Missed the live broadcast about building, scaling, and developing sales organizations during both highs and lows? While you missed a discussion on James C. Collins’ work Good to Great, a reference to minestrone from How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, we’ve got the cliffnotes for you.

Guests Chris Kowalewski, Chief Growth Officer for Compass Group USA, Pat O’Donnell, VP and GM of Retail Americas at Diebold Nixdorf, and Caroline Tien-Spalding, CMO of Aptology, dug into their best practices to mentor sales teams in the best of times, and especially during these low times. 


Regardless of when pipelines are growing or slowing, panelists highlighted that it’s always  about their people. Coaching them, inspiring them, emboldening their creativity, and collaborating with their teams is why they come to work. Great leaders know that when your people are happy and feel connected to a shared goal, the rest falls into place for a more profitable bottom line.    


Below are the key takeaways of how to develop and scale a sales organization during both highs and lows conversation.

1. No One Shows Up To Fail

It’s natural for leaders under the pressure of an economic downturn to want to jump in and fix.  Well-intentioned as it is, downturns are your team’s single greatest opportunity to grow their skills, ask questions, test theories, practice tactics, and develop resilience. CRM and sales intelligence tools can provide visibility into the outcomes, who is driving success, but they don’t give objective insights into why some people meet quota while others don’t. You hired them because they’re good, now you need to get intelligent about what behaviors can make them great – then operationalize it. 

2. Misconception in Sales – It’s About the Numbers

“A common misconception is that it’s all about the numbers, but that’s the short term premise. It’s not true. You need to build the organization for sustainability for long term success in 20-30 years.”  – Chris Kowalewski, Chief Growth Officer for Compass Group USA


Famously said: “As long as people are buying, people will be selling”. Sales leaders know that the employee experience is their greatest opportunity to meet business goals. It’s also their greatest vulnerability in both good times and bad as competing businesses can more easily poach an A-player who isn’t having a great employee experience.

As businesses become increasingly people-focused, more resources are invested in the employee experience and unlocking people as their key differentiators to drive the bottom line. Business leaders are still under pressure to perform, and now they have to do so in a more distributed way than ever. That means business leaders need new ways of understanding, supporting, and improving the experience for the people side of the business, consistently and at scale.

3. Sales Leadership Myth: Money Money Money

One of the key misconceptions is that sales leadership is the path to a higher paycheck – and that’s actually not true. Top sellers in an organization will often out-earn leadership because the variable pay is virtually limitless. So if money is the main motivator, career progression to leadership may not be the right fit. That’s why it’s essential for leaders and individuals to have the tools to understand what’s important per person, and map our career discussions personalized to an individual’s goals.

4. You Can’t Cut Your Way to Growth

“We all picked our teams, who we want to work with. So you need to bet on them, you need to bet on them big.”  – Chris Kowalewski, Chief Growth Officer for Compass Group USA


The cost and care it takes to hire, train, and retain great talent is no small investment – or people capital as the C-level is beginning to see it. You’ve leveraged the latest tech tools to get the best of the best in the door and supported them with the latest sales intelligence platforms to track, predict, and improve the outcomes of their efforts. Now, as many organizations are working with reduced resources, you need to focus on the resources you’ve got.


To borrow from James Collins – to go from “good to great”, you’ll need to empower your sales teams more than ever. Trust your operations process and empower sellers to close – even if it means being more hands off. What pieces are flexible? What margin do we need to close? They’ll learn faster and grow the pipeline, feel responsible to shared goals and invested in their employee experience, and free up your time to focus on other revenue building channels.

5. Remember Your Existing Relationships – In Your Pipeline and On Your Teams

“Don’t forget about your existing customers right now, because those are going to be what gets you through. Send them books, a care package, anything thoughtful to try and make their lives easier.”  – Pat O’Donnell, VP and GM of Retail Americas at Diebold Nixdorf


During times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), leaders must first take care of the most basic needs of their people – that goes for your customers but more importantly for your teams. Once assured Maslow’s basic needs are met, business leaders can begin thinking about business needs, and with so much uncertainty we turn to the tools that provide clarity. As business leaders, not only do we need clarity about our pipelines, but we need it on our people – and they need it from you, too. Communicating what you know, when you know it, when you will know more, what you’re doing to chart a path forward through regular and personal check-ins are essential to supporting the employee experience.  

Wrapping it up: Operationalize Good to Great

Part of the challenge of being a sales leader is that it’s your job to operationalize good teams into great teams. But while “good to great” outlines that you have to “get the right people in the right seat”, and it’s as important through highs as it is lows, it’s hard to do, let alone at scale. Behavioral platforms like Aptology help leaders operationalize the characteristics of the employee and employee lifecycle that add value to the business’ bottom line.