What is the best way to build or Imageimprove a sales organization? Some managers simply take the “throw the baby in the water and see if he can swim approach”. Without any preparation or forethought, or a plan of any kind, they just start hiring in a new organization or making changes in an existing one and then start trying to get the team selling, planning to improve as they go.

Have you ever seen this? It can go bad fast, and often does.

Is there a better way? YES! And I met a golf instructor recently who understands and illustrates this clearly. I took a golf lesson from this instructor a short while ago.

In that first lesson, I never saw a golf ball.

I am a total novice, so first, the teacher told me a bit about his teaching approach. Then we worked on how to hold the club. Then we talked about some principles of body mechanics involved in the swing.  Then finally, near the end of the lesson, we did some half swings.

It was a great lesson. I came away with a really clear understanding of what we would be working on and towards in the weeks to come.

Conversely, I was hired to sell a golf training product a few decades ago, and the golf pro who was working on the project told me he would teach me to play golf.  We went to a driving range and he told me to hit the ball, then he started correcting.  I never got it.  His incremental suggestions for improvement had no context, no clear goal, no underlying rational.  I just spent a lot of time hitting the ball badly before burning out and giving up. If we only knew that there was a better way! By the way, this does not contradict my statement above that I am a total novice – I learned exactly nothing!

These two approaches to golf training are a perfect analogy for sales organization improvement.

Managers who choose the “just start hitting balls” approach never set clear expectations; never establish clear, metrics based accountability; and inhibit communication with their teams.  Usually, finding the hoped-for “time to improve as things progress” never materializes, and even if it does, then time is spent correcting bad habits – without context – and often without much success.

The other approach – in which sales a manager first develops a metrics-based sales process, then hires based on the process, sets salespeople expectations to the process, manages to the process, and trains weaknesses identified through measured execution of the process – is a much different experience.

You can imagine which has better results.  The more thoughtful approach takes more investment on the front end, but pays a better return in the short, medium and long run. Think about that – I’m going to go practice for my next golf lesson!

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