Philie Group Blog

5 Keys to Sales Leadership
By Mike Philie

This blog originally published in Printing Impressions.


Your coming off of a great year, so congratulations! What are you going to do now, raise the bar or lower it? There are many factors that lead to a successful year and the best way to continually improve is to learn and understand why you were successful. You could have been riding the wave of an increase in demand from your best clients or you went out and landed new business that took you over the top. These are two ends of the spectrum and maybe your situation is in the middle. Regardless, you should watch the film and learn what worked and what didn’t work.


What Did You Learn

What was the difference between your reps that met, or surpassed their budget vs. those that didn’t? Here’s a few areas to consider when making a performance evaluation within your team.

  • Which accounts they handle. Face it, you want accounts that use print to drive their business and if you’re lucky enough to have those that do, then congrats. If there are verticals that you currently excel in, can you direct the under-performing reps to those areas where they can leverage your success?
  • The breadth and width of their networks. How well do the reps build networks within accounts and in the marketplace in general? What’s the difference in networks between the top reps and the others? How are they building their networks and how long should it take?
  • Collaborate with their accounts. Take a look at the role your reps have with their best accounts. Are they a trusted advisor, a concierge, or an order taker? Are they active and engaged in their client’s business so that they can intelligently make good recommendations? How much time do they spend with their top accounts vs their other accounts and is it making a positive difference? Again, how does this differ between your top performers and the others?
  • Collaborate or clash with your internal support folks and the rules of engagement. They may do well with their clients but do they play well in the sandbox when working with the internal folks who make it happen every day? It’s also good to review how they follow the best practices that have been established for the business. Note: There’s a delicate question you should answer and that is, are your top performers successful because they follow your best practices or because they don’t? Because if they don’t follow them, perhaps they aren’t really the best practices for your business.


What Do Your Clients Want?

Great quality, great service, and a fair price are reasonable expectations to have from a client. But what else do the really want? Or maybe the question is, what do they really need? They may not know what to ask for but the more that you know about their business and the changes that have taken place within, the better you’ll be able to make good recommendations-recommendations that further differentiate you from your competitors.


The end of year, and beginning of year timeframes often lend themselves to doing client reviews. This is a great opportunity to re-evaluate what you have been providing and how you’ve delivered it. This should not only be an internal exercise but also a good time to meet with your key accounts and ask them their thoughts. What can you do to be a little bit less annoying to them, and maybe at the same time, eliminate the things that add no value?


Coach for Success

Once you’ve identified the differences between your top performers and your other reps in terms of client selection, client engagement, time management, network building, and their alignment with your best practices, you’ll have an action list of areas that you can work from. One of your roles as a sales leader is to help your team reach a level that they couldn’t have gotten to on their own. Here are five areas that effective leaders can focus on during their 1:1 sales rep coaching sessions:

  1. Customer satisfaction. How satisfied and loyal is their client base? Are there expectation gaps that should be discussed and worked on in the upcoming months? If you use any type of customer satisfaction tools, a monthly report of their clients is useful in this review.
  2. Customer engagement. How much time is the rep spending with each account? This may be easier to do if you’ve implemented a CRM application but even if you haven’t, reviewing daily/weekly calendars could be a good start. Where is the rep spending their time, with who, and what impact is it making? Make sure that they are continuing to build their network within existing accounts to solidify their position and to gain market intelligence. Finally, who haven’t they spent time with that they should? A review of their inactive accounts is always helpful and can lead to re-engaging some business.
  3. Tips, tricks, and best practices. Strong leaders bring new ideas to the table at each session. New ideas that may lead to a different sales approach, or an easier way to collect business intelligence and make smarter decisions, or simply a way to land more business.
  4. Business results. This should include a review of their business for the month and YTD and includes sales to budget, to last year, a pipeline review of open project opportunities, a review of next month’s forecast, an AR review (are you getting paid), and results from both new and inactive accounts. You may also want to include a report of project estimates that they quoted during the same period in the prior year so that they don’t overlook any upcoming opportunities.
  5. What didn’t work? Make sure to include a review of projects that failed or didn’t meet the client (or your) expectations and determine what could be done differently in the future. It’s also important to discuss any new business opportunities or meetings with new prospects that didn’t advance to the next level. Again, what can you learn from it and what would you do differently in the future

There’s no magic here. These are some simple blocking and tackling steps that lead to improving your scalable, repeatable, and relevant selling process. Good luck, let me know how you’re doing, and have fun.


Mike Philie can help validate what’s working and what may need to change in your business. Changing the trajectory of a business is difficult to do while simultaneously operating the core competencies. Mike provides strategy and insight to owners and CEOs in the Graphic Communications Industry by providing direct and realistic assessments, not being afraid to voice the unpopular opinion and helping leaders navigate change through a common sense and practical approach. Learn more at, LinkedIn or email at



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