Entrepreneurial, Visionary Leaders Forget that Their People Can’t Do What They Can Do

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Chapter 13 of Mike Weinberg’s #1 Amazon Bestseller, Sales Management. Simplified.: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team.

Counter intuitively, sometimes the greatest strengths of the entrepreneurial, charismatic, visionary executive can actually get in the way of a sales team succeeding.

One of the reasons I absolutely love what I do to earn a living is because I get the opportunity to work with some incredibly gifted people. My notes for this chapter include a list of ten super-talented, visionary business leaders. These senior executives have produced some of my most fun projects and client relationships because they often have boundless positive energy and are continually a step or more ahead of their team and me. These idea-machines dazzle us with their ability to create and improvise on the fly, to sell concepts that don’t yet exist, and to paint exquisite pictures of a brighter future to any audience. That’s the good side of working for such a talented charismatic leader. However, there is downside that is much more difficult to discern. Only after observing the same problem in multiple organizations was I finally able to recognize and begin calling it out to help clients identify and overcome the issue.

Several years ago, I was sitting with an extremely driven, extroverted, and charismatic CEO at the big glass conference table he used as a desk. It was our first meeting. I was entertained, amused, and even a bit shocked at his level of intensity and charm. His personality filled the room – in a good way. I loved everything about this guy, including his cool shoes. And as he explained his vision for the company and the various major initiatives he was undertaking, I began to get a sense for the monumental task he was asking of his salespeople. The specific details aren’t important to the story. What’s key to my point is how many moving pieces there were, and the fact that this hugely talented sales chief was asking the sales team to sell a solution which was still on the drawing board to people and prospects who were unfamiliar and didn’t yet understand how to buy this type of new offering. Said differently, he was asking people who had never sold this type of solution to sell something that didn’t truly yet exist to clients who weren’t quite ready, even though they would likely be looking for this type of solution in the future. Got it?

One of the reasons I was sitting across the big glass table from this man is because of his growing frustration that the sales team wasn’t getting it done. In three different ways he told me that he couldn’t comprehend what was so hard about what he was asking his salespeople to do. With each example he’d tell me the story of a major sales success from his own career and how he was able to sell giant, transformational deals with essentially smoke and mirrors. At that instant, the penny dropped and it all came together in my mind. I raised my eyebrows and began to smirk. In his loud, playful voice he shouted not to hold out on him. “What? Tell me!” he insisted. “[CEO Name], don’t you see what’s happening?” I responded. “They’re not you! They can’t do what you can do. You get away with it because of the force of your personality, your outrageous, probably dangerous level of confidence, and your sick ability to sell a vision.”

…Clarity from the top is a non-negotiable prerequisite for a successful new business development sales attack. The job of the sales force is to execute the company’s strategy to perfection, not to create it on the fly. Clarity is absolutely essential when asking salespeople to execute a proactive new business sales attack. I have yet to see an individual salesperson or a sales team succeed in the marketplace without a crystal-clear picture of their mission.

Often, what’s portrayed as a “sales problem” isn’t a sales problem at all. The company and its senior leaders have a responsibility to provide the sales organization with strategic direction. As I’ve written before, “Mr. CEO, please do your job so we can do ours.” That request is not intended with any disrespect. It’s simply a plea for help (and direction) so we can succeed…Sure, many entrepreneurs and visionaries tend to be comfortable in those free-flowing, entrepreneurial environments where they are forced to build their strategy on the fly. They love operating in those conditions. But that doesn’t translate into success for the sales team. Time and time again I’ve seen salespeople flounder and fail without clear direction from the top.

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Excerpted from Sales Management. Simplified.: The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team – AMACOM Books: © 2016 Mike Weinberg

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