Mechanics of Managing a Sales Force, with Kirk Bowman and Lucas Braun | Summary and Q&A

October 6, 2017
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Mechanics of Managing a Sales Force, with Kirk Bowman and Lucas Braun


The Stanford Sales Class provides insights on building and managing successful sales organizations, starting with achieving product-market fit and clear segmentation, determining the go-to-market model and sales model economics, and making strategic decisions about hiring and development.

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Key Insights

  • 🐕‍🦺 Achieving product-market fit is vital before scaling a sales organization, as it ensures alignment between the product/service and the market's needs.
  • 🪛 Clear segmentation and coverage models help drive sales success by providing focus and efficient resource allocation.
  • 🗯️ Choosing the right go-to-market model is crucial to match the product/service with the most effective sales model, whether it be direct, OEMs, resellers, or hybrid.
  • ❓ Sales model economics must be considered to ensure the chosen go-to-market strategy is financially viable and sustainable.
  • 😤 Hiring decisions, compensation plans, territory definition, forecasting, performance management, and ongoing skills development are important aspects of building a high-performing sales team.


[MUSIC] Sales class, which is building and managing professional sales organizations, was started eight years ago, nine years ago, by Jim Ladin, who many of you probably remember from the GSB. And Mark Lesley, another person that's been around the campus from quite some time. They started teaching that class, like I said, I think it was 8 or 9 year... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: What is the biggest challenge of sales organizations and productivity?

The biggest challenge is often the lack of product-market fit, leading companies to scale their sales organizations prematurely. Companies should prioritize achieving product-market fit before investing heavily in sales.

Q: How does clear segmentation impact sales success?

Clear segmentation allows for a focused approach to sell to specific target audiences. Having a well-defined coverage model, including inside and field sales, helps determine who sells what to whom and ensures efficient resource allocation.

Q: What role does the go-to-market model play in sales success?

The go-to-market model determines how a company sells its product or service. It involves deciding whether to go direct, use OEMs or resellers, or adopt a hybrid model. Understanding the pros and cons of each structure is crucial for sales success.

Q: How should compensation plans be designed for sales teams?

Compensation plans should be simple and aligned with sales goals. The 3x5 rule can be applied, ensuring that the plan can fit on a 3x5 card. It should incentivize desired behaviors and drive sales productivity, with a focus on rewarding high performers.

Q: How can forecasting be improved for sales organizations?

Forecasting should move beyond reporting and become a way to manage activities and results. Accurate forecasting requires a shift from short-term deal-focused forecasting to managing key milestones in the qualification and validation stages of a sales cycle.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The Stanford Sales Class emphasizes the importance of achieving product-market fit before scaling a sales organization, as low sales productivity often stems from a lack of fit.

  • Clear segmentation and a well-defined coverage model are crucial in driving sales success, especially as companies grow and expand their sales teams.

  • Choosing the right go-to-market model and ensuring the sales model economics are viable are important considerations for long-term success, determining whether the business can generate profits and sustain growth.

  • Hiring decisions, territory definition, compensation plans, forecasting, performance management, and development all play vital roles in creating a high-performing sales team.

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