This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).


Clear Expectations
In First, Break All the Rules, the authors lead with the survey-based finding that the most important thing for employees in relation to job satisfaction is not compensation or recognition but clear expectations. This finding is counterintuitive to many who believe that getting paid produces happiness, but it actually makes an enormous amount of sense.

There are few things more uncomfortable than coming to work every day and having no idea what it is that is expected of you. In the case of sales, I have criticized the organizations that only put up a revenue target at the end of the period as falling into this category, and it is true.

You might argue that the end-of-the-period target is an expectation, but it is analogous to winning a sports championship. Most people would agree that while a championship might indeed be a valid and worthy goal or expectation, the coach should be doing more than setting that goal, sitting back and waiting for that to happen. It may turn out to be effective, and the end-result goal is certainly clear, but there is an awful lot of help that the coach should be able to give each athlete along the way.

Without this help, an athlete may come to the practice facility each day and wonder what to do. He will probably have some idea about things to try, having practiced in the past. But he would be much more confident and much more certain of success if he had a clear idea of what he should be doing each day to help him reach the goal and some feedback about performance from a trusted, informed advisor to help keep him on the most optimal path towards that goal.

The sales analogy should be clear. Like the athlete, the salesperson probably has the skills and attitudes which put him or her into position to compete in the first place. Clear expectations about the things needed to be done to reach the goal is the sales process described in Chapter 3, and the coach is the sales manager. Both the athlete and the salesperson should be held accountable to a disciplined program and given guidance and support along the way as needed. This guidance and support will be most effective when it follows some of the parameters previously described.

When this guidance and support are driven by activities that are measurable, the discussions that come out of them are objective rather than subjective. Too often conversations between sales managers and salespeople become personal, and opinion-based. When the point of departure is a set of tangible data, especially over time, the conversation can focus on the heart of the real problem, allowing a faster and less emotionally charged path to a solution.

Mutually agreed to
The metrics that a salesperson should be held accountable to should be mutually agreed upon at best, or at least clearly communicated. If sales managers make time to work one-on-one with their salespeople, then it makes sense to make a personal sales plan for each salesperson. If it is developed as an agreement between the sales manager and the salesperson, the benchmarks that the manager and salesperson are working with can be specific numbers that were clearly either met or not. If the numbers were not accepted by the salesperson in the first place, the conversation will only be marginally effective at best.

On the other hand, the sales manager starts with a compelling case if the salesperson agreed to some numbers and they are not met. What can change in the future to ensure that they are met? Over time, correction must happen, or it is crystal clear that things are not working and that some kind of change is needed. Very transparent, very fair. In this environment, a salesperson should never be surprised by being fired. More on that later.

Also, a mutually agreed upon individual plan will concurrently set targets for the sales manager. For example, if the results show that the salesperson is qualifying prospects and doing a needs analysis but not writing proposals, there is a basis for the manager’s help in breaking that barrier. It could be a need for a good proposal template, or writing help, or specific training or coaching another area. Breaking down these types of barriers is an important part of the sales manager’s job.

Clear rewards
Most salespeople I know love to count their eggs before they hatch. It is very motivating. A well-organized sales program will let them do just that. By stating the commission and/or bonus formula clearly, salespeople can calculate how much reward they will receive for their efforts.

Alternatively, a lot of sales organizations give out bonuses at the end of the period that are not transparent. A salesperson won’t know how much of a bonus his revenue or margin or number of units translates into until the term is done and management decides how much of a bonus to give. Factors outside of the control of salespeople often are factored into this equation, and the salesperson feels cheated by the end result. In addition to the loss of the motivating power of a visible effort-based compensation system, this makes a much less powerful compensation program per unit of cash relative to one in which the rewards for performance are clear, monetary, and countable. While First, Break All the Rules found that expectations are the most important element of employee satisfaction, clear compensation schemes for salespeople can easily be seen as an extension of the clearly defined expectations of a well-managed sales organization.

This is a good thing!



Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!