Reading time ( words)
By far the best and most useful business book I have read this year is The Sales Manager Survival Guide: Lessons from Sales' Front Lines by David A. Brock. I was so impressed by this book that I’ve since recommended it to just about every sales manager I know and work with.
What I like about the book is that it is quite literally a primer—a handbook for sales management; everything you need to be a successful sales manager is in this book. From how to find, interview and hire the right sales people and how to motivate them, to managing both the poor performers and high-level sales people, it is all here. The author also describes how to conduct an effective performance review and even how to fire someone productively.
As I always say, the difference between having a job and having a career is all about the passion to learn—the passion to find out everything you can about honing your craft. If you are that person, if you want to be the best you can be at what you do, then I would urge you to read David Brock’s book. It is available at all major bookstores and of course at Amazon.
I was so impressed with the book that I got in touch with the author to learn more about him and this book. Fortunately, Mr. Brock was gracious enough to honor my request for this interview.
Following is my conversation with Brock.
Beaulieu: David, thanks for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. First, tell me a little bit about your background.
Brock: By training, I’m an engineer/physicist. I never thought I would end up in sales (or business for that matter). I got involved in a start-up in my last year of college. We failed miserably, but in it I learned there is more to business success than great products. I got an MBA, then went to the very darkest side an engineer/physicist could go to: I worked for IBM selling mainframes to Money Center Banks in New York City. Since then I’ve had a variety of sales, sales leadership, and general management roles, but always consider myself a “sales professional.”
Beaulieu: What do you do for a living?
Brock: I founded and grew a consulting company, Partners in Excellence. We are a boutique company, with 15 partners spread around the world. We focus primarily on the customer-facing sides of organizations, helping develop business strategies, sales/marketing, partnering/acquisition, and market growth strategies. We have a mixed client base, mostly dominated by global 500 industrial/technology/services companies, but extending to high-tech start-ups.
Beaulieu: Is this your first book?
Beaulieu: For those who have not read the book, can you tell us about it?
Brock: Sales Manager Survival Guide focuses on the role of the front line sales manager. It is the most important, but most difficult job in selling. It’s through these managers that we translate our business and sales strategies into execution. While it focuses on the front line sales manager, it provides lessons to leaders at all levels and aspiring leaders/managers.
Beaulieu: Why did you write this book?
Brock: For all the billions of dollars that are spent in training for sales people, for the hundreds of books, and thousands of blog posts, only a very small percentage of them focus on helping front line sales managers understand their job and how to have the greatest impact on their people and the organization. I wrote the book to provide a pragmatic guide/roadmap for these managers. I provide some direction, but mainly I hope to help them think about the issues most critical to their role, the success of their people and their own personal success.
Beaulieu: Who is it for?
Brock: It is mainly for sales managers/execs at all levels, aspiring sales managers, and anyone curious about sales management.
Beaulieu: What I love about it is that it is a very easy-to-use handbook and you cover literally every angle of being a sales manager, from hiring to reviews to performance improvement to firing. I take it you have had a great deal of experience doing all of these things. Tell us about your time as a sales manager?
Brock: Thanks for the comment, I hoped to provide a practical guide. As I thought of the challenge managers face in defining their role and maximizing their leadership impact, I reflected on my own experience in all levels of management. I included some of the successes I had and some of my failures. I also have the privilege of working with thousands of leaders and sales people around the world, so I can see what they do to have an impact. As I reflected on my own experience, I realized I had participated in tens of thousands of deal, pipeline, call, account and other reviews, hired/fired hundreds of people at all levels. That provides a rich set of lessons that I could leverage in the book.
Beaulieu: So all of these guidelines come from your own personal experience?
Brock: They come from my personal experience as a leader/executive and from working with some of the most talented leaders in the world.
Beaulieu: Can you tell us one particular story from your experiences as a sales professional that sort of defined you in terms of wanting to instruct people about sales?
Brock: There are too many stories—some of them are in the book. I guess one of the most important, foundational stories is when I moved from being an individual contributor to leading a team. Fortunately, I had a great manager and some great training. But I learned that my job as a sales leader was very different. The only way I could be effective and a top performer as a sales leader was through my people. If I couldn’t lead them, develop them, coach them, help them perform at the top level, there was no way I could meet my goals. So my personal success and effectiveness as a front line sales manager was entirely dependent on my ability to get things done through my team. As I went higher in the food chain, ultimately to running large divisions or companies, this lesson kept coming back to me. The higher we are in the organization, the more important it is that we have the right teams and we do everything possible to get the people performing at the highest levels. It is quite impossible to achieve our goals without doing this.