Before it Happens to You

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Take steps to avoid receiving a resignation.

Take steps to avoid receiving a resignation.

Overhearing a conversation between two senior executives from the same company, they both expressed surprise that the head of their sales function had just abruptly left and had emailed each of them a letter of resignation.  While I did not get to see the letter itself, as I listened to their expressions of incredulity, I cobbled together what I thought the letter likely said.  While this is an imagined letter, it contains elements of universal truths that cover many resignations (and certainly the sales executives reasons for leaving).  Before it is too late, take the steps to prevent this from crossing your desk.

Dear Board Members

Please accept this letter as my resignation from the position of SVP of Global Sales and Customer Development.

While I choose to leave the firm, I still wish you, the employees, and your customers well.  I do not leave with rancor in my heart nor with malice.  In truth, I leave feeling a little defeated and in the event that I can prevent my replacement from deeling like I do now, I would like to share my thoughts and explain why I choose to leave.   

The reasons for my deciding to leave are as follows: 

  1. The sales goal established for me and my team was not generated with my input or that of my sales team who have daily contact with customers.  You relied on some combination of industry research provided by the highly paid consultant and wishful thinking.  Neither was well-positioned to to provide insight into what was possible.  While I have provided my forecasts based on having spent time in the field, each of the last several have been ignored.  It is demoralizing to me and my team to have our objectives based on something we did not contribute to creating.  No matter who you choose to hire after me, please give that person a chance to establish some stake in the creation of sales targets. 
  2. At last count, I had 13 HIGH PRIORITY items to complete within the year on my list of objectives.  Nevermind the remaining 24 items of lesser importance (though I was to meet or exceed at least 12 of them to be considered worthy of my entire bonus), it is incomprehensible that any one could meet the 16 HIGH PRIORITY items and do them justice.  While I tried to meet all 16, it led to failure of focus at work and severely hampered my relationships at home with wife, children, family, and friends.  If all 16 were really mission critical, than it was time to rethink the future of this organization.  Not all of the items on the list were of equal importance.                
  3. You need to acknowledge that our products are not as unique as we pretend.  Competition has caught up, and our assumed technological, customer service, and price advantages are no longer.  While I have shared with Marketing, Innovation, Engineering, and any one who would listen what our customers seek, I have been ignored and told to “just go sell something” (numerous times).  The company needs to stop thinking in terms of “cool” and start thinking in terms of “helping customers do the jobs they need to get done.”   Without a customer to buy it, no amount of product tweaking will amount to much.
  4. The marketing effort is not aligned with sales.  The presentations, brochures, data sheets, and website may win awards.  Unfortunately, they are not helping to win sales.  I won’t even talk about the lead generation process.  No amount of “likes” or “friending” will convince me that it is better than a bona fide lead from someone who wants to buy.  Sales people chasing false leads is expensive, wasteful, a drain on resources, and ultimately paralyzing for the organization.
  5. In spite of the number of times I have mentioned it, I was still ignored when it comes to suggesting we needed to re-organize the company (or at least sales) around industry or vertical issues.  Sending a product generalist into a highly specialized prospect or customer is asking for trouble.  We are being begged by our sales people to be allowed to focus on one or two industries so that they can become expert and truly provide value.  Won’t you please reconsider this refusal before the next person assumes the role?                
  6. You do not have enough trained sales people for the opportunities available in the market.  I had asked for a headcount increase repeatedly only to get into a shouting match with the CFO and the hacks over in Finance.  She (and they) seem to think that until every sales rep is at 100% of their target, there is no need for additional bodies.  What planet is she from to think that?  And, why do you permit her to make those decisions?  
  7. The compensation and bonus plan is far  too unwieldy.  As I understand it (and the fact that I may not tells you all you need to know), in order for a rep to get his full bonus there have to be eleven (11) different metrics met.  My reps spend more time trying to calculate how they are being scored than they do selling.  For the love of it all, simplify it!   
  8. The culture of being dictated to, command and control may have worked generations ago.  However, it is not working now.  We hire smart people, but then refuse to let them make decisions or participate in decision-making.  Turnover has begun to climb higher as the economy starts to rebound – and now my name can be added to those ranks.   

 

Sincerely,

Jack

David Zahn

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