Defining Sales Functions And Programs – How to Define Your Charter

Now, as we have defined vision mission and purpose, we have to be more specific. Based on your target audience (sales roles, sales manager roles, channel partners, etc.) motto, objectives, strategies and tactics, your specific services and your metrics have to be defined. For you as a sales leader make sure your sales functions complete these charters. Also, make sure they connect the dots between the different charters to set a foundation for effective collaboration. Let’s look at your five steps to complete your charter. These steps build on the first three steps, discussed here.

Create an inspiring tag line to address your target audience

A tag line should capture your vision. Especially in times of transformation, change and adoption programs, those tag lines shouldn’t be underestimated. That’s how people will feel about your function, initiative or program. An example for sales enablement and or sales training could be: Let’s change from “I have to sell a product” to “I love to solve my customer’s problems.” Then integrate vision, mission and purpose as discussed in my previous post.

Define goal and objectives

The goal is closely related to the vision, it captures what has to be achieved, e.g. “We implement sales enablement and collaboration platform for the sales force” or “we want to provide a state-of-the-art CRM system that drives collaboration and effectiveness.” Goals do not have to be strictly measurable or tangible. Objectives instead have to be tangible and measurable. Several objectives can lead to your goal. An example could be “The CRM collaboration platform will go live August 1 for selected users, migration will be completed by Oct 30.” Another objective could be “to implement interactive playbooks until September, to decrease salespeople’s search time by 20 percent.”

Define strategies, create a phased approach

This section is about how to bring the vision alive. A strategy refers to a plan of action which is designed to achieve the defined objectives. Detailing the strategies, the activities have to be derived from, and connected to the expected outcomes that have to be achieved. Capture all activities necessary to achieve the objectives. If you are going to implement sales technology or new enablement services, make sure there is an adoption activity included. Think about the salespeople you provide services for. Finally, organize the activities on a timeline and create a road map.

Define your services and offerings

Your services and offerings are what’s visible to your defined target audience, the different roles within the sales force and channels. Your services are what people use and how they will perceive your function. Those services are  e.g. sales enablement content, interactive playbooks, different training services, a collaboration platform, a performance management framework or a coaching guideline for sales managers. Define what is provided for which target audience.

Define how to measure success

Last but not least, define how to measure success. Those metrics depend on what’s included in your charter. If there are services to be implemented for the first time, milestones will be very important for you. If services are already in place, their effectiveness and their impact on sales performance is what matters. Last but not least, how efficient are these services produced? Make sure to cover all dimensions adequately.

Now, put it all together. Begin with your target audience, inflate vision, mission and purpose from the previous post, and add the topics that we discussed here – and create a compelling charter. It will become your go-to-resource for any kind of internal selling, communication, change and adoption situation.


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Defining Sales Functions And Programs – Why You Need Vision, Mission, Purpose First

Fitness, according to Oxford Dictionaries, is defined as “the quality or state of being fit.” That’s a general guideline, but what does it mean to you? It depends on your context. Are you a professional decathlete or a weekend trail runner?

Defining functions and programs the right way is key to success for both you as the sales leader and your sales functions as leader. Definitions create value only if they are adjusted to your organization’s specific context and challenges. Developing a big picture on vision, mission, purpose and core values is the first step in creating a meaningful charter for each of your sales functions. The purpose of such a charter is to support you in various internal selling and adoption situations with consistent messages that tell a compelling story.

And that’s the part you have to be deeply involved, because it’s about bridging the gap between business strategy and sales execution. Today we cover part one – vision, mission, purpose. A follow-up post will cover goals and objectives, strategies, the function’s services and metrics.

Step 1: The vision describes the desired future state

It describes WHERE you want to be, and what you want to achieve on a high level. To develop, for instance, a sales enablement vision, the organization’s vision has to be mapped to both sales and  sales enablement. Visions for sales forces often have to do with transformation from product selling to outcome selling. If so, your vision can describe, for example, being the leading internal function that drives the transformation towards outcome selling as well as productivity to create more customer value in complex buying environments. It’s of course different if sales’ vision is to build partner channels. Key to create a meaningful vision is to work precisely from top down. You cannot put the cart before the horse.

Step 2: The mission is about the current state leading to the future state

A mission defines HOW you will get to where you want to be. An example for sales ops could be defining and executing a sales operations framework to provide a compelling and integrated value creation process from prospect to contract, easy to use and powered by technology. An example for a sales enablement mission could be defining and executing a cross-functional enablement framework to provide integrated services that are tailored to an outcome oriented sales approach, powered by an enablement platform.

Step 3: Purpose and core values

The purpose answers the question WHY a certain sales function exists. A purpose can be that sales enablement orchestrates the various sources of knowledge to create integrated enablement services, tailored to each stage and each level of the customer’s journey. A purpose for sales ops could be to build the skeleton of the sales organization.

Core values show how you and your teams will behave along the journey to achieve the vision. This area depends on your organization’s culture. There are three core values you will always need in a world-class sales organization – collaboration, accountability and leadership.

Don’t underestimate these three steps. If these fundamentals are not defined properly, you and your functional leaders will need much more time to sell every single initiative internally. Be ready to provide answers to questions that are related to vision, mission, purpose and values. Invest your time wisely, and develop vision, mission and purpose for your core sales functions!

Watch out for the next post where we’ll talk about the second part of your sales functions’ charters – goals and objectives, strategies and tactics, services and metrics.


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Performance Accountability – A Behavior of World-Class Sales Performers

If a taxi driver delivers excellent services, then you are a lucky person. In case your taxi driver also helps you out with coins that were part of his tip just to make sure you can pick up a baggage cart and catch your flight – then you have a taxi driver who cared more about your outcome than about his own. That’s one aspect of performance accountability.

Performance Accountability—a behavior of world-class sales performers

The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identified three individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One of them is performance accountability. World -Class Sales Organizations set themselves apart in many ways. One example for performance accountability is their ability to align their sales performance metrics with their business objectives. It sounds obvious, but our data show – in a consistent way over the last four years – that this is a very significant differentiator between world class and all respondents. Now, how does performance accountability look like for a salesperson? Let’s look at a few criteria:

Accountability for the customers’ success

First and foremost, world-class sales performers hold themselves accountable for their customers’ success. They know that the customers’ success is the foundation of their own success. They own the customer’s expected outcome that was part of the solution they have sold. They do everything they can to make sure the expected value is achieved or overachieved. World-class sales performers hold themselves accountable along the entire customer’s journey. There is no walking away after a deal is closed, just as the taxi driver didn’t walk away.

Accountability for own performance

World-class sales performers are focused on results. They don’t accept excuses. They know that focus and energy create movement, and they use their time wisely. They hold themselves accountable to the standards and expectations set by their frontline sales manager (FSM). They recognize that their FSM relies on timely and accurate business updates. They deliver on forecast commitments and maintain current and accurate funnel data. That’s why they are always prepared for opportunity reviews.


World-class sales performers are professionals to the core. They show up every day. They practice hard. They always try to become better. And they demand continuous coaching from their sales manager to leverage their full potential. They are committed to mastering various sales techniques, they are courageous, creative and they take risks – even in the face of fear. They reflect their practice all the time, and they learn even when they lose. Even if they lose the deal, they gain experience. Last but not least, they collaborate: they share best practices, they love to learn from others, and they are well respected by other world-class sales professionals.

Looking for more interesting data on world-class sales performance?

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Conscious Collaboration—A Behavior Of World Class Sales Performers

Look at a couple of your won deals and analyze the criteria that made the difference. There will be tangible criteria such as the vision of future success, the compelling business case, a specific solution whose value outweighed the perceived risk of change, etc. There is one intangible criterion that empowers all the tangible criteria, and that is collaboration.

Conscious collaboration—a behavior of world-class sales performers

The 2014 MHI Global Sales Best Practices Study identifies the individual behaviors that drive world-class sales performance. One is conscious collaboration. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to pursue large deals, specifically to quickly allocate the right resources to those deals. It’s the ability to collaborate across departments to manage strategic accounts and to have an effective cross-functional process to manage global accounts. Conscious collaboration also means that sales and marketing are solidly aligned, with a shared understanding of the customer’s journey and a shared focus on one goal: revenue.

Collaboration needs to be defined

The purpose of collaboration is not collaboration itself. It’s achieving better results in a shorter amount of time.  It allows individuals with disparate areas of expertise and different roles to work together in ad hoc scenarios through a common language and strategic frameworks. Collaboration connects teams, organizations and companies. It’s how they work together to multiply their individual contributions. Collaboration objectives are different for a strategic account environment, and they are different for an inside sales team. Sales professionals are traditionally more competitive than collaborative, which means that collaboration and its objectives must be clearly defined. Collaboration has to make sense for sales professionals. That’s why we call it conscious collaboration. Each situation is unique and requires its own balance of collaboration and competition. For example, large deal team are necessarily collaborative, while account teams compete for sales resources, and sales professionals may compete for promotions. Defining collaboration cannot be delegated. It is a sales leadership task. When sales leaders establish guiding principles for different situations and defines expected behaviors, it creates the foundation for conscious collaboration.

Collaboration needs a framework to create business impact

These principles and definitions must be operationalized to create a common language and a shared understanding of the components of the strategic framework. Successful collaboration frameworks start with the customers at the core. Those frameworks cover customer management strategies (including account and opportunity plans), industry strategies and sales execution plans. Messaging covers how to address different customer stakeholders with the right messages based on their concepts and roles. Another component is knowledge—covering all relevant knowledge areas (e.g., customer, products and solutions, industries, competitors and internal knowledge. Prepared with such a framework, and ideally embedded in technology, collaboration and enablement platforms together with integrated SFA/CRM systems can create great value. The extended sales teams can speak the same language, have access to the same information and are able to focus on the customer instead of constantly needing to adapt to random, judgment-based tactics driven by individual sales professionals. In this way, conscious collaboration empowers sales communities.

Looking for more interesting data on world-class sales performance?


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What Are The Leading Investments In Sales Productivity?

In our 2013 Sales Performance and Productivity Study, the following investments in sales productivity 2013 and 2014 emerged as the top three:

Process, skills and competencies cover the “how to sell” dimensions, whereas the second initiative is focused on the “what to sell” dimension. The third initiative on sales manager training and development covers two dimensions at the same time: The first is to train sales managers on the skills and competencies they need to perform their role most effectively, and the second one is to develop their coaching excellence. Front line sales managers’ ability to coach is what makes the differences in terms of measurable business impact. Depending on their span of control, front line sales managers have the biggest leverage effect in any sales organizations when it comes to sales execution.

To create more business impact out of these investments, two connections must be made:
First, it is essential to integrate the sales methodology in any training or content service that covers product knowledge. Learning skills or competencies, e.g. a new way of delivering value messages, is much easier with the products and services that are sold, than with neutral examples.

Second, the sales manager training and development needs to be derived from the implemented sales methodologies and processes. Coaching frameworks and guidelines have to be tailored according to the sales operations and enablement framework. On the one hand, coaching helps to identify the actual stage of an opportunity to define the right forecast. On the other hand, coaching of opportunities, especially of early opportunities, has to mirror the implemented messaging and engagement principles. Only then can coaching have the potential to reinforce sales enablement and sales training investments on a regular basis.

Help us help you. Invest a few minutes to participate in our 3rd MHI Research Institute Sales Performance and Productivity Study 2014. The SPPS 2014 is focused on sales operations, sales enablement, sales training and sales technology. We want to learn more about the scope and the trends regarding sales productivity in different functions. Furthermore, we want to understand current and future investment priorities. A special focus this year is on the role of front line sales managers and how well they are equipped, and on the different initiatives driven in sales enablement and/or sales training.

What you can expect from the study as a participant

The findings of the SPPS 2014 will help you as a participant to understand those sales productivity core themes and trends, as well as the related investments trends. Furthermore, the findings will help you with data to support your strategic planning for 2015 in your organization.

What’s in it for you – immediately?

In return for investing your time to complete this survey, you will have immediate access to a collection of research published by the MHI Research Institute, the Strategic Themes Digest, as well as an invitation to our participants’ webinar that will feature the results in October.

Click here to get to the study – it’s open through August 1, 2014.

Thank YOU very much for participating!


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Why Being A B2B Buyer Is Different – Consumerization Is A Poor Comparison

When buying a personal laptop, you know what you want, your budget, and your brand preferences. Then you make your online research to come up with a short list. Your best options get compared and you make a decision, placing the order online. That’s consumerization in the IT space. Reflect how you bought your first laptop and compare with how you do it now. Figuring out what you needed was maybe a time consuming process, often with iterations and mistakes. But having done that more than once, with more information available online, you know where to go, and who to trust when making your decision.

Now imagine yourself working for a large corporation.  - you are the final decision maker for the company’s new laptop generation. The CFO asks about the impact on cash flow, operating expenses and different “return on” metrics. The CEO wants to see the impact on productivity, the corporate IT board bothers you with a number of guidelines and policies, as well as procurement. Will you be following the same process as you would when buying a personal laptop to make a corporate buying decision? Most likely, no. The context is different, the impacted stakeholders are different, and what you buy is different, too. It’s always a specific, but complex buying situation.

Consumer and Business Buyers – don’t lump them together

People may argue that consumerization, makes all buyers the same. Buyers act as human beings. Whatever people learn in one area of their life has an impact on other areas. Your Mac at home is probably what you expect in the company. But for some reason, you won’t get a Mac there.

The buying context is different

The B2B buying situation is determined by the company’s current state, their desired results, their stakeholders, their budgets, etc. Their situational context is specific, even if the situation has common patterns, such as budget optimization challenges or effectiveness and investment challenges. As a buyer, you need to understand what different solutions mean to your area of responsibility in terms of business outcomes.

Many stakeholders – many different concepts

In a private role, you depend on your individual concept how to fix a problem, how to avoid a risk and how to achieve a goal. In an organization, you are confronted with different challenges. Therefore, your perspective how to approach those challenges are unique to your B2B role. Furthermore, other impacted stakeholders have their own, often different, concepts in mind, based on their perception of the situation.

Decision dynamic is different

While the buyer’s journey may look the same on a very high level, the decision dynamic is very different, every time. It’s true that consumerization, like our IT example, impacts people’s concepts and expectations regarding services and outcomes. But the decision criteria in a B2B situation will be different and they have to be agreed upon across the entire stakeholder network. There are people with more or less influence and power. Only a very few of them will have their skin in the game.  Imagine what happens, if a key stakeholder with lots of power and influence doesn’t prioritize your specific buying initiative? Let’s assume that all initiatives on the table have great financial impact. In this specific B2B buying situation, decision-making becomes political.

As B2B buying is different, so too is B2B sales. Understanding the buyers’ context and concepts, orchestrating their decision dynamic, to provide a value-creating perspective – that’s always unique. That’s why sales professionals exist – to create value for their customers, to help them to achieve their desired results and wins.

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The Biggest Inhibitors To Sales Success

Consider this scenario: The first physical meeting with a new customer has been scheduled. To prepare, the account manager invited a colleague from solution sales and an industry expert. A few emails were exchanged and they finally meet for the first time in the customer’s lobby. A quick discussion ensued on who is saying what. All three had a story to tell, but these stories were neither well aligned nor tailored to the customer’s context and concepts. The sales team talked about products and services without having a real conversation with the customer about their issues. Did they provide a winning perspective for the customer? Probably not.

This is just one example of what can get in the way of sales success. There are different inhibitors to sales success in different organizations and in different industries, depending on what and how you sell, and how radically the customers’ expectations changed from buying products to achieving measurable business outcomes. There are several different perspectives that come into play when looking at this issue, but one statement is true without any doubt: It’s never just one inhibitor that stands in the way of sales success.

In our 2013 Sales Performance and Sales Productivity Study, the biggest inhibitors to sales success were:

  • Communicating value messages and competition – 22%
  • Pricing – 22%
  • Challenge of a complex buying requirements with – 19%
  • Inability to attract new clients – 15%

These four inhibitors covered 78 percent of the inhibitor space.

All four are closely connected to each other. If sales professionals are not able to communicate the right value messages to prospects and clients at the right time during the customer’s journey and to the right buyer roles, the other inhibitors are logical consequences.

Value messaging goes south when there is no dynamic messaging framework in place that helps people to tailor messages to the different stages along the customer’s journey and to different buyer roles. When that happens, sales professionals are more likely to find themselves in a competition-driven, price-focused buying process. If customers don’t recognize a significant differentiation in terms of outcomes — which sets a provider apart from the competition — the buying process will make all providers look the same.

Buying environments and requirements become more complex every day due to two elements:
1. an increasing number of impacted stakeholders and, 2. more risk-averse and more financial results driven buying processes. Both elements increase buying complexity and buying dynamic. Product value has to be translated into the buyers’ different worlds regarding business results and wins. If all these challenges exist, the fourth challenge, the inability to attract new customers, follows.

Around this time of the year, sales organizations prepare for their strategic planning process in the fall. Sales performance and sales productivity are key metrics to be improved continuously. Many data points are relevant, e.g. results of your current initiatives, adjusted roadmaps, latest trends in the industry, and specific sales challenges and how they are addressed in other organizations.

Help us to help you and invest a few minutes to participate in our 3rd MHI Research Institute Sales Performance and Productivity Study 2014. The SPPS 2014 is focused on sales operations, sales enablement, sales training and sales technology. We want to learn more about the scope and the trends regarding sales productivity in different functions. Furthermore, we want to understand your current and future investment priorities. A special focus this year is on the role of front line sales managers and how well they are equipped, and on the different initiatives driven in sales enablement and/or sales training.

What you can expect from the study as a participant

The findings of the SPPS 2014 will help you as a participant to understand those sales productivity core themes and trends, as well as the related investments trends. Furthermore, the findings will help you with data to support your strategic planning for 2015 in your organization, regarding trends, scope and investment priorities.

What’s in it for you – immediately?

In return for investing your time to complete this survey, you will have immediate access to a collection of research published by the MHI Research Institute, the Strategic Themes Digest, as well as an invitation to our participants’ webinar that will feature the results in October.

Click here to get to the study – it’s open through August 1, 2014.

Thank YOU very much for participating!


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Enabling Principles To Develop Salespeople’s Adaptive Skills

Let me start by defining a couple of terms that I’ll be using throughout this article.

Principles provide guidance that are based on an organization’s core values how to deal with different customer situations. Principles require interpretation and adaption to the specific situation. Instead, rules are clearly defined statements with almost no space for interpretation. Rules define what and how to do in a certain sequence, given a defined situation.

Demanding, complex buyer networks require adaptive sales professionals

Today’s customers are very demanding and more risk averse than the customer from a few years ago. The number of involved customer stakeholders is growing, and buying processes are more formalized than ever. Decisions are no longer based on features and functions but on financial business performance criteria. Furthermore, every customer makes every decision differently, every time, which makes every sale different. Sales professionals have to learn, unlearn and relearn very quickly due to those changing buying environments. That covers all areas of knowledge, selling and problem solving capabilities. Therefore, an adaptive mind set is the prerequisite to remain successful even in complex environments.

Navigating complexity – principles are key to success

When embedded in a framework, principles, defined as guidelines (see above), and based on core values, such as providing perspectives, can be easily adjusted to those different and complex situations. Rules wouldn’t be flexible enough for complex environments. A customer’s journey has iterations, especially in the early phases. The more customer stakeholders learn, and the more new stakeholders get involved with different concepts, the more likely they will step back and tackle the challenge again from a different perspective. Ideally, a sales professional has provided a more value-creating perspective and caused such iteration. The flexibility of principles combined with the ability of the sales professional to apply those principles fast to new situations is an A-Player’s recipe for success.

Enabling Principles

Sales principles are focused to create a specific value for customers to help them achieve their goals. In parallel, they help to move deals forward. Sales enablement has to define those principles how to achieve each stage of the customer’s journey, derived from the sales methodology. As an example, the principle for the awareness phase could be to develop a shared vision of the customer’s desired future state to drive their desired results. There are multiple ways achieve such a shared future vision of success. But the success depends on the customer’s specific context, the stakeholder’s different concepts, and the sales professionals’ decision dynamic expertise and their adaptive capabilities to adopt principles to a specific situation fast and effectively.

Sales enablement has to build frameworks with enablement modules addressing those principles. Design point as always is: customers at the core.

  • Level one is the knowledge foundation. It covers packaging content modules stage per stage in interactive and dynamic playbooks. And it teaches how to use them effectively.
  • Level two is the skill foundation, it’s about all relevant selling capabilities, mostly provided as training services.
  • Level three makes the difference. It’s about training the sales professional’s adaptive capabilities based on the provided knowledge and methods. Training to create impact has to be an ongoing, consistent practice to achieve world-class performance. It has to be reinforced with a connected coaching practice by the front line sales managers.

Level three training – “selling simulation” would be the better word – is about practicing business awareness in different conversations with different stakeholders at different stages in different situations, but in a safe environment.

Enabling and sharpening adaptive skills is the missing piece in sales enablement that equips sales professionals to play in the Premier League, to deliver significant results in today’s complex and fast changing buying environments.

How do you equip your sales professionals’ adaptive skills?

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Sales Enablement: Customer Core Framework to Provide Perspectives

What are the elements that are missing in many sales enablement approaches? How could the discipline create much more business impact? How could a scalable enablement framework look like – a framework with the customers at the core, that equips sales professionals with integrated content and training services to provide perspectives along the entire customer’s journey?

Interested? Check out my guest post, I have written for the SAVO blog:

Sales Enablement: Customer Core Framework to Provide Perspectives

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Sales Enablement and Technology – The Execution Gap

Watching a film we are often impressed – apart from a great story – by the technique or style with which the artistic work was produced. We are impressed when a film is entirely professional in its execution.

Execution – the act of doing or performing something, of carrying out a plan, a course of actions to achieve a certain goal. The execution gap is the third part of my little series on sales enablement and technology. The change gap and the collaboration gap were the topics of the first two posts.

Technology is not to blame

Executing a technology implementation can only be done successfully if a few cornerstones are in place that also serve as a foundation to master the change and collaboration gaps. How often do you see technology decisions made, but major stakeholders from the lines of business were not involved accordingly, and the preparation work was only done in parts, if at all? Then, the change and collaboration gaps popped up, one after the other. Execution is in short supply. Blaming begins. But – given a functioning system – technology is not to blame. It does what people allow the system to do. Root causes are how well the decision was made, how well vision, mission, purpose, goals and roadmap were defined, how well the implementation was prepared from a business perspective, how well change and collaboration gaps were mastered, and how well the program was executed.

Vision, mission, purpose, goals and strategy have to be defined from a business perspective

Very often, those essentials are missing. Phrases like “improving collaboration” and “improving productivity” are often used, but they are not even a goal. They don’t tell a story, they are not measurable and the question “from what – to what?” is not answered. Even more important is the often missing trilogy of vision, mission and purpose. Why is that so important? A vision statement is focused on the future, it answers the question: “Where do we aim to be?” A mission statement talks about the present leading to its future, it answers the questions: “What do we do and how do we do it? What makes us different?” Purpose answers the questions: “Why are we doing this? Why does this program exist?” It also covers the guiding principles that lead all actions to achieve the goals. Then, a strategy can be derived, which is a roadmap to get from here to there.

Methods, process and frameworks have to operationalize the implementation

A successful implementation requires conceptual homework. It requires holistic and system thinking, led by a business perspective. To leverage sales technology successfully, to justify the investment, a robust framework of methodology, embedded in a flexible process, guided by principles, rather than by rules, has to be in place. It’s the heart of the system you are going to implement. It’s the same for sales enablement or CRM technology.  The focus for a CRM is more on the sales methodology and the sales process itself. For sales enablement, the conceptual framework defines enablement services along the sales process/customer’s journey based on sales methodology and engagement principles. The operational framework defines how enablement services are created, published and provided as well as localized. If that’s in place, collaboration is already operationalized, and change and adoption programs have a much stronger foundation.

Nothing beats leadership

Implementing technology is not only a huge investment; it also entails a lot of change and a different way of working collaboratively, which I addressed in the two previous posts. The combined challenges of change gap, collaboration and execution gap make for a complex environment, which requires leadership, leadership and leadership to succeed.

Leadership cannot be delegated. Business power is necessary. The larger the program, the more leadership is required – from the sales leader – continuously.


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