An ‘A’ Player’s Rise and Fall


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Dave was once an ‘A’ player. Over an 18 month time period, he experienced a rapid fall from grace. The market outpaced him. He is clawing his way back. I hope you can learn from his journey.

Below is a true story. Download this quiz. You will learn if you possess the relevant skills of an “A” player sales leader. You will get a view to what others are doing to make the number. You will see the skills you need in a rapidly changing buyer environment.

The Situation

Dave was promoted to be Acme’s VP of Sales for the Americas. Dave was a turnaround guy. He turned poor performing teams into high performing teams. He did it as a District Sales Manager. Then he did it as a Regional Director for 5 states. From 2003-2011, Dave was on a rocket ship.

He got the offer he couldn’t refuse. Dave became VP of Sales for the Americas.

The Start

Dave’s first year, he ran his playbook. He had been very successful as a field guy. In the first 6 months he:

  • Did monthly pipeline reviews with every sales manager. He wanted his direct reports (Sales Directors) to see how it was done.
  • Injected himself in all deals north of $5M. Dave ran point on all big deals in his previous roles. He was going to do the same thing for the Americas.
  • Assessed his sales leadership team and realized he needed to upgrade 3 of his sales directors. Dave was successful as a hands on manager in his past.
  • In July, decided to roll out a sales process across the Americas. He had used it in his region 3 years ago and it worked.

Result – Americas didn’t make the number. Dave did put a lot of foundation in place. The EVP of WW Sales was disappointed. He was expecting a faster impact. Dave assured him that all the indicators were in place. They stacked hands that 2013 was going to be the year of the Americas.


Dave got a huge number handed to him. He was cautiously optimistic. The Americas is 59% of Acme’s revenue. When Dave missed, it caused his boss a tremendous amount of pain. Dave had some huge deals in the pipeline. His new sales process wasn’t working. The new Directors he promoted were underperforming. Why was this happening? All of sudden Dave was in panic mode. He was staring at 5 quarters of missing the number.


Dave got the wind knocked out of him. 3 of the 5 big deals were awarded to competitors. Acme won the fourth and the fifth went to no decision. Dave was furious. How could this happen to him? It is the Friday before the long weekend. He was distraught.

All of a sudden, his phone vibrates. It is a text from Paul. Dave worked for Paul from 2002-2008. Paul went on to lead worldwide sales at a global software company. He was Dave’s career mentor.Sales Director

Dave called Paul. Dave was hit with a metaphorical sledgehammer. Dave was running yesterday’s playbook. He had failed to evolve at the same pace as the market. For the last 2 years, Dave ignored the larger trends in B2B selling. He had become irrelevant.

Paul gave Dave a hard piece of advice. “You are inward out. All of the things you are focusing on are internal.” They are yesterday’s hits. Buyers have shifted. If you know how to listen to the market, you will be able to stay ahead. Being Outward In is the Only Thing That Matters.

Paul’s Simple and Powerful Advice

One of Paul’s gifts was his ability to make the complex problem seem simple. He explained to Dave that in the last 2 years, the informed buyer has changed the game. And that Dave has two choices:

  1. Ignore the trend that is sweeping B2B selling
  2. Embrace it and acquire the skills needed to stay relevant

Dave’s Decision

Fortunately, Dave chose number 2. His journey to outward in involved 4 key components: Customers, Competitors, Corporate and the Field.

Component 1-

Customers/Prospects- Nowhere in Dave’s strategy did he embed a way to listen to customers and prospects in a real time fashion. Paul suggested:

  1. Buying Process Maps
  2. Loss Interviews

What happened to Dave?

Dave made a decision to be current vs. using yesterday’s playbook He has picked two initiatives. Along with listening to customers, Dave has embraced social prospecting. He launched a 12 week sales skills initiative centered on social and driven by his top reps.

Are You Dave?

You have been an ‘A’ player. Are you today? What happened to Dave can happen to you. You go from wondering about the next promotion to playing for job preservation. Dave thought he had all the necessary skills. This Quiz will tell you if you are relevant by today’s definition.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Sharrers
Matt Sharrers serves as Partner of SBI. Matt works primarily in the Fortune 500 with clients including: Ryder, Integrated Device Technology, Informatica and Danaher. Matt is the author of "Promoted to VP of Sales: The Year 1 Toolkit". His work has been profiled in Sales and Service Excellence, Sales Journal Constitution and Leadership Excellence.


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