Sales Management: Taking Smart Risks


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How Sharp Leaders WIN When Stakes are High

The opening chapter had me right away, whether you are a:

1. Entrepreneur wannbe

2. Small business owner

3. New manager in a complex organization

4. Corporate executive

this book must be read and used as a textbook within your firm. In challenging times or in potential growth opportunities this book will improve your odds of success. I would recommend that you have each of your managers read the book and then discuss it weekly during your review meetings. This book written by Doug Sundheim not only explores the emotional and business reactions to making important decisions but he provides a series of tools that can help everyone make better decisions!

The first chapter titled: “The Dangers of Playing it Safe” covers a great story of a CNN/Money executive that left the security of success within a large enterprise to go into the turnaround and high risk oriented opportunity. When asked why the individual took the risk he stated: “The emotional cost of NOT risking and having to live with that regret was much greater in my mind than any career or financial costs I would incur.” This emotional element of accomplishment becomes a driving factor-however, the author makes it clear emotions and logic must be balanced. His driving question to the individuals he interviewed was: “When was the last time you felt really alive?”

Mr. Sundheim begins to make the case on the quality of making the right decision by addressing two perceptions:

1. Paralysis Perception

2. Power Perception

The Paralysis is the result of focusing too much on the losses from taking risks; it makes everything out of the comfort zone look dangerous. The Power perception is the result of a balanced focus on the losses from both taking risks and NOT taking risks. Helping the reader make the shift from paralysis to power is the purpose of the book. His first tool on already on page 28 begins to provide a basis to make the smart risk: it is a 4-box Cost-Benefit Analysis. He takes you through six (6) pages of instructions, scoring and expected results. I also liked the fact that each chapter included “Summary Notes’, they were a great addition to re-capture the contents.

In Part Two you discover what motivates you or how to motivate your team to break though the risk prevention mode to “Find Something Worth Fighting For“… The author explores a variety of situations where this fighting spirit made the difference for an individual to persevere or an entire enterprise to turnaround and begin to experience the emotion of growth and success. In many of my leadership programs and in our strategic planning sessions we focus on this need for developing a vision and communicating it effectively.

The book is laid out with six parts and seventeen chapters that are designed to help any executive address a multitude of problems that can arise in making the right decision but also while that decision is being executed he provides additional insights/tools that will assist the individual or the team throughout the process. His interviews/stories are pertinent but his use of tools/graphs make in my mind a book that not only discusses a topic, but offers a prescriptive process towards successful execution.

His 13 endorsements should speak to the quality of the content: published by McGraw Hill: Taking Smart Risks by Doug Sundheim.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ken Thoreson
Acumen Management Group Ltd. "operationalizes" sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. During the past 13 years, our consulting, advisory, and platform services have illuminated, motivated, and rejuvenated the sales efforts for organizations throughout North America.


  1. Ken: thanks for the review of this book. Dealing with risk and uncertainty are poorly understood in many companies. In sales organizations, there can be significant penalties for failure, which often places intelligent risk taking in conflict with other behaviors and habits that are expected for salespeople.

    What makes this even more odd is the ostensible win-win when commission plans put sales compensation at risk. Achieve or exceed a revenue goal, and the financial rewards are (or should be) attractive. Under-produce, and take a hit in compensation. Seems fair, at least superficially.

    In practice, many salespeople recognize that job loss frequently accompanies under-performance, and they respond by “playing it safe” in their business development activities. This does not always mesh with corporate objectives. In order to encourage intelligent risk taking, companies need to be aware of the potential conflicts, and be prepared to pay more than lip service to the idea: “We need to take the right risks. Screw up, and you’ll get a swift kick in the rear!” It happens all the time.

    In any case, thanks for the recommending this book. I will read it.


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