Storms on the horizon...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Fri, Oct 31, 2014

Do you remember the Northeasters from last week?


On the morning of the last day of the month, with orders still to close, you may find it difficult to remember yesterday, let alone last week, but if you do, you'll remember two back-to-back days of constant rain and wind.

I was scheduled to attend an ACGBoston breakfast Tuesday a week ago, and although I love the organization, having spent 10 years there as Chairman, the rest of that day was going to be a day-at-the-office-kinda-day.   When I listened to the weather forecasts over the two or three days leading up to Tuesday, I knew that it was going to be a solid Nor'easter with heavy rain and bracing high winds all wrapped up in a cold blanket of grey fog.  Good forecasting and the reality of a tough weather day walking around the city led to my decision not to drive the hour into Boston, and, as a result, I spent a highly productive day working out of my house at Rye Beach.

All of which turned out to be good decision...other than missing the ACG breakfast.  It turned into a wicked storm with flooding everywhere, a huge loss of a foot of beach sand and a number of dead seals (Ugh!) washed up on the shore.  The "ugh" is more than the fact of dead seals, which is disturbing enough, but due to the legal issues surrounding protected seals, and the fact that they cannot be moved without a special cleanup crew, the problem quickly "deteriorates" (to put it nicely) and the smell stays around for a while. 


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This process of thinking about forecasted storms and taking a resulting action led me to reflect and take perspective on storms in general and their impact on our businesses.  But, in the case of our companies, the storms that I'm thinking about have nothing to do with the weather, and everything to do with the manner in which we manage-or do not manage-our salespeople.  

As a New England guy with deep roots in Vermont and now an explorer of quirky, Live-Free-Or-Die New Hampshire, I've always been attuned to the changing seasons and the weather patterns that they bring. With very accurate weather forecasting available at the click of an app, and with the weather now being a prevalant part of every news channel, there's no excuse for being surprised and not totally prepared for upcoming storms.  

But I also realized, as I thought about the weather that day, that there are plenty of forecastable storms that we, as managers, have total control over, and those are the storms that are related to the management of our salespeople.  More often than not, we know when those storms are rapidly approaching, plus, at this time in our careers, we usually have deep experience as to which ones are going to result in quick passing showers, which are going to be just a few heavy winds, and which are going to develop into full blown hurricanes and tornadoes.  

The issue becomes in how we, as managers, make decisions to deal with these oncoming storms, and too often, my experience is that we don't do this very effectively or efficiently.

  • A few of those we choose not to deal with at all.  Never a good decision
  • Some, we hope will blow over and go away.   They never do.
  • Some, we put off dealing with until they explode.  And they always do.

These storm clouds becomes darker and darker around just a few (bad) salespeople...

  • The recalcitrant salesguy who produces, but is always negative
  • The manager who's always late and never produces on time
  • The loudmouth, all-about-me guy, who talks "team", but never is
  • The manager who's a pretty-good player, but a lousy coach

All of us, who have been managing sales teams for a while, ultimately know that the storm is going to hit with these individuals, probably hit hard, and typically spin out of control, so the questions become...

  • "Do I address this or not?"  If so, when?
  • "What's the severity and the timing of the storm hitting?"
  • "Do I let the storm hit and deal with the mess on the beach later?"
  • "Do I risk dead seals and the legal problems of cleaning them up?"

In the past, I must admit, my tendency was to hunker down, let the storm hit, ride it out as best I could and then deal with the aftermath of the debris on the beach.   

"How did that work out for me?"  

It never, ever, went very well!  

Plus, it wasted time, slowed down the organization and created a serious question about the leadership qualities of the guy at the top-me.  

Let me repeat:  It never went well when I decided to delay immediate action!

The Talk resized 600Today, as soon as I sense an underlying problem regarding consistent lack of performance or a negative attitude toward the company or the team, I have what I have come to phrase as... "The Big Boy Talk".   



  • Very direct, highly objective and hopefully helpful discussions 
  • Very direct definitions of what needs to be fixed and by when
  • Very direct detailing of the choices: be part of the team or you're out

The world of Sales is hard enough.  As a result, in the management of our salespeople, we need to be heavily focused to enabling them with formal processes, updated tools and integrated technologies while applauding their success.  Ultimately, sales success needs to be focused on the success of our customers, but the only means of getting there is through the proactive enablement  (interesting Brainshark post this morning) of the sales team.

BUT, all of this supporting of the salesperson, does not mean that you should ever accept consistently poor or even weak performance, stormy outbreaks or behavior that does not support the team and the company.  

If you see the storm coming and you or the company are in its path, react immediately. The situation will never get better by itself.  In today's environment of focusing first on the customer, which should be 100% of the effort, there should be zero tolerance for allowing any storms-forecasted or not-to linger in the background and cause anyone on the rest of your team to slow down.

Congratulations for finishing the month on plan!.  Have a great weekend...and look at the weather forecast for signs of the first snow on Sunday morning.

Good Selling for Q4...and Good Planning for 2015! 

 Jack Derby 

Head Coach  
Derby Management...for 25 years
Sales & Marketing Productivity Experts
Business & Strategy Planning Specialists
Box 171322, Boston, MA 02117
Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222 

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Tags: sales productivity, Sales Best Practices, sales and marketing best practices, sales management effectiveness, sales coach, sales effectiveness, sales enablment, sales culture