Saleshood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed

Saleshood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed

by Elay Cohen


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A playbook that empowers sales managers to think like CEOs and act like entrepreneurs

At, Elay Cohen created and executed the sales productivity programs that accelerated the company’s growth to a $3 billion–plus enterprise. The innovation delivered over these years by Elay and his team resulted in unprecedented sales productivity excellence. Based on that experience, Elay embarked on a journey to help every company in the world grow like After working with many organizations and further reflecting on his time at, it became apparent that one key player was best positioned to accelerate growth in organizations: the first-line sales manager. Empowering sales managers to own and execute their own sales programs, as entrepreneurs would, became the focus of this book and his technology company.

First-line sales managers are the backbone of every sales organization. They make it happen. They’re where the rubber meets the road in pipeline generation, revenue growth, and customer success. These sales managers serve as the voice of salespeople to organizations, and as the organizational voice back to salespeople.

In this accessible guide, Cohen shares how sales managers can build an inspired, engaged team, equipping them with the tools they need to drive up sales productivity and grow the business. He reveals, among many other lessons, how you can nurture a winning sales culture; build world-class training programs that encourage salespeople to learn from each other; and execute sales processes, playbooks, and deals in a way that gives your salespeople the winning edge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626340497
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 04/15/2014
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 5.71(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Elay Cohen is the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and the co-founder of SalesHood a “software as a service” platform and community for sales professionals.

Elay is the former Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Recognized as the company’s “2011 Top Executive”, he ran the teams that executed sales training, onboarding and deal support for thousands of salespeople. He also created the Partner Relationship Management category. He lives with his family in San Francisco.  

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Empower Leadership
Who would have thought that a simple breakfast meeting with a group of sales managers would be one of the most important events of my professional career? I certainly didn’t expect it when I arranged for the group of us to get together. Sometime after leaving, I had breakfast with a group of sales managers. We met at a diner in San Francisco called Rocco’s. . My goal for the meeting was to share some sales productivity ideas I was thinking of investigating as a business and to hear their views.

We talked a lot about all what was great in their sales management professional lives, and then we shifted to what could be improved. Having been senior vice president of sales and partner productivity at, I was especially curious about what would make these sales managers even more productive. What they shared with me that morning ultimately led to an evolution in the way I started to rethink sales productivity and the vital role of first-line sales managers.

The sales managers shared with me the tension they see. On the one hand, corporations have a business plan informed by company priorities. These priorities are important to the company’s success and appreciated by sales managers as they look for guidance on how to run their franchise. On the other hand, the sales manager has a unique team of quota-carrying salespeople, and that team’s needs differ from those of other teams in the company. The first-line sales manager is the one with his feet on the street, the one who can best gauge the needs of the team. He sees the important nuances of his territory, his team’s strengths and weaknesses, and the product they’re selling. These unique, local, and sometimes geographical needs can become lost in the context of broad company priorities.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that the CEO of a company should not have a core set of business goals that are communicated and adopted by everyone in the company. What I am saying is that first-line sales managers need to operate under the construct of the company’s business goals while also acting like a CEO in their own right, personalizing their unique market to their reality. These sales managers must be truly empowered to affect all areas of the business, including but not limited to hiring, marketing, and training.

During the breakfast meeting, the sales managers talked about their marketing programs and training initiatives, saying that they wished they could create even more personalization for their markets and teams. On the marketing side, they wanted to execute city-specific and even customer-specific marketing programs. They also wished to personalize their sales training needs to fit the needs of their sales team. And they told me bluntly that this type of empowerment would help them drive up their business, growing more pipeline and accelerating sales performance.

One sales executive who was there summed up the group’s feelings well. “I’ve got ten salespeople,” she told me. “Each one of them has a different set of skills and experiences. As the sales manager, I need to have a plan for my team and for each and every individual salesperson. The training programs the company gives me are great, but I need to be able to personalize them for my people and deliver them at the precisely right time. Same goes not just for training, but for sales support, marketing programs, and team events.”

These sales managers were telling me they wanted to be able to lead their teams in an empowered, personalized way. All of a sudden, my eyes were open to this new reality: sales managers and their teams are the pulse of what the customer needs. They have the local relationships, and they drive the innovation, marketing, and education on behalf of the company. They are the evangelists—they do the work. They need to apply resources to their deals in real time as the deals are happening. I realized that, given the incredible technology available to any company today, this vision of the empowered sales manager was more attainable than ever.

After that meeting, I was on a quest. I then talked to hundreds of sales managers about this developing idea and grew increasingly excited as it resonated with person after person. In my talks with sales managers I began to hear many examples of those who were taking action into their own hands, though they were remaining under the radar. For example, one sales manager told me that he couldn’t get a demonstration video approved by marketing, so he hired a local video production shop to create one that would wow his customer and accelerate his sales cycle. Another sales manager shared about hiring sales coaches for her team, paying for it out of her own pocket. The rising tide of sales manager empowerment is there and ready to be tapped into, inspiring sales teams do great things.

Many will agree that the most important link in the chain is the first-line sales manager. But what folks don’t talk about as much is how to actually enable the first-line sales manager to be a true CEO of his or her business. They don’t talk much about how the first-line sales manager needs to run every part of the operation, including planning, motivating, and executing, with budget authority that maps to his or her business contribution. All too often, these functions are relegated to headquarters. As I talked to more and more sales managers, the power of this concept began to cement itself in my head. I knew I was on to something. The rise of the power of the sales manager became a central theme in my work and thinking.

Sales Managers Are Our Mayors

The notion of empowering first-line sales managers began to bubble up simultaneously in other parts of my life, too. At a TED conference I heard a great talk by Benjamin Barber, who spoke convincingly and passionately about the power of mayors in driving educational, economic, and environmental change. He titled his book, If Mayors Ruled the World.  In the world of politics, the mayor is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. As I sat listening to the talk, it struck me: the same was true of first-line sales managers. They were the ones who had the same power to effect real change in business.

After the conference, I sought out more on the mayor concept. Thomas Friedman had an article entitled “I Want to Be a Mayor”  that further highlighted the parallels between mayors and sales managers, and that piece, in turn, introduced me to a book by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.  These authors write about the rise of mayoral power through focus, ownership, and hard work.

Applying these principles to the world of sales makes a lot of sense to me. Just as there are mayors who are driving radical economic, educational, and economic reforms, so too are there sales managers who take ownership of their destiny. The best first-line sales managers take control of all aspects of their business. For example, they own customer relationships and customer success; they are responsible for pipeline health.

As I continued to reflect, I realized that the best sales managers at were the ones who took matters into their own hands. They were already leading the way, owning their outcomes like the mayors described by Thomas Friedman. The most successful sales managers were the ones who took ownership of their customer relationships, business planning, and team prioritization. These sales managers asked for budget or found creative methods, like leveraging relationships with partners, to fund their own marketing events with customers in order to build demand. These sales managers hosted breakfasts and dinners to keep connections alive and to nourish the local network. As with mayors, successful sales managers know that budgets and funding play a major role in driving successful programs that add value to customers—or, in mayor-speak, the constituents.

But in some corporations, allocating funds to first-line sales managers is not easy to do. Issues of scale emerge around requests, approvals, and tracking the return on investment. And yet I watched the best of the best avoid fighting the battles with corporate and work directly with their top partners to lead their teams with an empowered, entrepreneurial mindset. They found the money through partnerships to do the programs that made sense. When sales managers are entrepreneurial in their views of their team and their business, they find themselves creatively solving problems and ultimately creating more pipeline, more revenues, and deeper customer relationships.

Do You Have a Plan for Your Business?

Over the course of the book, we’re going to look at how you can become an empowered, entrepreneurial sales manager and how you can operate like the CEO of your territory as you inspire your sales teams to achieve amazing results. But before we get into part I—where we’ll talk about building, training, and uniting your team—we need to talk about one of the fundamentals of empowered sales leadership: planning your year. The very first step to taking accountability for your team is setting a vision for how the year is going to unfold, a plan for how and when you’re going to employ all the tools we’ll cover in this book.

Picture this: You’re a sales manager and it’s the first day of a new financial year. You’ve just finished a great year and your team is celebrating their successes. You’re reflecting on your sales team’s wins and losses. You’re doing your personal team scorecard to see who is going to Hawaii and who is not. The year’s ups and down are still fresh in your mind.

The entrepreneurial sales manager will take this time, if she hasn’t done so already, to plan out the next year. She’ll look to her corporate leadership team for key themes and priorities that she’ll need to support in the upcoming year, but she’ll also start thinking about how she can localize and tailor those themes and priorities for her own sales team.

She’ll also take inventory of her sales team’s strengths and weaknesses so she can be proactive about hiring and recruiting. Are there any members of her sales team who should be thinking of a new career? Does she have the right coverage model in place? She’ll consider her industry focus, geographic distribution, and product mix as she looks at the coverage of her franchise.

The entrepreneurial sales manager will take stock of the health of the business. She’ll keep key performance indicators—like pipeline, revenue, win rates, new logos, number of deals per salesperson—top of mind. She’ll take responsibility for knowing her business. She’ll prioritize these metrics across the realities of her business and set stretch goals that will push her team. Successful sales teams and companies have great alignment across a set of metrics, intended to drive actions that move the business. She’ll be honest about the gaps that exist in pipeline and work out a strategy for immediate action in the upcoming year.

Part of planning the year is setting the year’s theme. One year at, we needed to dial up sales in an emerging product line; it was a top company priority. We announced the “Year of the Service Cloud” to the entire company. At a local level, all sales managers understood what this meant to them and their sales teams, and they took action. They made it happen. Sales manager plans included revenue and pipeline targets mapped to selling this product line. Individual business plans created by sales managers included demand generation and customer programs focused on building outreach to key buyers of the Salesforce Service Cloud® product line. The metrics were clear and the specific product push was also supported by incentives for sales people.

If your company hasn’t set a clear theme for the year, it’s your job as sales manager to step up and create one yourself. Your sales teams will appreciate it; it will guide them and give them focus.

Take a chapter from work performed by Tony Robbins to prepare yourself for the year ahead. Close your eyes. (Insert motivational music of your choice.) Visualize what your sales team will look at the end of the twelve months. Visualize success for you and every salesperson. Have that picture of the celebratory dinner where everyone is sharing his or her war stories. Think of your customers. Think of the must-win accounts you will close this year. Create a story that will become your future. Write down your story and your goals and share it with your team. Be transparent, and hold yourself accountable to the team for stretch goals.  

Have your sales team do a similar exercise. Inspire them to think bigger. By the way, you can apply this practice to your team anytime, not just at the beginning of the year. Have them visualize and write down their goals and story at the start of each month or quarter.

Following are some questions you can use as you apply these planning and motivational strategies with your teams. I know they work, because I used these questions for a motivational push that was well received by sales leadership. Ask your team to compare their current plan and story with a bigger potential. Personalize these questions to your style and business.

•    Will you make your number? Or will you blow your number out beyond belief?
•    Will you close the pipeline in front of you today? Or will you hunt, find, and close loads of new pipeline?
•    Will you help customers be successful? Or will you transform their business?

The questions can go on and on, based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Chapter 1 Empower Leadership 1

Part I The Team

Chapter 2 Start with Values 13

Chapter 3 Win as a Team 27

Chapter 4 Nurture Social Learning 41

Chapter 5 Make Training Relevant 57

Chapter 6 Inspire with Communications 67

Chapter 7 Motivate Action 81

Chapter 8 Onboard Reps Rapidly 95

Part II Execution

Chapter 9 Own Your Sales Process 111

Chapter 10 Build Qualified Pipeline 127

Chapter 11 Be Curious 139

Chapter 12 Tell Great Stories 159

Chapter 13 Compete with Intensity 171

Chapter 14 Grow Strategic Accounts 181

Conclusion: Parting Advice 193

Acknowledgments 197

Notes 201

Index 205

About the Author 215

What People are Saying About This

CEO and founder, Hearsay Social - Clara Shih

"Elay's passion, knowledge, and leadership in all things sales shines through in this book."

Partner, Andreessen Horowitz - Mark Cranney

"A relevant and compelling read for start-ups and founding CEOs looking to develop successful sales strategies."

President, NetSuite - Jeff Honeycomb

"SalesHood is a great blueprint on how to be a successful sales manager."

Chief Customer Officer, - Jim Steele

"SalesHood is excellent. It's the new sales bible."

Vice chairman, - Frank van Veenendaal

"SalesHood presents a great framework to help transform companies to the new SaaS sales model and achieve hyper growth."


San Fracisco, CA

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