The First Step When You Take Over a New Sales Team

In A Proactive Sales Leader Knows How to Increase Sales I provide a sequenced checklist of recommended activities for a new Sales VP who is taking on leadership of a new sales team. This is the equivalent of what a new coach might do when she takes over a new team.

In this sales leadership tip, we’ll go into more detail on the first step and explore exactly how to review your strategic positioning.

Nothing one does to build a sales playbook, recruit talent or coach a sales team will matter if the strategy is wrong.

I’d suggest reading (or re-reading) Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore.

This book is old, but so is E=MC2. Nothing has replaced it because it is correct. It is the starting point for any business builder. Moore takes brilliant, and often non-intuitive, insights and combines them into an end-to-end process for strategy selection.

One of the basic things I learned from Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm is the “self-referencing effect” that binds vertical markets. In other words, direct mail people all do what other direct mail people do. They all test. Every mail drop is a split test to advance one’s understanding of what copy, images, messaging and packaging work.

But these tendencies, good or bad, are confined to that group. Lawyers do what lawyers do, because other lawyers do it. Not because it’s a good idea, or tested or proven.

So, vertical markets are like a bowling alley. The ball (your sales and marketing effort) does not need to knock down all the pins (your customers).

But the pins are in lanes, just like in a bowling alley. Each vertical market is a separate lane. A software pin in lane 1, will not knock down a healthcare pin in lane 2.

You can only act on one vertical market at a time.

You will get more return from your marketing and sales effort if those efforts are focused on a single vertical market.

The key lesson: The strategic objective of every for-profit business is to get the pins knocking down other pins. The CEO, Marketing Leader and Sales Leader must share this objective.

Corollary lesson: Sales leaders are wise to look at other professions and vertical markets to borrow their best ideas and use them in the sales profession.

Examples include:

  • Sport: Use of game film to coach salespeople.
  • Direct Mail: Split testing to improve sales process.
  • Military: OODA loop; closed loop PLAN, EXECUTE, REVIEW to improve one’s position in major opportunity pursuit.
  • Aviation – use of check lists to provide structure at the point of application of new skills and/or when under duress.

The book is daunting. I think most people never fully understand it nor employ it. I have read 10 times and get something from each time.

I’ve also taken Moore’s insights and applied them to practical example for sales leader to follow in my training sales management training, a program that can be customized for your organization.