3 Ways to Master Sales Team Politics


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We all have it.  It is the political bank account inside a company that gets things done. Some people have more political capital than you.  Many have less. You can build or ‘deposit’ this capital through several methods.  For example, making the number consistently helps increase your political capital.  Getting drunk and insulting the CEO at the Annual Sales Kickoff Meeting withdraws it. This political capital bank account can be as important as making your number.

You build political capital over time. It’s time with the person not time with your company.   The proof of this is when the CEO’s former employee is hired.  Or the sales rep you recruited because of their reliability and loyalty to you.  This political capital is easy to lose and hard to get.

Let’s first define Political Capital (PC):

sales team ploitics political capital

But you as a Sales VP ask several questions about Political Capital. (Let’s call it ‘PC’ for short):

  • How do I get PC?
  • How can I use PC?
  • What do I use PC for?

Download the Sales Political Capital Guide.  It teaches you how to answer those first two questions: How do I get it?  How can I use it? We will answer the other question below:

What do I use it for?                                        

Sales Political Capital Guide


What you use your Political Capital for must be done wisely.  There are three rules to follow:

  1.  Deposits must exceed Withdrawals.  When used correctly, the PC bank account will take a hit.  You must ‘deposit’ new PC or you run the risk of becoming ‘bankrupt.’  You will need some political capital during this year.  And it’s usually when you think you don’t. Never stop trying to add Political Capital.
  2. Use if for something pretty big.  Don’t throw it away uselessly.  Make sure you carefully choose when and how you use it.  The items here are pretty limited.  Big actions that come to mind are:
    1. Hiring a former colleague (when some people on the team don’t).
    2. Sticking your neck out for someone above you in the organization (a.k.a. having your boss’s back)
    3. Saving someone from some a stupid action they did (We have all been here).
    4. Getting the low price approved on the once in a lifetime deal (‘We will make it up in volume!’)
    5. Pushing through the risky sales project.  (You need to create a budget for it.)
    6. Paying the extra bonus to the sale rep that deserved it (The guy who missed his numbers and bonus by .5%)
  3. Make sure it helps you make the number.   People always ask me why one sales person gets better treatment then another.  OR why one sales person gets ‘saved’ while another gets ‘fired.’  Great Sales VPs keep people if it helps them make the number. Building PC with someone means helping them get what they want.

We witnessed a great example of using PC recently:

The Sales VP knew this year was going to be tough.  He made his number 3 years in a row.  But the pipeline was the lowest it has ever been in his tenure.  Customers were not buying the same way.  He concluded that either he needed better talent or a new structure.  After self-researching, he wanted to transform the sales team.  This was going to cost about 1.5mm over the next 18 months to accomplish.  It comprised of design, development, training, severance, outside help and adoption.

He didn’t have 1.5 million dollars in his budget.  It was time to ‘spend’ some political capital.

The CEO was nervous.  After all, sales made the number over the past 3 years.  After going through ROI models and cost benefit analysis, the final decision time arrived.  I was lucky enough to witness the interaction between the CEO and Sales VP.

“Jeff (the CEO), our sales team needs this transformation.  As we discussed, if this doesn’t happen I know we will miss our number.”

“But Ray (the Sales VP), 1.5 million is a lot of money.  Can’t we get this done for less?”

“Not if we want it done right Jeff. Trust me on this one.” 

The Sales VP got the funding for the project.  I asked him afterwards why he used the ‘trust’ phrase. (This is usually the kiss of death when asking for money).  Ray replied “I have been playing by the rules for 3 years earning his trust each day.  It was time for him to now trust me.”   The Sales VP had been building his political capital bank account for three years.  And when he needed it, he used it effectively.

Call to Action:

  • Download the Sales VP Political Capital Guide.  It will help you start building PC today within your organization
  • Look for opportunities to build Political Capital up and down the organization. Having PC with your direct reports is more important than your boss.  Why?  They have your back when you try something different.
  • Use it wisely.  Think like this:  It takes five deposits to match one withdrawal.  Consistently build your deposits.  You will never have enough.

Please leave a comment on how you build PC on your team.  Also share how you have used it wisely in the past.  This can be the missing component to get certain things accomplished in your organization.  Make sure though you use your Political Capital wisely.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dan Perry
Dan is an industry thought leader with more than 25 years of experience in b-to-b field sales, sales management, and sales operations. Dan has delivered domestic and international results for companies such as Hewlett Packard, Terremark Worldwide, Dow Jones, Activant Solutions, Kronos, CDS Global, Microsemi.


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