Sales managers and the empty-bucket strategy

empty bucketMelanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, shared in a NY Times a simple, interesting framework for management strategy sessions.

Whelan noted – we train our teams on what we call empty-bucket sessions where people state the facts of the problem, their interpretation and analysis of the facts and then and only then work collaboratively with their manager towards a solution. The idea being until you get to the bottom of things and everything is out there, you can’t start to build solutions.

It sounds simple – but it struck us with a few word of substitution these steps would provide a straightforward framework for sales managers to use when working with their sales teams to review sales strategy. This means sales managers would ask a sales rep to:

  • State the facts of the sales situation – like customer needs, competition, decision makers and influencers, and so forth.
  • Delineate their interpretation and analysis of the sales situation – is this a viable opportunity and why? what’s our competitive advantage? are there barriers to overcome and what resources will be required?
  • Work collaboratively with the sale manager to craft a sales strategy for the opportunity.

One of the reasons this message attracted our attention was our observation that many sales manager/sales rep strategy sessions are more backward rather than forward looking.  They are strategy review sessions about what did happen as opposed to strategy sessions about what should happen moving forward.

Time is a valuable asset.  We would suggest that time spent taking a fresh look for how to win new business is a better investment than rehashing old information about old problems one more time.  Whelan’s empty-bucket idea is a simple but effective framework for conducting that better investment.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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