EKG_readoutSeller Deficit Disorder is a well understood concept by any Force Management client. It’s the age-old fact that there are two sales behaviors that drive clients absolutely crazy. Often, buyers assume these two things about salespeople:

  1. You don’t understand my business
  2. You don’t listen

These are undisputable truths that are critical for sales leaders to understand. Coaching and developing your sales talent to address these assumed traits could make or break your team’s individual and collective success.

But, this is only part of the “sales coaching” equation. When it comes to Seller Deficit Disorder (SDD), the key to solving for an answer is in not only understanding SDD, but also in understanding and overcoming a disorder that plagues sales leaders. A disorder as insidious and annoying to your sales teams as SDD is to clients. We’ll call it Sales Leader Deficit Disorder (SLDD).

What is Sales Leader Deficit Disorder?

Yes, you may be suffering from it.

Yes, even you, and why?

You were once a great sales person. That’s one of the key reasons you got the management role you’re in now. But do you realize the importance of your role; your number one priority?

If your answer to that question is “Sure, my #1 priority is to hit my number,” I’m sorry, but I think you may be showing symptoms. You see, that’s the end-goal, but it’s not your number one priority. There’s a difference. Actually, hitting your number is nothing more than an outcome. It’s your focus and ability to execute on your critical priorities that will get you to your goal.

You see, your number one priority is to create a sales team that is as talented as you. Think about it. The average sales leader has a team of seven people working for them. If each of those team members have twenty selling interactions per week (along with countless other communications to include emails, LinkedIn posts, etc…), that’s a total of 140 client interactions each week.

How many of those are you personally involved with….ten, twenty? Even if you are involved with twenty of these interactions, what about the 120 calls where you aren’t in attendance? What’s happening in these meetings? How effective are your salespeople when they’re on their own?

This is why focusing on making the number gets sales leaders in trouble. If you’re only able to participate in 10-15% of the client interactions then, even if your sole focus is the “big deals” in the pipeline, you are only personally impacting a number significantly lower than your team goal. That’s why the result at the end of the year cannot be your focus. Instead, your focus needs to be on the process.

Know the What. Develop the How.


Salespeople have their opinions of you. They are talking about you; in the bullpen, at lunch, at the dinner table, at a party. And if you’ve got SLDD, they are letting people know it.

Curing SLDD is the key to ensuring that your sales team knows the “what” and develops the “how” to help you achieve your number one goal – making the number.

When salespeople are asked, “What are the two things about sales managers that drive you crazy,” their answers are consistent:

1. Sales Leaders Ask But Don’t Use:

You stand up at all the right moments and say all the right things. We have training and kickoff meetings and you line up behind the sales leadership and shake your head yes and pump your fist. You tell us that we’re going to go to market consistently and use a consistent methodology. As a result, you ask for all kinds of things from me as a salesperson: territory plans, account plans, opportunity plans, etc. But instead of using these to help me, every conversation eventually leads to the only question you care about, “Is my forecast is in good shape?” Why am I wasting my time giving you information that you don’t ever use?

Executive sales leaders do this to their sales managers as well. I had a VP of Sales once, let’s call him Jerry, who would have quarterly meetings with the management team. He’d ask us all to bring the opportunity plans for our top two or three opportunities, so we could have small group conversations to help each other. We’d get to the meeting and Jerry would kick off his agenda with a slide deck and a four-hour monologue about his view of the state of the business. Meeting adjourned. It didn’t take long for any of us to realize that Jerry wasn’t interested in using what he was asking for, which leads us to number two.

2. Sales Leaders Ask But Don’t Give.

What is a salesperson thinking before they walk into your office for an account or opportunity review? Most salespeople say that if you have SLDD, they’re wondering how long it will take for the meeting to turn into another forecast review. They say things like, “I could tape a $50 bill to the middle page of my territory plan and the manager would never see it.”

What’s the purpose of these interactions? Remember, your number one priority is to ensure that I, as a salesperson, not only know what to do, but that I know how to do it, with confidence and conviction.

I remember something that one of the best sales leaders I ever knew, Bob Webb of Xerox, used to say. In fact, he had business cards that he would give to people on his team and he kept this saying on his desk as a reminder. It said, “We are not here to discuss history. We are here to create it.”

Bob knew that his job was to ensure, as a leader, that if you met with him, you left the interaction having learned something and understood how to translate that knowledge into action either on your own or with the appropriate help.

hand_croppedWhen you meet with your salespeople, you must understand what type of interaction you are having and know what your objectives are for that moment in time. Forecast sessions are for collecting data and ensuring the right deals are in the forecast. Opportunity reviews are to help me as a salesperson take a critical view of my key deal(s) and understand what we need to do to continue to qualify and shape them, thereby closing them faster.

I had a sales leader say to me just this week, “The biggest takeaway from the recent time I spent with you was a clear understanding that in the end, I would be judged by the talent of my people.”

This was someone who is extremely talented and highly regarded in my client’s organization. He understood that giving of his talent in a way that teaches will create a team that is as talented as him. A team with this makeup creates the bottom-line impact that transforms sales organizations.

The cure is right in front of you.

If you ask a sales person for something (Opportunity Plan, Territory Plan, etc.), understand why you are asking for it and clearly communicate that reason to the sales team. Use what they create to drive pipeline, develop accounts and close opportunities. Help them create action.

If you ask for something, give in return. Help your team understand not just “what” to do, but take the time to ensure that your team has the skills to effectively execute the actions you’ve helped them to create. That’s what really matters. That’s what cures Sales Leader Deficit Disorder