If you’re working up the corporate leadership ladder via a non-sales route, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself with some potentially tricksy sales leadership direct reports.

I should know; I was one of those direct reports!

In the course of our consulting work we are often lucky enough to work with MD’s, SVP’s and CEO’s who have worked up through areas like Finance, Operations or HR (to name but a few) and are looking for help in leading sales at an executive level.

If that’s you, over the course of the next few short articles I’ll debunk a few myths and unlock some secrets and shortcuts to help you more than hold your own with your sales leaders.

Let’s start with Performance Monitoring:


Don’t let pipeline conversations dominate. Of course it’s valuable but since the data will always be to an extent flawed (out of date, subjective, exaggerated/underplayed) managing your stakeholders based on it will always lead to problems. It should be on your dashboard but like any good dashboard one or two other dials are valuable too…


Become really interested in activity performance and create a routine of always knowing what the total activity rates for last week/month were and how these are trending month-on-month and year-on-year. In most B2B circumstances your first line leaders should know day-by-day. Some sales leaders don’t like this as they it as old fashioned, micro managing or infantile. They’ll get over it. Imagine Amazon not being interested in how many people land on the site every day…


Inculcate a culture where conversion is a measure of activity divided by orders and where the trend of these is used to determine the evolving skill levels of the teams. Sales leaders might try and sell you conversion as a measure of ‘opportunities’ closed. This is lower value data as ‘opportunity’ status is always subjective. They’ll tell you it isn’t but I can assure you otherwise. I’m pretty sure that a key measure for Amazon is number of site visitors divided by number of people who placed orders…


Expect your managers to know the trend of Average Order/Contract value by salesperson/team. If it’s growing then they are obviously doing a great job of coaching their people. If not, well it might reflect on them but it could also give you crucial early warnings on market dynamics. Average basket size must be a key measure for Amazon otherwise why do they keep trying to get us to add things to our purchases??


On the above basis, sales targets should all have an activity, conversion and average order formula basis. They must all be calculable (and re-calculable through the year) bottom up and top down. Are you really sure yours are or are they just your budget chunked up by number of reps?!

Here’s a quick routine for anyone managing sales leaders – and assumes that you have a live dashboard you can (and do) check in with them anytime:

  • Every Monday – review activity levels from previous week and trend
  • First working day and 5 days before end of the month – review pipeline and forecast
  • Every 2 months – review conversion and average order levels and trend
  • Every 3 months – review list of salespeople and teams who are under target YTD

Next time – Pipeline Management

Matt Crabtree


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