Steelers Season

Dear CEO, How Serious Are You About Sales Performance?

Today hundreds of CEOs will make a decision to replace their head of sales … again. Despite multiple attempts to select and equip the right sales leader, they will once again find their team underperforming with no clear plan other than replacing the person leading the team. In that regard, the sales function is very much like professional sports. When the owner or GM isn’t satisfied with the results and a change must be made, the head coach gets the axe.

And yet, there are sports franchises and sales organizations that have very little churn at the top and consistently outperform the competition. One such example in the sports world is the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the average tenure for an NFL head coach is 3.2 years, the Steelers last three head coaches have an average tenure of 17.3 years and six Superbowl victories between them (which, as I am a Cowboys fan, pains me greatly). So, what is it that perennial winners know, and do, that others don’t?

Performance Cultures Don’t Just Focus on Performance

Every organization wants to win. They all measure results and they all place high value on winning and are frustrated by losing. However, organizations that excel consistently create a culture that focuses on the behaviors and activities that produce winning outcomes, even more than they do on winning results. They understand that executing the right behaviors in the right way day in and day out will produce better outcomes over time. So, while they emphasize winning scores, they spend considerably more energy defining winning behaviors, identifying the skills and knowledge needed to execute these behaviors better than the competition and coaching their players to improve incrementally over time.

What does this mean for organizations that consistently sell better than their competition? For starters it means the CEO is engaged in defining and reinforcing their sales methodology to make certain it aligns with the overall promise the company is making to its customers. If the company’s core value depends on delivering a better customer experience, the CEO personally understands how the company’s sales methodology contributes to that experience. But can’t the CEO simply hire a great sales leader and leave it to this person to define the methodology? Unfortunately, they cannot! Even the most effective sales leader will need the active participation of the CEO to define and activate a comprehensive sales methodology. The reason for this is simple: optimum sales execution will require coordination with a variety of departments in the business, including marketing, customer care, operations, product, and even finance.  Only the CEO has the authority and perspective needed to ensure all departments in the organization are aligned around the same vision and support the same methodology. While CEO involvement in selecting and deploying the sales methodology is rare, we have seen multiple instances where the CEO actively participates, and in nearly every case the outcomes are considerably better.

Emphasize Leading Indicators

Next, it means the organization must measure performance differently. It doesn’t mean we no longer talk about deals or pipeline or forecasts, but it does mean we measure those things differently, often more objectively, more scientifically, and even more rigorously. However, we also measure the effectiveness of sales execution via artifacts such as customer insights and competency scores as well as the underlying skill and knowledge of people responsible for executing the sales methodology. It means we place as much emphasis in sales reviews on understanding if and how sales leaders are developing their teams as we do on what number they will deliver this quarter.

Only the CEO can affect this change because the questions they ask in their performance reviews with the head of sales will always drive, and even dominate the conversations that happen at each and every level. When CEOs inspect execution, sales coaching, and rep development with the same energy as last quarter’s results, everyone understands the cultural importance of continuous improvement and people become more effective. When they don’t do this, absent a string of incredibly hot products with extremely clear and compelling advantages, they miss targets and change leaders, only to find the same thing happening once again a short time later.

Want help creating a winning performance culture in your organization? You can begin your journey by downloading our Guide to Sales Coaching here. And stay tuned as we will soon release an updated version of our book, with a more complete guide to creating a high-performing sales organization. You can also schedule time to talk with us directly to learn more about how you can integrate player development into your existing sales cadence.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *