A McKinsey Response

July 27, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Sales Growth Book ReviewEarlier this month I posted a review of McKinsey’s new sales book.  You can find my review here.

The reaction to the post was very interesting.  I received several calls and emails thanking me for offering my honest opinion, and agreeing with my point of view.  However, when I asked for these people to share their feelings in the comments section of the blog, they declined, citing fear of a McKinsey attack. 

The most interesting response I received was directly from McKinsey. Contrary to general opinion, McKinsey did not go on the attack.  They did not agree with my assessment but voiced their disagreement with professionalism.  I appreciate McKinsey reading this blog and engaging in the discussion.  It is this kind of debate that will further our collective knowledge on the subject of sales force effectiveness. So, to my peers at McKinsey, thank you.

However, I do find their rebuttal inconsistent with what their clients have told me.  I also find hiding behind client confidentiality to be disappointing.  No one is asking for them to reveal secrets. 

I requested an interview with the authors and they declined. My hope was to post the audio recording of the interview for you.  Maybe next time.

Having said all that, they deserve to be heard.  There are two sides to every story and you deserve to hear theirs.  Below is this response to my review.  Enjoy. 

From: barr_seitz@mckinsey.com [mailto:barr_seitz@mckinsey.com]
Friday, July 06, 2012 4:27 PM
Greg Alexander
Some helpful clarifications of your book review
Hi Greg,

Thanks for taking the time to read our book, Sales Growth, and I appreciate your candor. I thought it would be helpful to point out a few factual inaccuracies in your review that are worth pointing out:

- Aside from the research methods you listed, the book was also based on 300+ engagements a year that we conduct as a firm. Those engagements include many ride-alongs and channel partner interviews, including hundreds conducted by the authors

- The book is also based on the voice of the customer. We surveyed 1,200 B2B customers as noted on pages 53-54 of the book.  We have done similar research on B2C customers as well.

In addition, I wanted to clarify our perspective on a few of points you raised:
- You're right that we focused only on the largest companies, a fact we highlighted in the preface. We took this approach because it's particularly difficult to outgrow your competitors when you're that large, especially over time. We also thought those learnings would be particularly instructive for larger organizations, which was our primary audience. While that segment was the focus, the sample does include a number of companies outside the Fortune 500

- We completely agree that B2B sales leaders are under lots of pressure and have difficulty looking much farther ahead than six quarters. But in interviewing those leaders that consistently found growth in trends, they were able to look 10 quarters ahead. Certainly difficult to do, which is why we focused on the best sales leaders.

- We agree that the opportunities of big data cannot be the sales function's responsibility alone. We do mention in the chapter that at the best companies, big data capabilities are often organized within a center of excellence at the corporate center with other functions as well. You might be interested in a piece we just published in the Harvard Business Review where we focus on the opportunities B2B sales can find in data and address the need for cross-functional collaboration. http://hbr.org/2012/07/selling-into-micromarkets/ar/1.

I hope this has been helpful. Keep up your posts; I enjoy reading them.

Barr Seitz
Director, Digital Publishing & Marketing


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Topics: Books, Sales Consulting

Posted by Greg Alexander

Greg Alexander
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