As a management consultant, my main interest is in the sound formulation and effective execution of business strategies. My consulting engagements often call the sales group into play since that is where execution succeeds or fails—at the point of customer contact. Thirty-eight years' experience with more than 40 sales teams from a dozen industries has taught me what's required for consistently superior sales performance: a high-performing sales ecosystem. "What's an ecosystem?" you ask. Well, at its simplest, it consists of organisms and their environment. Picture the glass bubble, the fully enclosed habitat in which organisms are born, develop, and thrive without ever leaving. All that's needed is contained within. It is a complete ecosystem.
As several respected writers have observed over the years, performance is a function of individual and environmental variables. For consistent execution leading to high levels of sales performance, salespeople must have the necessary talent and they must have a high-functioning, well-developed sales ecosystem around them. Frequently, I find execution weaknesses do not tie to the talent base but to the supporting elements that are supposed to enable talent to execute effectively. In other words,it is most often the environmental variables that hinder superior sales execution. Why? Because the sales ecosystem is not being managed.
In the course of working with my clients, I developed a visual aid to help them be more aware of the impacts and connections of various factors affecting performance in the typical sales world. I use a fishbone diagram (i.e., "cause-and-effect") commonly found in quality improvement programs. It depicts what can be thought of as the essential elements of a sales ecosystem (see Figure 1).