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Sales Strategy Implementation: Why Culture Matters

Note from the Editor:  Charles Fiaccabrino is a seasoned executive with 50+ years of sales management experience.   Charles began his career at Hoffmann La Roche on April 1st, 1969 as the first diagnostics sales representative in the newly formed Diagnostics Division and helped grow the organization into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.  During his career at Roche, he became known within the company as “Mr. Roche,” having earned the Presidents Achievement Award an unprecedented 20 times and received written accolades from Roche’s former CEOs, Irwin Lerner and Patrick Zenner, amongst other executives.  We, at Flevy, asked Mr. Fiaccabrino to contribute a series of articles detailing how he helped grow Roche into the Fortune 200 corporation it is today.  We asked Charles to focus on the implementation of sales strategy, as often there is a disconnect between strategy theory and the actual execution of that theory into actionable activities.

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In a recent posting on LinkedIn, there was a photo of Peter Drucker and a comment by Mr. Drucker that stated “Culture eats strategy for lunch.” Or was it breakfast? It doesn’t really matter, because either will apply. Although I didn’t read the post, the comment resonated with me nonetheless, because, in reality, it is the foundation of what follows that is my interpretation of the meaning and how it relates to successful outcomes.

Candidate Selection and Hiring, a Cultural Phenomenon.

It became apparent to me at the outset of my career as a sales manager that in order to work with and through people, it would be essential to develop a culture that would be the “best of the best.” In reviewing the Fiaccabrino Selection Process, it becomes apparent, to be successful in sales, a culture of achievement is engendered at a very high level. In order to accomplish this, each and every new hire had to meet these standards as individuals and, at the same time, have the potential to become viable members of a team-oriented strategy.

We laid the foundation for future success. “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

Sales and Sales Management.

As we move forward to the subject of sales and sales management, the individuals hired all had the potential to be highly successful in sales and, of considerable and associated significance, had the skillsets to develop into future managers sharing the same cultural and developing norms.

This does not mean that all those hired would make excellent managers or move into other related company opportunities as they might arise. There are those who desire to make sales a full time career and are passionately committed to doing so and there are those who want to move up to upper levels of corporate opportunities.

The key consideration is to provide each individual on your team the opportunity to excel first and foremost as a salesperson and recognize who within your group has the requisite skill sets to move up the corporate ladder as opportunities arise. The sales manager, in this process, must have the ability to evaluate where a person is in this overall developmental strategy and initiate a course of action conducive to the expressed goal.

Progress and Development versus Performance Review.

There are some learned individuals who press the issue that a performance review is contraindicated, as it relates to how it impacts on a salesperson’s state of mind and how it relates to job satisfaction and performance. From where I sit, the term itself might be the agonizing issue and how it is presented magnifying the perceived negative consequences. Clearly, some form of performance appraisal is required, but it can be accomplished in a more positive manner and format.

In my view, the term Progress and Development is the key.  In this approach, the manager and salesperson discuss areas in which there is agreement that improvement and GROWTH in significant areas will contribute to enhancing the goals mutually desired by both parties.

Historically, it has been a product of my experience to note that, because of the nature and quality of the person hired, that this strategy works in virtually every case. Obviously, as a part of the stated objective, sales success is an overriding factor, in which case the sales manager has a role in the success of this process. This does not obviate the need and responsibility of the salesperson to produce results a necessary factor in the evaluation strategy, but this will come as a natural consequence of the aforementioned strategy.

The author developed the Fiaccabrino Selection Process (FSP), a powerful methodology for interviewing and screening the best people for your organization. The objective is to select those people who will be the highest performers with the lowest turnover.  You can download a free primer of the FSP here: http://flevy.com/fiaccabrino-selection-process.

One of the points to be made is: all too often, a manager might have the good fortune to hire a “winner” and due to the ineffectiveness of the hiring manager, the salesperson fails. The irony is that the salesperson is fired or leaves the company fearing the worst; and the sales manager gets to keep his role of inbred incompetence.

This, of course, can be realistically prevented by initiating a cultural norm conducive to consistent growth and development of your “best of the best” personnel. It must be duly noted that this strategy does not remove any degree of high performance expectations.

In the interviewing and selection process, expectations are clearly spelled out to the degree that, unless the salesperson is on board with these high expectations and reflects an undeniable passion to be part of this culture, the candidate should rethink whether or not he or she wants to move forward in the acceptance process, bearing in mind that the hiring manager representing the company is interviewing the candidate and it is the hiring manager that makes the decision to make a job offer.  At the same time and to be sure all parties to this important transaction can exchange points of interest and information, the candidate at the appropriate time is provided the opportunity to ask whatever questions is deemed appropriate in order to help complete the “marriage” between company and candidate.

When there is a full understanding of the opportunity between candidate and company providing candidate scored at the “best of the best” level, a job offer can be made.  (Refer back to the humanistic attributes contained in the Fiaccabrino Selection Process and how it relates to the above.)

Initiating and developing a culture of high level performers is an ongoing process. In the foregoing, we reviewed some of the salient elements and how it applied to and related in the overall success strategy, a strategy that is at a high ethical level and results oriented over time.

In the foregoing, we discussed and stressed the importance of developing a culture of success. In our next segment, we will delve into the implementation process as it relates to the developmental process citing case histories. It’s one thing to hire the “best of the best,” but it doesn’t end there.

More to Come.

We’ve all heard of the “Peter Principle.” But, has any one ever heard of the “Peter Principle in reverse?” In my next segment, we will discuss a Fiaccabrino technique in which the “Peter Principle in Reverse” was employed as a strategy in implementing the developmental process as one of the cornerstone success factors.

About Charles Fiaccabrino

Known as "Mr. Roche," Charles Fiaccabrino helped grow Roche Diagnostics from a startup to a multi-billion dollar company. Roche is now a Fortune 200 enterprise with $50B+ in sales. Charles is a seasoned executive of 50+ years who has experience across all topics Sales- and Strategy-related. He also published the Fiaccabrino Selection Process, a powerful methodology for interviewing and screening the "best of the best" sales people.

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The Fiaccabrino Selection Process (FSP) is a proven methodology for increasing sales and reducing turnover, developed by "Mr. Roche," Charles Fiaccabrino. Mr. Fiaccabrino is a Sales Executive with over 50 years of experience. [Learn more]   Learn this time-tested approach to Change Management authored by Ron Leeman, recipient of the Change Leader award by the World HRD Congress in 2012. Ron Leeman has been Change, Process and Project professional since 1974. [Learn more]
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