Like any seasoned sales professional working in the industry for more than 20 years, I’ve managed to learn a thing or two about running a successful sales department. Granted, my greatest lessons were derived from my greatest mistakes, or more to the point, all of my lessons are hard lessons. If someone were to ask me my most important pieces of advice collected over the years, I would give them these top 10 solutions to common mistakes seen all too often in sales departments:

1. You need more coverage than you think. Managers often realize they need a greater sales capacity by the time it’s already too late. The general rule of thumb is that you always want to have more quota coverage than expected because it’s almost guaranteed that some representatives will over-perform and some will come out under the mark. Consider staffing 25% more quota coverage than your operating plan financial metrics call for every quarter. (read more…)

Happy Equal Pay Day!

Seriously, there is such a thing as equal pay day, and it’s today, April 8.

What’s going on with equal pay anyway? Isn’t it a thing of the past since women have achieved relative parity in the workforce?

Well, no. Despite the fact that women make up half the entry-level workforce, they do not yet represent half of the leadership tiers and they do not receive equal pay for equal work. But of course when we look under the covers to examine the data more carefully, we see that the issue of promotions and salary are complicated by the fact that women carry more of the family responsibility and have more sporadic careers because of it.

There are other factors at play, however, which include the cultural disincentives women have to negotiate aggressively for themselves, and employers’ profit incentive to acquire good talent for low prices. Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In,” quotes male CEOs as chiding her for writing a book designed to get women asking for more because “now all the women that work for me want a raise.”

Women can, in fact, close the wage gap for themselves by getting smarter about how they negotiate their value. (read more…)

Companies that embark on physical restructuring projects, like plant openings or closings, often think they can easily handle them. However, businesses that internalize these moves are not always successful, and a problematic move can have dire consequences.

Here are the five most likely reasons a business could run into trouble when transferring operations:

  1. Failing to control the number of changes. Most companies see a physical change as an opportunity to improve additional aspects of the business. However, attempting to improve things like product profitability through design changes, IT systems, or the production process makes the move exponentially riskier. Make these kinds of changes ahead of time, and freeze them at least a month before the move. Only transfer stable products and processes.
  2.  Underestimating the people aspects. Employees are absolutely critical to a successful transition, but they’re often overlooked. Engaging the workforce at the closing site, communicating how changes will impact each individual, and establishing fair severance packages will make things run much more smoothly.
  3. (read more…)

True confession time.

I once worked for a large, global conglomerate that was in a death spiral and struggling to turn things around. The company was harvesting its mature and declining business to pump cash into its growth bets.

This company had a proud tradition of investing in the development of its employees. Sales reps were trained in their products and how to sell them, scientists went to conferences, engineers were offered continued training to keep their skills up to date, and new managers were trained how to manage.

There was even a requirement that every employee received 40 hours of training.

A new CFO came on board and decided that training was a luxury that could no longer be afforded. Instead of a way to improve skills and make the business stronger, it was seen as an expense — even worse, a strategically irrelevant expense, like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. (read more…)

I wish you could have seen it. Twenty teenagers and four YMCA leaders — including me — were about to embark on a two-day rafting trip.

These kids could not have been more different. Half were from the inner city; half from the suburbs. Two inner city leaders joined us two from the ‘burbs. None of us had any experience with whitewater rafting. We were enthusiastic beginners, through and through!

The good news is we hired a terrific rafting company with experienced guides. They’d been running trips on the American River in Northern California for nearly two decades. The only thing we newbies had to worry about was to learn our roles, do our jobs, and work together. And to not get hurt, of course.

There was a lot to learn. We spent three hours on the sand that first morning, learning terminology, commands, safety gear, safe use of our paddles, how to shift positions safely when “under way,” and other key skills. (read more…)