Change is inevitable. You have to anticipate it and be prepared to add new business to compensate for any losses.

  • Your customer is your competitor’s prospect. They’re knocking on the door every day. Sometimes they’re making offers your customer can’t refuse.

  • The status quo is almost impossible to maintain. You’re either moving forward or you’re sliding backwards. Want an easy life? You won’t find it in sales.

OK. Now that we’ve bust Jake’s bubble, what’s a sales manager to do in that situation? Here are a few recommendations:

  • Understand change is inevitable. The market changes, the industry changes, your customer’s needs change. Stay on top of it and stay tuned in to providing solutions for your customers.

  • Insure you have the right salespeople … salespeople who will deliver the revenue the company needs regardless of the economy.

  • Set clear expectations for activities, for behaviors, as well as for the numbers. Do this for each salesperson.

  • Track those expectations. The process is not as important as doing it.

  • Hold salespeople individually accountable for their activities. This is critical. The activities lead to the results.

  • Manage the pipeline. Look at every salesperson’s pipeline with a little skepticism. Challenge the “happy ears” syndrome.

Look, there’s no magic involved. The sales manager’s job is to deliver the sales the company needs. He or she must do it through the sales force. Everything else is secondary. This involves managing, motivating, coaching, holding people accountable, and, when necessary firing and hiring. One does not need to be a tyrant to do this, but neither can one get lulled into a false sense of security.

I’m Oliver Connolly and I help sales managers create a sales team that consistently makes their numbers. Contact me at  

Oliver Connolly