Who's Leading Your Orchestra?

by Susan Walsh, Founder and CEO, Sales-Link Inc.

How often are you looking at the data? “What data?” you ask. The data that will tell you if you are measuring up to your responsibilities.

As sales managers, the functions that keeps the company running are being put into your hands. You’ve got to ensure that revenue projections are charted through the quarters, that processes to achieve these revenue projections are in place, that metrics can be looked at to assess whether or not you are on track, and if you need to change the course you are on. But it goes deep. Let me show you where it starts.

Back in the bowels of your marketing department, is a group of highly skilled and educated marketing folks. They are feverishly banging out blogs, press releases and newsletters, preparing for conferences, Et cetera. Right across the hall, is the lead generation department that is busy sending out mail campaigns and making phone calls. Up toward the main front office, is the sales team. They are meeting with clients, attending video conference calls, responding to RFIs, participating in proposal meetings, and practicing for bid defenses. There’s a lot going on in this orchestra, but the big defining question is: “Who is the orchestra leader, the Maestro?”

Most organizations leave that very important role out; others leave it to the VP of Sales. What I’ve been professing these past few months is that there is a change occurring in Sales from the way we used to know it. These days, there is little time for VPs of Sales to watch over all of this, and some VPs of Sales don’t fully understand all the different roles that together make up a functioning symphony. He may understand the role of the string section, but be weak in percussion instruments. Or he may not quite take in the subtle necessity of the first violin and the second violin, and how they need to work separately, but function in unison. The conductor needs to be aware of every movement and every nuance of sound.

In Sales, data is your audience…your sounding board for how you’re doing. The data you collect tells you whether your audience is clapping and how loudly…or if you are being booed off the stage. For all elements of the sales process (including steps leading up to and throughout), data needs to be looked at every few days, minimally weekly, much like an orchestra needs to practice regularly in front of test audiences. If there is no one doing this, then you are most likely jeopardizing at least 50% of your chances for a successful performance.

So as a sales manager, you are in fact, in charge of your company’s orchestra. You are the one that needs to know the job of every instrument. You are the one who needs to unify the sections, set the tempo, shape the sound of the ensemble, and direct the concerts. You are the one who needs to make sure that performances are tested constantly, and you are the one who needs to direct necessary changes. So Maestro, no more excuses, and no more passing the baton. Pick the darn thing up and LEAD!