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Leading the High-Performance Sales Force - (B-E)-M

Course code
Course type
MSc Course
Weekly Hours
FS 2024
Prof. Dr. Ove Jensen
Please note that exchange students obtain a higher number of credits in the BSc-program at WHU than listed here. For further information please contact directly the International Relations Office.

Part One: Steering Sales Performance (Transactional Sales Leadership)

Week I: Steering by Pay

·       Class Session 01: Theories and Ideologies of Sales Incentives

·       Class Session 02: Advanced Sales Compensation Solutions

Week II: Steering by Process

·       Class Session 03: Sales Coaching

·       Class Session 04: Sales Forecasting & Pipeline Management

Week III: Steering by Potential

·       Self-Study: Sales Response Functions

·       Class Session 05: Territory Management

·       Class Session 06: Priority Setting and Customer Classification

Week IV: Steering by Prediction

·       Class Session 07: Sales Augmentation and Automation

·       Class Session 08: Analytics for Sales Force Deployment

Part Two: Shaping Sales Performance (Transformational Sales Leadership)

Week V: Shaping Culture

·       Class Session 09: Identity-Based Motivation

·       Class Session 10: High-Performance Sales Culture – Würth Guest Lecture

Week VI: Shaping Collaboration

·       Class Session 11: Structuring the Sales Organization Matrix

·       Class Session 12: Team Selling in High-Tech Firms

Week VII: Shaping Change

·       Class Session 13: Managing Up and Managing Down

·       Class Session 14: Initiating Change as a Young Sales Manager

·       Class Session 15: Sales Excellence Programs

The course consciously minimizes overlaps with my Foundations of Sales course in WHU's Bachelor program. Thus, it is valuable to students who had a class with me before and those who haven't.

Date Time
Monday, 08.01.2024 11:30 - 15:15
Monday, 15.01.2024 11:30 - 15:15
Wednesday, 17.01.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Friday, 26.01.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Monday, 29.01.2024 11:30 - 15:15
Monday, 05.02.2024 11:30 - 15:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Thursday, 08.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Wednesday, 14.02.2024 08:00 - 11:15
Monday, 19.02.2024 09:45 - 11:15
Wednesday, 28.02.2024 10:00 - 11:00
Profit has two sides: revenues and costs. Most curricula include a great deal of cost management. However, what about managing revenues? Most students learn in their Bachelor's program that innovation, pricing, and advertisement influence revenues. These are important, but not enough. Managingrevenues means managing the peoplewho make sales, i.e., those who talk to customers, communicate innovations, negotiate prices, and obtain signatures under a contract: the sales force. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), an entrepreneur in the 19th century, stated the significance of his sales force: "You can take away my money and take away my factories, but leave me my sales staff – and I'll be back where I was in two years."

The cost side is traditionally transparent and overmanaged in most firms. In comparison, the revenue side is intransparent and undermanaged. Top management often has little grip on the activities of their key account executives, field reps, and first-line sales managers. Sales performance is a black box to them. This course teaches how to lighten the black box and systematically manage sales performance.

Not only is the sales force the No. 1 revenue driver, but it is also a significant cost driver. On average, firms spend 10% of their revenues on the sales force. In the economy, the overall amount spent on sales forces is three times the combined spending on advertising. In most multinational companies, most international subsidiaries and employees are in sales. Consequently, leading a firm requires learning to lead the sales force.

The course prepares for a wide range of career tracks: In corporate careers, successfully managing a sales organization is the ultimate career test before a candidate makes it to top management. For entrepreneurial ventures, building a sales organization is one of the most challenging tasks on the growth path. Toparticipants in a finance career track, the course removes the mystery around sales forecasts and sales productivity. Consulting careers benefit from the insight into the mentality of salespeople and the course content on implementing change.

The course intends to enhance five categories of competencies:

·       Factual knowledge, for example, applying sales management jargon (such as quota, forecast, accelerators, boosters, contexts, pipeline, DSM, and other idioms) and defining sales performance indicators,

·       conceptual knowledge, for example, classifying different types of sales forces and sales positions, analyzing the optimal size and deployment of the sales force, evaluating territory structures, classifying elements of compensation plans, classifying the dimensions of sales force performance management, critically assessing motivation theories, identifying and comparing rationalist and humanist management ideologies, and explaining the evolution of sales organizations and sales positions,

·       sales force leadership-specific procedural knowledge, for example, providing constructive feedback, appraising sales performance, analyzing sales pipelines and generating sales forecasts, communicating policy changes to a sales team, and building work relationships with employees older than oneself,

·       general business-relevant procedural knowledge, for example, preparing for business meetings, making the best out of a limited preparation time budget, making concise contributions to discussions, constructively building on arguments by other participants, and

·       metacognitive knowledge, for example, evaluating one's leadership behavior, assessing the ethical dimension of sales leadership, creating a skill profile for salespeople and sales leaders, and measuring the excellence of sales organizations.

There is no required textbook. I have not found a book covering all the topics discussed in this course. The learning material for this course includes presentation slides, articles, case studies, role-plays, videos, whiteboard notes, and practice quizzes. These and other course-related information are available on the learning management system Moodle.
The learning method in this module follows the ideas of problem-based learning and the "reversed classroom" (a.k.a. "flipped classroom"). The "reversed classroom" replaces classroom lectures ("Frontalunterricht") with a blend of self-study at home and interactive discussions in the classroom. Problem-based learning refutes the traditional, passive learning sequence: "First hearing a concept. Then hearing problems that it could solve". It reverses it to an active learning sequence: "First trying to solve a problem oneself. Then discussing solutions with the group, led by the professor. Finally, getting additional insight from the professor".

The learning method mix includes role-play sessions between students with joint debriefings, case-based discussions with concluding mini-lectures, interactive concept lectures, and managerial guest presentations.Watch this video showing the style of case-based sessions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbNNsq1fC0A. Problem-based learning requires significant energy from both the student and the teacher.

The module grade wholly rests onindividual performance. There are no team scores, peer evaluations, or oral participation scores. The maximum score is 150 points. The score is composed as follows:

·       60% (90 points): rest on case preparation quizzes. They are due the day before a class session, starting Week II. Note: These graded case quizzes are not the same as the ungraded practice quizzes mentioned below.

·       40% (60 points) rest on a 60-minute final exam. Participants receive practice quizzes and mock exams to prepare. Note: These ungraded practice quizzes are not the same as the graded case quizzes mentioned above.

The final exam is a proctored, bring-your-own-device, laptop-based quiz with numerical, multiple-choice, sorting, and matching questions. There are no open or fill-in questions. Each student gets a randomized set of numbers and a shuffled sequence of questions.

The exam is open-book; you may bring any printed or handwritten paper, but no digital resources are allowed. The proctoring software prevents you from opening laptop apps besides the assessment tool. The only other electronic device permitted is a non-programmable calculator.

According to WHU rules, average grades should fall between 1.8 and 2.5.

·       The average passing grade in the module's Spring 2023 version was 1.90. 39% of students accomplished a very good grade (1.0, 1.3). No student failed. Students needed 50% of the points to pass the class and 92% to get the highest grade.

·       The average passing grade in the module's Spring 2022 version was 1.79. 55% of students accomplished a very good grade (1.0, 1.3). No student failed. Students needed 50% of the points to pass the class and 99% to get the highest grade.

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