To Increase Your Sales Team’s Performance Start by Looking in the Mirror

Mike Weinberg, Best-Selling Author, Top Sales Influencer

To Increase Your Sales Team’s Performance Start by Looking in the Mirror

I learned the lesson during my first stint in consulting that you don’t transform organizations from the bottom! As a former top-producing sales hunter and expert sales technician, I mistakenly believed that if I trained and coached individual producers using the New Sales Driver framework (highlighted in my first book, New Sales. Simplified. [New York: AMACOM 2013]) it would create a dramatic, lasting change in the performance of sales teams. I was naïve, and I was wrong.

Sure, I could improve the results of a handful of individuals (and I did, over and over and over.) However, after a while it became blatantly apparent that you couldn’t create transformative change within a sales organization by improving the skills, techniques, and attitudes of the salespeople. In order to truly transform the results and health of a sales team, the leader and the culture must be transformed! That realization combined with my observation in client after client that the sales problem in most businesses I consulted did not lie with the salespeople, but rather with how the team was being led, is what compelled me to change the focus of my practice, and eventually to write the just released Sales Management. Simplified. – The Straight Truth About Getting Exceptional Results from Your Sales Team.

One of my consulting mentors loved to repeat this phrase: “As goes the leader, so goes the organization.” And nowhere is that more true than in sales organizations. So if you are truly serious about raising the game of your sales team and increasing its performance for the long-haul, I boldly offer two suggestions. First, take a long look in the mirror, and second, do a thorough evaluation of your sales team leader.

Consider this crazy question and challenge from a guy whose income comes mostly from training salespeople:  How many zillions of dollars are spent on sales training to improve the skills and effectiveness of salespeople, but how little time is invested to raise the game of the key person leading those teams?

It’s a mystery to me why senior executives, particularly in small and midsize companies, are so quick to point the finger at the sales team for poor performance yet so reluctant to look in the mirror. If you’re serious about increasing sales and creating the winning, high-performance sales team culture most executives crave, reflect on this handful of questions before doing what’s typical and easy – simply blaming your salespeople or hiring a sales trainer:

  • Are sales goals crystal clear and results and reports published and public? Has your sales leader created a culture of accountability by regularly talking about and reviewing goals and results?
  • Is your sales culture helping or hurting your sales team’s effectiveness? Is the sales team respected and appreciated or belittled by the rest of the company? Are sales victories celebrated, or are your salespeople more likely to face criticism, complaints, and arbitrary commission deductions that sap their energy and disengage their hearts?
  • How much time does the sales leader actually spend leading the team (meeting 1:1, meeting with team, working alongside team members) versus the amount of time juggling non-revenue producing, non-sales leadership activities (sitting in corporate meetings and plowing through administrative crap)?
  • Are sales roles clearly defined and do you have the right people playing the right roles (hunters hunting, zookeepers zookeeping)?
  • Does your compensation plan drive the desired behaviors and results, or are you rewarding underperformance or paying equal commission for babysitting accounts won years ago as you do for the hard work of acquiring new customers?
  • Do your salespeople fully understand your strategy, the markets and accounts they’re supposed to be pursuing, and exactly what they are selling and why? That wasn’t a joke. You’d be amazed the number of times the answer to that question is “no.”
  • Are you arming your sales team with the weapons they need to head into battle? Can they articulate your company’s “story” (value prop) in a compelling, customer-issue-focused, and differentiating way? Are they prepared to conduct effective discovery sales calls and presentations?
  • Are your salespeople viewed as “free” labor and burdened with a bevy of non-sales tasks – taking them away from their primary jobs?

Let me be clear that in no way am I arguing that most salespeople are blameless and have it all together. Far from it. However, I am emphatically making the case that you can create faster and longer-lasting sales performance improvement by first looking in the mirror to take a hard look at your sales team leadership, culture, and approach to talent management. For more blunt truth and simple, practical help for sales leaders and senior executives, you can download the introduction and sample chapters from Sales Management. Simplified. at

About the Author

Mike Weinberg is the founder and president of The New Sales Coach, Forbes Top 30 Social Sales Influencer, and author of the AMACOM bestseller New Sales. Simplified.: The Essential Handbook for Prospecting and New Business Development.