By Bob Williams

When we rocket up the corporate ladder to the level at which politics can become a substitute for personal performance, finding the numbers and measures to back up our projected image of competence becomes increasingly critical.

Just like religions, law and accounting, the printed words and the ledgers meant to stand as “hard facts” are most often subject to many interpretations. As the corporate model becomes more demanding in terms of how we justify and measure the right to our existence, the sales process is one of the last amorphous areas that continues to defy the clinical precision of so-called science based formulas and “fool-proof” methods to turn it all around! This kind of accounting will stifle sales.

Some global service providers are “toying” with programs for commission sales, from lowering the base salary all the way to full commission. That’s fine as far as it goes, but there are usually many perspectives to complex issues!

Is this truly a way to “reward” the sales effort by “allowing” reps to make huge amounts of money? Could there be other motivations at play – besides the one with “caps” on earnings, because we don’t want them making TOO much money, right?

How could we hold sales people to the bars of the popular measure-every-grain process improvement dogmas, when their success is clearly (perhaps) tied to relationships! Right? I mean, the product or service should be what they sell… oh, and accessible business has to be verified and wait, history of bad experience or just the fact that they don’t like my haircut might play roles…

So, if you are going to hold the management of sales to such rigorous bars of performance criteria, which turns some corporations into sales person mills, then it only makes sense to promote the idea that corporate leadership is no longer responsible, well, because if they can’t sell what we have, then they can leave! It’s not a management issue any longer – or is it? Accountable? Who me?

If the products were drawing in customers all by themselves, without any sales support at all, the whole idea would not hinge on such intangibles as relationship, trust, credibility and many other conductors to the dreaded CHANGE! Since it is not so cut and dry, what do we do with some of the obvious evidence, such as:

1) Management who has never been in sales can be inept at good assessments of sales efforts.
2) Sales superstars rarely, if ever, make good managers of sales.

Peter Drucker (and many others) contended that responsibility for the performance of any company falls squarely, and justifiably, at the feet of top management. When we take away management’s incentive to drill down into the issues that hinder success of the sales process, that abdication itself will have a price that the corporate team will continue to pay. So, who’s accountable?

Clearly, there are many in sales who will prefer to be “wildcats”, and who know that their tendencies away from too many rules and too many meetings will lead them to the happier (for them) state of making a living from a few close relationships, or simply from the drive to constantly be on the prowl without someone trying to review and count the hours in your day, the event you attended or the lunch you bought. Accountable to themselves!

Meanwhile, in the world of the steamship lines, many global forwarders and tons of other transportation and logistics groups, it may be a time to hold accountable the guys we pay to manage, and learn how to lead professional sales people with earnest drives to succeed. Working harder in a collaborative effort with the operations of the organization to promote the best performance for the overall company might be a good place to start!

R Fain Williams
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About the Author: Bob spent 35 years in the shipping industry from major ocean carriers to the largest organizations offering NVO, SCM, 3PL and compliance services. Using that experience to change the “box” we call shipping, Bob now works only with service providers who offer serious value and honest, customer focused business processes. Check out the web site at, and Bob will welcome your inquiries.

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