Sales managers – stop assuming majority rules works best


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It’s easy to manage a sales team when there’s consensus on where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. But what happens when there isn’t consensus? That’s when sales managers face some challenges.

Randall Peterson, a professor at the London Business School, found that when dealing with small groups, majority rule doesn’t work – it simply makes for an unhappy minority. “They have nothing invested in success and often have something invested in failure,” Peterson says. “Particularly for a group under the size of 10 people, majority rule is a bad way of going about business.”

Since many sales managers deal with sales teams with around 10 sales reps, we were intrigued with Peterson’s recommendation – “qualified consensus” – where everyone has to at least agree they can tolerate the outcome; they can live with it. But if agreement can’t be reached even at that level, then the sales manager makes the call. So the idea is the sales manager needs to provide a discussion about all that and sales team needs to get engaged.

Good enough – everyone needs to know and agree to the decision-making rules of the road. The problem is the discussion is often never held and the notion of consensus of any type is simply not on the table.

We thought Peterson’s recommendations were straightforward, smart, and particularly will suited for the sales environment. His approach seems useful whenever dealing with conflict inside a sales team and appears to be especially important when limited sales team resources are being spent.

A couple of additional thoughts on the topic:

  • Understand Why. Delve deeper into why there is disagreement – by identifying what’s really driving the disagreement. By doing so you will be able to craft a solution where the minority can at least see the logic of the decision.
  • Respect Measurement. Define metrics to measure the success of the decision (e.g., increased sales, reduced costs, new customers, shorter sales cycle) –this will provide those who both agree and disagree with the decision a better basis for their argument if it arises again.
  • Inspect. Check progress periodically to ensure you’re on track.

There is more to team building then just hiring the right people. This topic is one of the other pieces of the puzzle.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Janet Spirer
For more than 30 years Janet Spirer has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Janet has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Janet is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers and the Sales Training Connection.


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