Fredrik Leek, Jan Johansson - Tillväxtbloggen

Cowboy Selling

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Gone are the days of a simple handshake…

The blog this week is about the “shooting from the hip” (skjuta från höften) sales approach.
I’m not exactly sure how our office started calling it “Cowboy Selling” but it is a term used in North America and somewhere along the way between Swedish and English the term has stuck. Either way, I am rather content using this term because it every time I hear it I get a mental image of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne trying to do modern sale call.

It should be clarified that when we use the term “sales” in this context we are not talking about high-level revenue, or transactional selling. We are referring to process of Consultative Selling: a more complex, long-term process involving collaboration with buyers, which includes understanding the customer’s business, industry, and pain points, then craft a solution to help the customer.

For better or worse the business landscape has changed. Modern day sales are complex, the products that companies sell are technical, and professional buyers typically have ridged purchasing processes. To complicate matters even more a typical sales process can easily involve 5-15 steps with multiple different individuals and decision makers. Trying to navigate your way through the minefield of the sales process is challenging to say the least.

It is well documented that adding structure to the selling process increases sales and decreases the on-boarding time of new sales employees.

Ever so often we come across sales people that are so tremendously good that they tend to succeed despite having little-to-no structure. These Cowboys can go out for dinner with their family and come home with 2 – 3 new business cards. In order to do this the individual must have a combination of personality and knowledge that is extremely rare, from our experience. If this person is also the Founder or CEO then they know their business so well that they can talk about it with ease.

The problem does not lie in the Cowboy’s ability to sell, the problem surfaces when the organisation starts to grow and hire additional sales personnel.

The growth journey traditionally consists of increasing the salesforce and on-boarding new employees (some digital platforms being the exception). If the end goal is growth, how is a newly hired sales person suppose to produce at the same level as the unstructured Cowboy?

Neil Rackham (Author of SPIN SELLING) promotes the notion that sales individuals should go into every contact looking for an Advance: “A specific action taken by either party that moves the sale forward”. An Advance is not simply another meeting, an Advance is a specific, predetermined outcome specific to that customer and contact. Can all of these nuances be managed from the hip? Without a plan?

Structuring the approach on the back end will not only help the sales individual, it will also help the organisation. Structure will help with scalability, and continuity. Continuity in this case might be even more important as it gives organisations of all sizes the ability to distribute and allocate the work flow evenly, rather than “reinventing the wheel” every time a new sales person is hired.

Some people say it takes 15-18 years of hard-work to properly train a Cowboy, does your organisation have that much time to onboard? We are not trying to be overly hard on these shoot first – ask questions later, cold calling work horses, we have simply noticed that sometimes you need to be more than a Cowboy for the sake of the organisation.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

cowboy Screen Shot

Image Source: Screenshot

Klingsgrin, G. (2016). The Librarian vs. the Cowboy: A Sales Persona Comparison {Infographic}. SalesLoft. Available at: [Accessed: 18 -12-2016]

Other Sources:

Barkach, C. (2016). Sales Process – Stop Shooting from the Hip. Available at:
[Accessed: 10-12-2016]

Boe, J. (2016). Sales Skills: Don’t Shoot From The Hip, Use A Script. Sales Gravy. Available at: [Accessed: 10-12-2016]

Klingsgrin, G. (2016). The Librarian vs. the Cowboy: A Sales Persona Comparison {Infographic}. SalesLoft. Available at: [Accessed: 18 -12-2016]

Rackham, N. (1988). SPIN SELLING. McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 9780070511132

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The Lone Wolf

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The blog this week is taking a slightly different approach, not only are we going to present this one in english we are going to address a topic that we do not necessarily have a steadfast (this is what you should do) answer or recommendation. The topic that we are going to talk about is The ‘Lone Wolf’ CEO.

Many predominate business publications have written about how CEO’s tend to grow themselves into a position of isolation and solitude. The position in itself is isolated, as it is the only position in an organisation that has no peers or boss to help guide them in the right direction. As a CEO your job is never done, you don’t often have the luxury of shutting down and going home at 16:30 to enjoy a peaceful and quiet evening. The expectations are that you will be the visionary, head of the company tasked with growing the organisation while at the same time checking over your shoulder to ensuring invoices are paid so the organisation has the liquidity to make payroll come the 25th of the month. In many of the cases that we encounter CEOs jokingly say that for every one item that comes off the “TO DO” list, 3-5 get added.

In some cases this isolation may be self induced, where the CEO or Founder of an organisation simply chooses not to discuss challenges or hurdles with other people, known as Founders Disease. In situations like this, it is very difficult for external parties to lend a hand as they are often not aware of any problems.

An article publish by Stanford Graduate School of Business mentions “nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback.”

According to the Forbes Corporate Learning Factbook (2014) the U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 15% in 2013 to over $70 Billion in the US and over $130 Billion worldwide. The Training Journal indicates that trends for 2016 are that employees are opting for more unbundled, flexible training options that fit into their own schedule.

What is extremely concerning is that this topic seems to be very well documented, and current global trends are showing that organisations are spending more on training and employee programs, so why is the CEO being neglected? Where is the hesitation coming from?

Depending on your individual circumstances you may or may not having the luxury of going to the Board to pursue external support. In these circumstances a CEO could pursue external personal support:

  1. Find a Peer Group: Many cities have networks and organisations dedicated specifically to CEO’s. For example, “Young Presidents’ Organization” is a global association dedicated to CEO’s under 50 where they have informal gatherings, share stories and discuss challenges (Globe and Mail, 2009). Regardless of your age, there are many groups like this around the globe and this might be a great way to help combat the feeling of isolation.
  2. Form a Personal Board of Advisors: This is not always the easiest group of people to establish but if the possibility is there, it is a great option. The general idea is to have a small group of informal advisors with different backgrounds that you can use as a “Bollplank” in different situations. This option allows one to have multiple different perspectives, hopefully leading to much wider sources of influence.
  3. Get a Coach or a Mentor: This option is great if you can find the “right” person. A good coach/mentor can help you identify blindspots and help you frame challenges in different ways. These one-on-one relationships typically evolve over a period of time and often include cover both business and personal issues and challenges.

There are different options and organisations in the Umeå area that can assist if you are looking.

These feelings of isolation are not only dangerous to leaders personally, they are also dangerous to their organisations as a whole. Business today is high-stakes and fast moving and requires leaders to be sharp and focused, ignoring these feelings could impact their entire organisation in ways unforeseeable. How do we approach rectifying this problem?


Rob McCuaig

A not so lone Canadian in Umeå

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