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The Sales Leader’s Job #1: Right People in the Right Positions

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by Mike on February 8, 2011

I know. You’re just happy I didn’t say “bus.” Between the obnoxiously overused “threw him under the bus” and Good to Great’s most famous “getting the right people in the right seats on the bus,” it’s safe to say we’re all tired of the bus! So, in celebration of a fantastic Super Bowl, let’s talk about having the right people in the right positions.

Last week I shared some perspective on Simplified Sales Management. In a never ending quest for clarity and focus, I’ve been repeating this phrase about the job of the sales leader:

Get the Right People, Calling on the Right Targets, Equipped and Proficient with the Right Sales Weapons

The Right People. I contend that Job #1A of the sales leader is to ensure he/she has the right people in the right positions. How much easier would everything else be if we devoted significant energy and attention to making that happen instead of just giving it lip-service?


  1. Do you have hunters in hunting/new business development roles?
  2. Do these hunters have a successful track record of acquiring new accounts and new pieces of business from existing accounts?
  3. Do the people you have in hunting roles like to hunt and does it come naturally to them?

This isn’t exactly MBA-level analysis, but let me offer this: if you’re a senior or sales exec. and can’t answer the above questions in the affirmative, then there’s a problem. I am continually hearing about sales teams that aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, that aren’t bringing in new business and aren’t meeting quota. When I begin to push and probe about why that is, here’s a sampling of what emerges:

People in new business development roles that…

  • have never really had to prospect before and don’t know how
  • did well in good times when there was plenty of demand, but severely struggle when it comes to proactively going out to find their own new deals
  • are great account managers but will do anything to avoid hunting for new business (including volunteering for any committee or cleaning the company restrooms)
  • are too relational (yes, I said that – too relational), and are uncomfortable with conflict, pushing past resistance, risk and rejection – which are all part of the hunting process
  • have never been successful in acquiring new accounts, yet their managers expect them to succeed and count on their results for the company to make its goals

Everything about the job of sales management is harder when we don’t have the right people in the right roles. I love to coach to salespeople. And I have a few great stories of turning non-hunters into new business development stars. The operative word in that last sentence is “few.”

Something to think about…

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelley Robertson February 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I encounter this quite frequently when I work with companies.

I often suggest that we assess the sales team BEFORE embarking on any type of sales training to make sure that the company actually has the right people in the right roles. Not surprisingly, many organizations have people in a sales roles who ought to be in customer service or some other department because they are not suited for sales.

Great post!


Mike February 9, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I am with you Kelley. What intrigues me is that the leaders almost always know that certain players aren’t in the right position, but it’s as if they’re waiting for someone on the outside to point it out.

As always, thanks for reading and sharing your insights. Let me know where you end up on your car decision.


Guy February 22, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Hi Mike,
Love your blog posts. I am sure you have encountered this in the past but how does a start-up with limited $ attract and retain the hunters out there? I have tried paid base plus commission and full commission in the past with dismal results.

What is it that truly attracts a hunter?



Mike February 22, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Great question, great comment Guy. Thanks for reading and the kind words about the blog.
I’ll email you a longer answer, but here’s my quick thoughts:

What truly attracts a hunter? Opportunity. Opportunity to win, earn, compete and be free to do what they do best.

I’ve seen a variety of types of comp plans work well for hunters. The biggest challenge is finding a way to share the risk early on, while still offering enough to get someone who has a track record of success — and thereby, a higher income need.

I’ll send you a note in the next day or so. Feel free to email me as well (contact me page) – am happy to share a few thoughts.
Best to you and thanks again!


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