Change is good. You go first.
In Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball, and in the movie of the same name starring Brad Pitt, the central lesson is that a strong leader, guided by fresh insight and driven by conviction, can upend conventional wisdom, change how an organization functions, and go from losing to winning. In Moneyball—a true story—the Oakland Athletics baseball team uses an unconventional way to assess players for recruiting that relies on data ignored by most teams but that is actually more accurate in predicting success. General Manager Billy Beane uses this system to snap up talent that other teams don’t want because they are looking at time-honored, but misleading metrics. This allows the A’s, whose payroll is less than one-third of the New York Yankees’ $125 million a year, to win 20 games in a row in 2002—an American League record.
This is the kind of change that comes rarely to either sports teams or sales teams—and for similar reasons. In both fields, bosses cling to a belief in star talent and chemistry. Like gifted athletes, sales stars are regarded as naturals, with innate talents that no one can quite explain or teach, but that great managers can recognize. Leaders in both fields are hailed for their unerring instincts—and leadership alchemy—rather than skill with the nuts and bolts of managing. These myths stand in the way of change and improvement in sales management. They reinforce a belief in the status quo and raise ...