Why Chasing Shiny Objects Isn’t a Great Approach to Sales

It’s been my experience as a Fractional VP of Sales that chasing shiny objects is the number one reason for sales revenue generation failure to launch. In sales, ‘chasing shiny objects’ refers to the successive and rapid non-focused pursuit of any and all sales opportunities that look promising. This is a phenomenon in which each opportunity looks more interesting than the one before it and is pursued without any analysis of Probability to Close to support that decision.  

The Danger of Chasing Shiny Objects 

This type of activity makes a sales team appear active and potentially productive, which can lull business owners into a false sense of security. In reality, this approach means resources get poured into chasing sales opportunities that are not a good fit.  Further, the opportunity cost of the time invested in these wild goose chases is high.  Weeks, months, and quarters can fly by while chasing these shiny objects with no revenue results to show for it.

Unfortunately, it can take several quarters to prove that this approach to sales is ineffective. An entire year of sales quota can be burned as the sales team goes after these non-opportunities. So, what can be done about this? 

How to Avoid Wasting Time and Resources on Sales Opportunities That Don’t Materialize

1. Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile

Before your sales team is tasked with going on the hunt for new clients, ensure they have a vivid description of exactly what it is they are looking for. Document the prospect type by whatever parameters are required for your business.

Typically, these are things such as their annual revenue, headcount, geographic location, the degree to which they would use your products and services in volume and revenue, and the pain points that your solutions or products would resolve.

2. Create Buyer Personas

A buyer persona is a semi-fictional psychographic description of the individuals your salespeople are selling to. It should describe in detail the things the buyers or decision-makers are motivated by, what they do and don’t care about, and what their goals and challenges are. 

It’s helpful to create a specific representation of a buyer with a name, age, gender, and position in their company’s organizational chart. This detailed description helps salespeople prepare for the sales task at hand by helping them visualize a real person with needs and challenges that they can address in their sales approach.

3. Identify the Opposite of Your Ideal Customer Profile and Buyer Personas

Once you’ve got a clear description of who your ideal customers are and their detailed buyer personas, that allows you to be equally clear on who you’re not targeting. This gives your salespeople clarity on what not to pursue as they are hunting for opportunities.

Opportunities with insufficient volume or lack of clearly stated needs are not the best ones to devote time and effort toward. Beware of prospects that say, “we’re small now but we have big growth plans”. These often end up being customers that get significant discounts upfront for volume that never materializes. 

4. Teach Your Sales Team to Say No

Salespeople tend to be eternal optimists who see every viable sales opportunity as a great one. Being competitive and enjoying a challenge can also play into chasing shiny objects. Your people may not take the time to discern between a viable opportunity and an excellent one. 

One way to remedy this is to let them know that it’s absolutely okay to throw a fish that’s too small back into the water! It’s also a good idea to let them know that it’s perfectly acceptable for them to empty their funnel of opportunities that are shiny objects and start from zero.

5. Establish a Documented Sales Process 

Salespeople are attracted to shiny objects because they enjoy the reassurance of a full funnel. An empty funnel is a scary thing when you have no clear line of sight into how to fill it up with good opportunities.

Taking the time to document your sales process gives your team a systematic process to follow that will result in a full funnel over time. With clear steps to take, they will have confidence in their ability to fill the funnel as long as they hit the minimum daily sales activity requirements. Taking the mystery out of finding opportunities will help prevent chasing shiny objects.

6. Add “Chasing Shiny Objects” Into Your Company Vernacular

Even your best sellers will occasionally fall into the trap of pursuing shiny objects. By adding this language into your team’s vocabulary, the manager of your sales team has a non-judgemental way to question whether or not an opportunity your salesperson is devoting time, resources, and money into is, in fact, worthy of it. It’s also a catchy phrase that will stay with your salespeople and encourage them to ask themselves, “is this a shiny object I’m after?”. 

No sales leader wants their people to be distracted by pursuing new opportunities at the expense of neglecting better opportunities that may already be underway. The urge to chase shiny objects happens to the best sellers but being aware of it and taking the steps above can help you make sure your revenue doesn’t suffer because of it. 

Are you dealing with shiny object syndrome on your sales team and wondering how to approach it? Get in touch and I’d be happy to discuss this with you further. 


How to Set Your New Sales Manager Up for Success

When you’ve promoted one of your sales people to the role of Sales Manager, you need to ask yourself: is this person ready to “manage” or will they get caught in the trap of being a “Doer”?

In my role as a Fractional VP of Sales, a classic trap I see newly minted sales managers fall into is to assume their new job role is to be an amplified version of what they were doing as a salesperson. Meanwhile, business owners often assume that first-time sales managers are prepared for their new management role when in fact, they are not.

Doing vs. Managing

The situation I most commonly see play out is one in which an ambitious salesperson is identified as the next great sales manager. That person gets promoted amidst high expectations, but eventually begins to flounder and gets buried six, nine, and twelve months into the role while all parties are left scratching their heads as to why.

The job of a sales manager is to manage the numbers and lead the salespeople. This means devoting time to coaching their reports rather than doing their jobs for them. A sales manager who is a doer will quickly get buried in tasks that they are doing on behalf of their team. In other words, their time gets eaten up by doing the fishing rather than spending time teaching their reports how to fish for themselves. 

How to Help a New Sales Manager Succeed

Here’s how to avoid the common pitfall of having a sales manager who is a doer rather than a manager.

1. Give Your Sales Manager Leadership Training 

Most people are promoted to leadership positions without having a clue how to be effective leaders. It is just presumed that because they were a good salesperson they will automatically be a good leader.  This is often not the case because leading is an entirely different skill set.

Look externally to find someone who can offer leadership and management training to your sales manager within their first couple of months in the role. If you google “leadership or management training” you’ll have more local options at your fingertips than you ever believed could exist. Another option is to find a paid leadership coach or mentor for your new hire. 

The reason for hiring someone external to your business is that they can provide an objective learning experience  to a new manager. They will guide this person in a way that teaches them leadership and management with a fresh perspective not beholden to anything in the organization.

 2. Establish Relevant KPIs for the New Sales Manager 

The first KPI to set would be the number of coaching sessions held with direct reports. You want to know the frequency, duration, and content of those sessions. This is the simplest way to know whether your manager is actually managing as they should be, or if they are guilty of doing.

If they are managing, they will be devoting regular time and energy in the form of 30-to-60-minute one-on-ones with their direct reports. The content of these coaching sessions should make sense to the business owner relative to what the salespeople should be doing on a daily basis.

If there’s no coaching happening, it’s not happening frequently enough, or when it is happening it’s focused on the wrong things, then you can be sure that your sales manager is not teaching their people how to fish. A new sales manager should be having meaningful one-on-ones with their team by their second month in their role.

3. Task the Sales Manager With Creating a Professional Development Plan for Each Salesperson

If a sales manager doesn’t have this documented, they probably haven’t considered the development of their people. When combined with not having coaching sessions that should be devoted to developing each member of their team the path is set for the manager to be doing rather than managing.

4. Assess Your Manager’s Approach to Problem Resolution

Ask your new sales manager what role their salespeople are playing in fixing problems that arise. If your manager is using language that has a lot of “I’s” (ex. I did x, I solved y, I took z over…etc.) then the manager is likely taking matters into their own hands rather than encouraging their people to find solutions.

Of course, there are natural points of escalation when a manager needs to get involved. But a manager’s role is to provide guidance to all their people and follow up as needed. Their reports should be the ones in there with their sleeves rolled up and fixing issues.

5. Structure Your Manager’s Role to Allow Them to Manage

You need to free up your manager to manage. If you want them selling, then their title should be a salesperson. If your sales manager has dual roles that require them to both sell and manage others, they’ll be challenged to succeed. 

It’s simply too much work for one person to sell and maintain accounts and lead others. When someone is tasked with both things, at least one of those two things will not be done satisfactorily. Or worse, neither of those things will be done well!

6. Talk to Direct Reports of Your Sales Manager to Assess How They are Doing

It’s a good idea to check in with the salespeople to see how they are doing working with their new manager. Of course, you need to keep in mind that people are generally reluctant to throw someone under the bus, so you need to ask questions carefully and read between the lines to interpret not only what they’re saying but also how they’re saying it.

As a business owner, you want your manager to succeed. So be sure to listen for things you may not want to hear. The sooner you have a real insight into how your new manager is doing, the sooner you can course-correct to help them improve.

By following these steps, you’ll give your new sales manager the tools they need to succeed and prevent them from getting burnt out. If you have questions about any of these steps or are looking for help with getting a new sales manager ready for their position, get in touch.

How to Create Part-Time Roles for Sales Reps on Parental Leave

Every sales manager or business owner will eventually encounter a situation in which an employee goes on maternity or paternity leave. In some cases, after a period of time the employee may express a desire to get back to work on a part-time basis before their parental is finished.

Of course, before setting up any kind of work arrangement with an employee currently on parental leave, be sure to check all the required governmental rules and regulations in your area before doing so.

Though there are certainly some precautions that need to be taken, if managed correctly, this is a great opportunity for both the company and the employee in question. The employee has the opportunity to feel fulfilled by contributing at work, and the business can benefit from a positively contributing resource.

Tips for a Successful Part-Time Work Arrangement During Parental Leave From a Fractional VP of Sales

It’s easy to imagine what might go wrong when a member of your sales team is not officially back from leave yet contributing again. The danger is that tasks might be partially completed and left dangling for someone else to pick up, all at the risk of appearing disorganized or unprofessional to your customers.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take as a sales leader to minimize the chances of this happening.

1. Have the Employee Secure Regular, Committed Childcare

For any staff member to do their job well, they need focused time and attention. Without committed, reliable childcare, that just isn’t possible. If a staff member on mat leave plans to deliver on tasks, there is likely a co-worker downstream whose ability to do their next task depends on that thing being done. 

If a person on mat leave has committed to doing something by a certain time, but that gets prevented by insufficient child care planning, that disrupts the people downstream and everyone –  the sales rep, the customer, and the company – experiences frustration.

With reliable childcare, the employee can have some guaranteed closed-door time during which they can effectively do their job, and downstream parties can rest assured that they can plan their own tasks and days accordingly.

2.  Have Childcare Planned for the Right Time of Day

If the duties and tasks the employee wants to do must be done during business hours (such as customer-facing interactions), then their childcare needs to be available at the right time of the day to serve the needs of all parties. 

It may be that the tasks they’re doing can be done after hours, in which case, that’s great! Just keep in mind that tasks can carry over to the next day if there are questions about them that need to be answered. 

3. Establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

The person on leave must commit to how much they will do of which duties and tasks. As the work they are doing is likely going to impact other people they’ll need to know what’s going to be done and when. This will help the leader manage the situation and prepare resources downstream from this person for whatever outputs will be coming their way.

The KPIs should include a weekly one-on-one meeting to assess how things are going and course-correct along the way if necessary. This of course means that the employee must be available once a week for a 30-minute meeting with their manager.

4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

When an employee is on leave, they may not present at all departmental meetings. This makes it important to establish clear, open, and frequent communication to ensure that all parties are consistently aligned. 

This will facilitate addressing any day-to-day challenges that might arise during a part-time work arrangement. 

5. Provide Appropriate Compensation According to Local Labour Laws

In Canada, it is possible for an employee to work up to ten days during maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits. This arrangement is referred to as ‘keeping in touch’ days. Before setting up any kind of part-time work arrangement, be sure that you and the employee on leave are both fully aware of the regulations around working during maternity leave and how that impacts benefits.

Returning to the workplace in some capacity during maternity leave can be a great opportunity for interested parties to remain fulfilled and “connected to the adult world”. It’s also a great opportunity for employers to help those employees remain fulfilled. By following the tips above, you can set the stage for this to be a win-win situation.

Feel free to Get in touch with Rob if you’d like to discuss this further.