Guest Column: Five Rules for Sales Disaster Turnarounds, Part 2

<i>Note: To read the previous installment, click <a href=" clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In Part 1, I related my experiences as the western region manager of a computer company-a region that was trying to extricate itself from a serious sales disaster. Having detailed the steps I took to isolate and correct the problem, let's now turn our attention to:<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>Case Study #2</b><br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Having been hired as an outside consultant by a major corporation to work with their Latin American division, I found myself bound for Chile. My job was to deliver a two-day workshop to a group of 16 sales managers.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> My principal contact and sponsor was the newly appointed country sales manager. He informed me that he had just been appointed last year as sales had declined, market share had reduced, and the company had lost money&#x2026;but apart from these three small concerns, things were going swimmingly.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> As a backdrop, the Chilean economy, while not great at the time, certainly wasn't in recession. And as noted above, the company's main competitors seemed to be doing just fine by taking away their market share.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Day one of the workshop started off well enough, with the normal kind of cynicism expected from an audience of very experienced people who worked for a major corporation. In the late morning I covered our planning module, which previews a sample sales manager's plan using a standard template of ours but customized with sample data to show how a real plan might look for this specific company. Then at the end of the day, I set the overnight exercise where each manager was to develop his first draft of a plan (to show how his or her team would make their main sales goals), ready to present at the start of day two.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> So at 8 a.m. on day two, I recapped day one and then polled the audience to see who would present their plans first. This proved to be quite revealing, as only nine out of 16 participants had completed the exercise, and the others had a bunch of excuses. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Upon learning this, my sponsor asked me to step outside for 15 minutes. I don't know exactly what he said to the group in my absence, but it was something to the effect of: "Here we are trying to work our way out of a disaster, and paying a lot of money to bring Peter here to help us, and almost half of you are just playing with this. You're like a group of footballers who think you can win the game by being spectators, and making weak excuses."<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> After this, I was brought back in the room. We then resumed the presentations of the managers who had drafted their plans, but with the understanding the others were to come in at 7 a.m. the next day to present theirs. I was retained to help review them.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> In retrospect, our workshop had given the national sales manager the perfect opportunity to seize on the root cause problem behind the sales disaster: lack of discipline on the part of the sales managers, who really didn't know their role or how to perform it, and were prone to making feeble excuses. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce why the salespeople under them weren't performing. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Only a few months later, I was pleased to hear from the national sales manager that there had been a great comeback in sales, market share, and profitability.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> As should now be apparent, sales disasters can occur in the best and worst of economic circumstances, and turning them around is a task that's neither easy nor enviable. Nevertheless, they can be fixed, and when you take the time to find the real problem(s), they often turn out to be less daunting than originally thought.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Better still, the same attitudes, strategies, tools, and processes that help companies turn around disasters can also help them be more successful in tough economic times.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Peter Michie is founder of the sales performance improvement system <a href="" target="blank">PERFORMAX</a>.</i>