16 Comments

I literally think I’ve stepped on half these land mines myself. Great write up!

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Interesting post David. Thanks. None incentivised sales is even harder to achieve.

I'm trying hard to build a sales team using some of our 41,000 skilled volunteers at https://skilledup.life

I failed to do this twice. 3rd time, I am very close to see a sales volunteer close a sale. I remain optimistic. If we could do this, then we can teach other bootstrapped tech founders to also build sales teams.

Many experienced sales friends have laughed at my attempts. I can only prove them wrong by producing results.

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Hi Manoj, I'd love to talk with you about what you're building at skilledup.life Cheers, Rob

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David, you are one of the clearest writers and most strategic thinkers and this article is Exhibit A. Unfortunately, the pronoun inserted by your name at the end (probably by Substack) is totally inconsistent with the Sacks brand. Hopefully you can fix this.

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Great Article David. I particularly have witnessed many times the challenges of short-term thinking. I have found a strong culture of thinking long term and actual customer obsession will fix many of the highlighted pitfalls. Always a delight to read from you

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I don’t disagree with any of the above specifics David, and I’m sure you have more relevant experience than most to write about them.

However, as someone who has spent their career in tech sales, I will say that largely sales people are the only ones other than founders with any significant skin in the game.

They should often be favored over other departments who are not incentivized to prioritize the company being profitable.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to fight against other departments to close deals both in the companies and customers interest due to.. our legal team being uncomfortable with a clause that they admitted was a want and not a need, customer service not wanting to do their job, finance not wanting to do extra paperwork, a factory not wanting to do the work of spinning up a new line despite it being profitable, an SA not wanting to spend time on a technical evaluation.. it goes on and on.

Moral is, you actually do get what you pay for. And with non sales people, that’s a non incentive to grow.

You’re right, it’s up to leadership to look after cost economics, but that isn’t rocket science.

What I have seen throughout my entire career, is not a failure of sales leadership to enforce culture.

I wish I’d had the problem of a culturally apathetic sales leadership (because I can rely on my own moral clock just fine)!

What I’ve seen is fairly amoral leaders attempting to force a culture.

But when you have no strong morals, you can’t create a positive culture. Cultures rest on expressed and shared values.

Neutrality, or the lack of morality, is not by its nature “neutral good.” It creates evil.

And so the result has been cultures of banal evil.

Nepotism and favoritism are old hat. Most recently the racism and sexism in hiring, promoting, bonus structures, etc has become the defining feature celebrated in corporate culture.

If you’re going to take the attitude you have above, I hope you actually are enforcing a culture and not just playing at it as most tech companies do.

P.s. I love your takes on All In

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Thoughts?

Latte-Drinking, Blue Hair-Wearing, Granola-Eating Dudes and American Eschatology https://torrancestephensphd.substack.com/p/latte-drinking-blue-hair-wearing

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Have experienced this in many of our clients (and been the recipient of these sorts of situations) - thanks for sharing.

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While many of the points mentioned in your article hold true, they mainly pertain to a specific type of salesperson who prioritizes closing deals with minimal obstacles. This type of salesperson seeks shortcuts, focuses only on short-term or possibly midterm goals, and may compromise their principles, disregarding the values that a company may hold. However, it is important to note that there are salespeople who highly value an ethical work environment, adhere to company values, and are deeply committed to the company's mission. For these individuals, sales targets and sales incentive plans align harmoniously with the overall structure and progression of the company.

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Clarifying article, thanks for writing it. The part about using the product roadmap effectively, prioritizing types of feedback, and not letting deals conditional on certain features was helpful.

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This is a masterclass on setting up sales. In fact, I was looking for some quality education on sales and then this popped up in my feed. Thank you, much appreciated!

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"Show me the incentive, and I will show you the outcome and the unintended consequences."

Love this.

While I appreciate the conciseness of "Show me the incentive, and I will show you the outcome", I'll add "and the unintended consequences" to the aphorism from now on.

When I've shared the original Munger aphorism with others, it often invokes blank stares from those who are hearing about it for the first time.

Since I think the main takeaway from the saying is to warn of perverse incentives, it seems worthwhile to be a bit more explicit.

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too profund. thank you David.

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Fantastic perspective!

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Spot on, practice advice. Should be required reading for anyone who sells or buys software.

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Totally agree with Problem #7: Metrics Creep

“If the Sales department is responsible for its own metrics, the metrics will inevitably evolve in ways that make it easier for them to hit their numbers.” To talk our book a bit - Revcast helps sales leaders solve for this by improving revenue performance with more accurate planning, real-time risk and opportunity assessment, and powerful capacity-based forecasting. https://www.revcast.com/

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