Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford

NAVIGATION - SEARCH

Hunt vs Farm - July 29, 2017

In the world of sales, the phrase hunting versus farming is certainly not new, but has been lost on the current younger generation of up and coming sales people. I’ve met dozens of younger sales people recently and almost none could explain the phrase hunt versus farm. Making matters worse, while they were familiar with terms (or titles) like account executive, account manager or business development professional, none liked the idea of being referred to as a sales person.

 

A simple explanation of the phrase is this: a sales hunter seeks out a new business relationship that do not currently exist (prospects), nurtures and develops the relationship (sells), and then manages the ongoing relationship (account management) all while repeating the process with new prey (prospects); while farming on the other hand is based around the concept that crops are already planted (a book of business already exists) and you must nurture the existing relationship (account manage) while not having any pressure of ongoing sales or new business development.

 

Organizations who employee more farmers and less hunters are causing issues in the market on two levels. One, they are not challenging young sales people to grow books of business, rather relying on the older or more experienced members of the team to bring in new deals. And two, they are leaving the general marketplace without qualified sales people, thus a lack of knowledge and experience exists where people become afraid of what real sales and real business development is all about.

 

I’ve had to get past my own frustration that many simply have never heard of the phrase hunter versus farmer. However, once I explain the difference between the two I ask one question, are you a hunter or a farmer (or who do you want to be)? If the answer is farmer, the conversation ends immediately, and the opportunity to discuss our open sales positions comes quickly to an end.

 

There is no denying that our society has changed and opinions and views on sales people or a sales career has changed as well. There are still a few out there that want to make an above average annual income and believe sales is a career choice that will help them. However, all too often companies hold back these talented individuals because their opinion too has changed, and they have become more and more accepting of farmers. Where have all of the hunters gone? Where are the “never take no as an answer sales people”?

 

Sales is not a dirty word and has provided many a professional a wonderful career. Hunters can change the course of their company’s growth. Hunters can call their own shots, make their own schedules, and have much more control over their own career destiny. Like hunting animals for food, one must be successful, or they do not eat. Sales hunters must be successful or they do not close business, bring in new revenue, and earn commission. In other words, they must hunt, be a successful hunter, or they do not eat.

 

As a longtime sales manager, I want to be surrounded by hunters, for the more success we hunters achieve, the more we will eat. Are you a hunter or a farmer? Are you an aggressive sales person hellbent on success? I am seeking a real sales hunter to join my team. Contact me if this post resonates with you.

For A Reason - July 22, 2017

Maybe it’s the Catholic school upbringing or just my grandmother’s words spoken to me as a child, but I’ve long put faith in the term “things happen for a reason”. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe each person has a large part in defining who they are and where they are going. But, I also believe that in business, as in our personal lives, we have individuals come and go for a reason. Sometimes the reasons are known in the moment while other times the reasons come at a later date.

 

Over the past few weeks I have been a firsthand witness to changes that I can only define as “for a reason”. To begin with, in my day-to-day business, I am dealing with the loss of a longtime teammate. He was my right hand for nearly five years. But, for personal reasons, he has chosen to move from the United States back to be with family in his home country. I will greatly miss Ned. He was an excellent salesman. He was a confidant. He was someone I genuinely enjoyed spending many hours a day with. He was an all around good guy.

 

I am forced now to look not to the past and good times we had, but to the present and future for my firm, and I must seek a new teammate. I cannot replace Ned, but I must replace the position. I believe this change is happening for a reason. For Ned it is an opportunity as a young professional to explore opportunities to build upon his career that are truly global, and for me and my firm, this is an opportunity to bring someone into the organization with fresh perspective. We will bring someone with sales experience, management experience, and full of hope and ideas for growth. I can say things happen for a reason and in this case we will use this as an opportunity to begin a new chapter of business expansion.

 

On the personal side I am faced with the loss of a neighbor. He has announced that he will be moving his family from across the street to a new home several miles away. Now, you may say so what, what’s the big deal. It is not as much of an impact on me as it is on my youngest daughter. Her best friend is moving. Her confidant. The person she spends hours per day with. Her “other sister”.  For young children this type of announcement is tough to swallow. But, again, things happen for a reason. As my daughter gets older and is becoming more mature, this will be an opportunity for her to expand her network of friends, move beyond the comfort zone, and to explore her boundaries. She is not losing a friend, as I’ve told her, she is gaining new opportunities and challenges.

 

Although these are simple examples of change, in both examples I watched others around me react with concern, get upset, and wonder “what now?” In life we will all be faced with challenges, with change, and it is how we choose to accept these challenges and change that will not only define who we are, but show others who we are.

 

Living my life with the belief that things happen for a reason has not always been easy. It is not easy to accept the sudden and tragic loss of a four year old boy. What reason is there for such a thing. Cancer diagnosis is again no laughing matter and something that one will ask themselves “why them” or “why me”. Looking beyond the immediate situation, but to the what comes next has helped me learn that life is short, change is inevitable, and things really do happen for a reason. You may be smacked square in the face with the reason or you may need time to seek the reason out. But, no matter what, things happen for a reason.

Sales Crossfit - July 15, 2017

Do you work out? Do you go to the gym? Hopefully the answer is yes, because as a sales person, staying healthy physically and mentally helps with the endurance you need in the game of sales.

 

Crossfit is no longer a craze, rather a mainstay approach to exercise. Crossfit combines a little bit of this with a little bit of that in a one hour routine. Think about it this way, in one hour you’ll do some running and probably other cardio exercises, mix in a lot of stretching, and then top it all off with weight training. Crossfit works the entire body and mind. And, no two days (classes) are alike.

 

Sales can sometimes become stagnant. A sales person’s routine can become repetitive. If you make the same amount of cold calls every day, at the same time of the day, and say the same pitch on every call, you can burn out. It’s like eating the same lunch at the same time at your desk every day of the week, it gets hard to be excited. So, what can a sales person do to breathe life into their routine – take a crossfit approach.

 

I’ve been using this approach for my entire career and I’ve taught this approach to countless numbers of sales people. It never dawned on me to relate it to crossfit until I started doing crossfit myself. Now I can call it something…sales crossfit.

 

My concept for sales crossfit is simple. Routine is important. Without developing and sticking with a routine, schedules may become very unbalanced, and you begin to scramble to find time to get something done. Much like going to the gym, if you don’t stick with a routine or schedule, it is easy to say “I’ll go tomorrow”. In sales terms “I’ll get to it tomorrow”. Routine is not a dirty word in sales or in your career so long as it is used in proper context.

 

A sales person should have a routine that calls for internal team meetings, client meetings, client entertainment, cold calling / prospecting, networking, etc. on a regularly scheduled basis. For example, Steve has a great routine, he makes calls Monday afternoon, Tuesday morning, Wednesday morning, Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning. He has this time set every day or every week in his schedule. Some days it is a one hour slot and others a two. Steve’s goal is to make a certain amount of qualified calls, but more importantly, to hold a certain amount of qualified conversations. Where crossfitting his sales comes into play is who he’s calling, why he’s calling and his pitch. Steve mixes it up to avoid becoming stagnant.

 

Some organizations require sales people to meet their clients on location while others want the client to come to them. Crossfit this sales approach and do both. Mix it up and get the client out of their comfort zone from time-to-time. Same goes for networking opportunities. Break from the same industry related events and look to others than may spark your curiosity even if not directly in line with your targets.

 

I’ve long believed that the path to success in sales is to always be in sales mode. Staying sharp and always being in sales mode requires a sales person to stay focused and excited. In an effort to keep the excitement alive, try different approaches to your sales tactics, mix it up a bit, try taking a sales crossfit approach.

Top Down Change - July 8, 2017

Top down change is by no means a new concept in business. At its very basic premise top down change simply means that a decision is being made from the top, embraced by top management, and shall be implemented throughout the company beginning with management all the way down the line. Pretty straight forward, huh?

 

There is another version of top down change that is oftentimes not discussed in day-to-day business operations and certainly not the most pleasant of concepts. This version of top down change is removing and/or replacing your human equity all together, thus forcing change that may scare an organization to its core. However, if managed correctly, the outcome can be hugely successful.

 

I recently consulted with a client where such a change was the last resort. A shakeup to the organization so-to-speak. Jim, the ceo of a midsize manufacturing company, has seen little in the area of sales and revenue growth for well over one year. The sales team has been walking around with their heads held high, a bit of a chip on their shoulders, as if everything is fine. Revenue is flat and even on a year-to-date basis, yet the company goal is to grow nearly 25% over last year. Jim began to look at himself as to the cause for being flat. Was he not leading the company the right way? Was he not participating enough with the sales team? Was he not providing the proper leadership to his sales manager, Neal?

 

Jim worked with his other management team members and his outside advisors constantly trying to determine the “why’s” of what was happening from a sales standpoint. More and more the answers were coming back that Neal, although a good sales person and seemingly good guy, was not a good sales manager. And, his poor leadership qualities, and the lack of mentoring he was providing his team was the root cause for the lack of sales. He led his sales people to believe they were doing fine. He managed by numbers with no emotion. Neal would often say “keep making your calls, make your numbers, and everything will happen in time”. However, he did not teach (or coach) his sales team to push down on the gas pedal, or to change up their individual styles when making calls. Neal may have been a good sales person, but not a good leader, and he allowed his sales team to become complacent. And, the sales people didn’t seem to care.

 

Jim gave Neal and the sales team several months of his own coaching starting with team huddles every two weeks, moving to every week, and then twice per week. He shared stories from customers, stories from other departments from within the company, all based around the need to enhance overall sales performance. Days and weeks went by all the while Jim growing more and more frustrated. The sales team was not responsive to what was becoming clear: sales were now declining.

 

The day finally came in early-May when Jim, his fellow executive team (not including Neal) and his advisors realized they needed to make a change. This would not be a pleasant change in the beginning, but if executed properly, a change that would turn the company back toward positive sales and an increase in revenue. A top down change was needed.

 

Jim engaged a professional recruiting agency with experience in his industry. He utilized this firm to select a new sales manager and two new sales team members. He then made the top down change a reality. In keeping with his planned two-a-week meetings with Neal and the sales team, Jim walked into the conference room right on schedule like many meetings prior, with one exception. His executive team was with him.

 

In a swift and deliberate move Jim announced that Neal and his sales team were all done as of that moment. They were fired. Jim explained that meeting after meeting with the sales team had been documented. Performance charts were being tracked. Communication with clients was being had by the executives and the clients were ready to buy but were not being contacted by the sales rep. Each sales person, including Neal, had failed not only the company, but themselves. It had been obvious for a long time that they were the wrong team for this company. A top down change was needed and a top down change was happening.

 

This approach to top down change can be and is dramatic. It is a last resort toward making needed improvements. Now, nearly sixty days later, Jim could not be more pleased with the new sales team. In his words “they get it”. Client communication is improving, the new sales team members are excited about their roles and the prospects ahead, and revenue has already begun to increase.

Great Salesman-Poor Sales Manager - July 1, 2017

In a follow-up to last week’s post, I was “called out” by a colleague suggesting I was speaking to him through my writing. Well, not exactly, but there were several correlations that could not be ignored. However, what my colleague missed in the post but something we discussed at length over the past few days is this, there can be great sales people that are not cut out to be a coach.

 

Going back to my analogy of professional sports, many coaches played the game, but not all. And, given the vast number of athletes playing in the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, et al, few ever go on to be a coach at any level. In sales, as I’ve stated in past posts, not everyone is cut out to become a sales manager.

 

Managing sales people requires a variety of characteristics ranging from empathy (because you’ve been there done that) to support to disciplined reinforcement. A successful sales manager does not manage from a spreadsheet alone, as in stats and numbers only, but with emotion. Keep in mind that sales is emotional and almost all sales require skill in working with human relationships.

 

I’ve been in sales for a long time and have interacted with many a great salesman, but also many a poor sales manager. I sometimes wondered why such a charismatic, successful sales person could turn out to be such a lousy sales manager? The answer was not that far from the question. It didn’t take long to determine why.

 

Sales is a big game hunt. You prepare, you stalk, you hunt, you kill, you take your trophy. The excited feeling of accomplishment is an euphoric high that quickly moves on and then the sales person plans for the next hunt in order to repeat the success and the feeling. Sales management on the other hand oftentimes does not come with the same sense of accomplishment simply because you are attempting to be the hunting guide and not the hunter.

 

A hunting guide chooses to be so because they know how to hunt and how to accomplish their goals. They’ve done it enough that they want others to gain the same level (or close to) of their success. The sales manager needs to change their own demeaner when dealing with sales people in that they want the sales people to taste success, learn how to be successful, and to make success a routine. They must be a guide, a coach, and not every great sales person ultimately wants to take on the added responsibilities.

 

While some sales managers say yes to the sales management role, they do it with a smile on their face, but reluctance just the same. They know how to sell. They are excellent at the big game hunt. But, they fall short when it comes to being the guide or the coach. When you ask or are asked to consider sales management, make sure you understand what is at stake for you and the team, what implications come along with becoming the coach, what expectations your team will have of you, and finally if you feel you can be equally successful as the coach as you were the player.

Coach Don't Manage - June 24, 2017

Some of the best coaches are the ones we had when we were kids. Just think about how many professional athletes give praise to their youth sports coaches. Since his entry into the NBA, LeBron James has and continues to praise his high school coach, because he was the most influential in LeBron’s career. Think about this a bit more, LeBron has played for two NBA teams with multiple management executives, and a number of other head coaches (who in professional sports are more managers than coaches).

 

A coach, a truly impactful coach, is more than the title given to him or her. A coach is a manager, a mentor, and tour guide through portions of your life. As a manager, a coach sets the course toward goal achievement, much of which is by some level of directive. As a mentor (think big brother or big sister), a coach leads by example and teaches from a “been there done that” standpoint. And, as a tour guide, a coach has the ability to provide insight into ones future, regardless of short-term or long-term.

 

Sales managers, the best I’ve ever come across, are more like coaches than executive leaders. Don’t get me wrong, every organization must possess strong executive leadership, but a sales manager needs to be more. A sales manager must be a coach in order to get the very best from their team members, the sales reps. In most cases, sports are coached by someone that has played the sport, and most likely with an above average level of proficiency. It is not an easy task to coach an eighth grade girls volleyball team if you’ve never even played organized volleyball. Positioning and the rules are not easy to ascertain without having been there done that. In sales, many sales managers fail because they either don’t have a deep or broad enough sales background, or in some cases they did not come from sales at all.

 

In taking a coach’s position as a sales manager, doing so should feel natural to both you, the sales manager, as well as the team members, the sales reps. I’ve come across many sales managers who have described their roles as nothing short of uncomfortable in the sense that they feel like “task managers”. They have mediocre report with their team members and tend to train and manage from a spreadsheet versus from the history book. They cannot tell relative stories from the been there done that standpoint and therefore these sales managers fall short in exploiting the best from each sales rep.

 

Coaches on the other hand know how to manage people from a talent and emotional perspective. They know what makes their team members work harder than others. They know what drives or motivates them. They know how to not only ask, but expect, each sales person’s very best each and every time they are in the game (of sales).

 

Ask yourself this question: Am I a coach or a manager? Who do I want to be? And, how can I become the winningest sales coach in the game?

Be Careful Not To Overpromise - June 17, 2017

An old saying “under promise and over deliver” has a tendency to fall short with sales people. In an effort to win over a prospect or client, sales people oftentimes embellish when giving their pitch. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is, yet sales people still take this approach.

 

I pride myself on being mindful and very careful that my words are simply a representation of my company. Whatever I promise in a meeting oftentimes must be delivered by my team. Therefore, I tend to be much more cautious when describing my firm, our services, and what the client should expect in the end.

 

I’ve fielded a few phone calls recently by clients that were overpromised by either a sales rep and even in one case by our sales manager. It wasn’t a stretch of the imagination so much as it was how much emphasis was placed on delivery of service. Timeframes were tight and budgets even tighter, and in both cases, my sales people gave the clients the old “no problem we’ve got it”. Unfortunately, that was a theme they chose to lead with in the sales process, and no matter how much complexity crept into the project, “no problem we’ve got it”.

 

Our internal team was none-to-pleased to find out that unrealistic deadlines were being imposed by their own sales people. And, the fact that the client would have accepted an additional amount of time from the beginning, this put a burden on our resources which simply did not have to happen.

 

Being enthusiastic in a sales role is a requirement for success. But, being enthusiastic doesn’t mean giving in to any sort of unrealistic requests or demands from a client, so be on your toes. Practice how best to pitch realistic pricing, deadlines for delivery, and rebuttals to concerns raised. Speaking from experience a client is much more appreciative when given realistic information rather than being overpromised. 

Competition From Within - June 10, 2017

Most sales people are trained to “know the competition” to some degree. You may be well versed in their products or services, have a grasp on their pricing matrix, or even know people within their organization. Knowing the competition helps a sales person prepare to put their best foot forward in hopes they outshine when the decision making process takes place.

 

But, what happens when the competition is from within the prospective client’s own company? There are several scenarios that may cause a company to go out to bid, such as lack of internal capacity or time, limited resources with the necessary experience, or a desire to learn from others. And, sometimes leadership may simply want to challenge their own internal resources by bringing in the “outsiders”.

 

Regardless of the reason why the project or service is being outsourced, a sales person is generally at a disadvantage when they do not know the competition, especially when the competition is from within. There are two ways to level the playing field. First, asking the right questions, and second, researching the internal team members (ie competition).

 

When asking questions, a good sales person needs to be fluid as with all questioning of a prospect, but also a bit more invasive while being calculated. Naturally questions arise around the why’s and when’s as well as the budget and decision making process, but questions also need to be asked about “how come you’re not doing this yourself?” A series of open-ended questions, where you get the prospect talking, needs to be a part of this sales process so you can best gain perspective on why they feel it is better to bring you in.

 

Th next step is understanding who the team members are within the prospective company that would likely take the project on. This may sound daunting, but with LinkedIn, it becomes easier. Imagine for a moment that these individuals were another agency that you were bidding against. Learn who they are, what skill sets they have, what their qualifications or lack thereof they possess, and then plan to present why you are a better choice as if they were an agency and not full-time employees.

 

In presenting your proposal, the final step, the key approach is not to state reasons why you are a better fit than the competition, as would normally be the case, rather state all of the facts as to why your firm will be a great compliment to their organization. Paying compliments to their current capabilities will play favor with them while also showcasing how you can jointly take on the project. You don’t want to make them feel inferior or give them a sense that is what you’re trying to do, instead showing how your two groups can collaborate will likely increase the odds of you winning the business.

Do You Really Want To Be Here - June 3, 2017

 

Relationships are hard. Relationships require two people to learn to communicate effectively. Honesty is required in any relationship. Disagreements happen, but must be managed with respect. And, whether the relationship is personal such as a marriage, or the relationship is business such as a sales rep to sales manager, your dialogue needs to be open and in a willingness to open up to one another. This can be the toughest part of a relationship.

 

Let me focus on a personal situation first. It’s said there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Divorce rates hover in the 50% range. Marriage counselors can be found with the click of a mouse. Relationship blogs are everywhere. Advice abounds on how to effectively communicate with your spouse on topics ranging from kids to finances to intimacy. No matter the topic or the source of information, you will almost always find one common theme, open communication. In many of these examples, asking your spouse tough questions is tough enough, but being able to maturely handle their answer can be even tougher. Imagine asking your significant other if they really want to remain in the relationship. Can you handle them being honest if the answer is anything but a resounding and firm “yes, of course I do”? What happens if they say, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” or a flat-out “no”? How do you move forward from this answer?

 

Now, shift over to the business relationship between a sales manager and the sales rep. There is a relationship in place. Sales managers need to place trust in the reps. Reps need to be honest with their managers when they are not feeling things are going 100% in the right direction. A sales manager and a sales rep need to have an open dialogue about what’s working, what’s not working, and what can be done to make the situation and their relationship better. Oftentimes the sales manager is the embodiment of the entire company for whom the sales rep has the most intimate relationship. Intimacy in this case is not the same as a spousal relationship, but is important nonetheless. A sales rep must open up to the sales manager, exposing their weaknesses, so the sales manager can help develop their skills, making them stronger sales reps, thus creating a stronger relationship. What happens when communication breaks down or wasn’t that great to begin with? What happens when a sales manager begins to lose faith in their rep? What becomes of the relationship between the sales manager, the sales rep, and the company when the time ultimately comes to ask the question – do you really want to be here?

 

I’ve had to ask that question a time or two in my career. I’ve not only asked that question of employees from a management perspective, but I’ve had to ask myself that questions as I looked in the mirror. I’ve asked that question in personal relationships throughout my adult life. And, I’ve asked that question looking directly into the eyes of the best sales rep I’ve ever had in my employ. It seems like such an easy question to ask, yet it may be the hardest one.

 

Over the past few weeks I’ve been counseling a sales manager who has been struggling with her relationships with two sales reps. Susan is a solid sales manager. She’s been through her share of ups and downs in sales for many years now, so it did take me a bit by surprise when she asked me for help. Her struggles are in managing her own emotions because she takes her relationships very seriously with her team members. She has mounting evidence, if you will, that Jonathan is just not performing as well as he should after being with the company for 18 months, yet she “likes the young man”, and wants to be supportive. She knows Grace (the newest sales person) is watching Jonathan struggle and must wonder if his struggles are acceptable.

 

Susan needs to come to grips with her responsibilities in both her relationship with Jonathan and with Grace. With Jonathan she needs to take a little more tough-love approach. He needs to be made aware that he’s become a bit complacent (see last week’s post), he needs to increase his overall sales performance, he needs to open up to her more, and he needs to be accountable for his communication in their relationship. Grace needs to be shown, by Susan’s actions, that Jonathan is struggling but cannot take advantage of his relationship with Susan.

 

Ultimately, Jonathan needs to be asked one poignant questions, “do you want to be here?” Susan has a relationship with Jonathan as a sales manager to sales rep. She needs to be as open and honest with him as to with herself. The relationship between them, between Jonathan and the company may simply need to end, and that is tough. He may not like the question and she may not like the answer, but the question must be asked. And, Jonathan needs to ask himself the question. Should he move on, for his and the company’s best interest, and seek a professional divorce?

 

It is a hard question to ask yourself or someone else, personally or professionally, but it needs to be done. Handled carefully and the question can save a relationship.

Hand Grenade Complacency - May 27, 2017

Close your eyes for a moment and visualize, if you will, a scene from a movie or television show: a hand grenade is thrown into a group and the reaction is to scramble and get the hell out of the way. Everyone in the scene knows it will explode. They don’t want to be in the way, so they get a burst of energy and move, no matter how exhausted they might be.

 

It is the latter part of the description that you should hang on to for this post. I’m not insinuating that you, as a sales manager, should blow up your team. Instead, metaphorically speaking, you may need to give them a jolt from time-to-time. I’ve been there before, it’s not always pleasant, but it does work. Here’s what I mean.

 

Complacency in sales is terrible and can be detrimental to your entire company if not addressed swiftly. Sometimes complacency sets in when the sales team feels like everything is going just fine. Complacency can also set in with one person and become contagious whereas the other sales team members begin to make excuses based on the actions of one person. Complacency tends to never come into play with ‘A’ level sales people, but then again it is rare to find an entire sales team made up of 100% ‘A’ level sales folks. So, what is a sales manager to do when complacency creeps into his or her team? Throw a hand grenade into their circle.

 

They need to be jolted alive. They need a wakeup call. They need to realize they are being complacent and that complacency is not normal in sales. And, to give them this awareness or awakening, they need a shock to the system. I reached out to a few friends in sales management for ideas on how they throw hand grenades at complacency.

 

Jim has been in enterprise-level software sales for 27 years. He’s been in sales management for the past 10 while also being the lead sales person (individually) each year. He noticed, not too long ago, that 8 of his 12 sales reps appeared to be going through the motions. Sales were neither slower than normal or better than normal, but their activity was decreasing. Meetings were not being scheduled with prospective clients or existing clients. Client entertainment was minimal. When he asked his reps how things were going the standard answer was status quo. Yet, he and the other 4 reps were increasing sales. They were getting prospective and existing clients to meet where discussions on upgrades were taking place. Jim became very tired very quickly of the obvious complacency with the rest of his team, so he threw a hand grenade into their daily routine. Jim contacted the top client for each of the 8 complacent reps and scheduled 8 face-to-face meetings. He was able to do this all in one day. When scheduling the meetings he also made sure his reps would be available to attend. The next morning was their mid-week sales meeting. Jim announced to his team the meetings that were scheduled with their clients, he set an agenda for each meeting, and he explained that these meetings were not difficult to schedule. In fact, the clients were anxious. He then sent the entire sales team home for the day with one question to ponder: “if you want to be in sales, if you want to return tomorrow and keep this job, come back in the morning prepared to discuss the ways in which we’ll never be complacent again”.

 

Maria manages a small sales team of 3 people for her family owned manufacturing company. Although the organization may seem small, the components they make are used in high definition radiology scanners. Her team had a tremendous year in 2016 adding several new clients and increasing sales from existing clients. However, the first quarter of 2017 did not keep pace. In her words, “my reps were still hungover from the success of 2016”. But, she wasn’t. She knew there were more opportunities with prospects and existing clients. And, of the 3 sales people, one really didn’t seem too concerned about slowing down. Complacency was okay by him because he was basking in the success from months ago. His commissions were still rolling in and he felt he could turn on his sales jets whenever he wanted. So, as both the sales manager and an owner in the business, Maria threw a grenade at the sales team. Becoming frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude of the one complacent sales rep more than the others, she went on her own mission to meet with and sell to his top three prospects. Without announcing her plans, she spent one week traveling to Indiana and Michigan, met with all three prospects, secured sales (PO’s) from all three, and quietly traveled back to her home office in Columbus, Ohio. The grenade was thrown the following Monday morning when she announced to the sales team her success from the week before. The complacent sales rep was visibly upset by what he called “back door tactics”. He felt she stole these prospects from him. He called her a lousy sales manager and demanded to meet with her brother, the president of the company, unaware that he was on the conference phone the entire time. Maria simply asked one question…”why did I close these deals and you didn’t?” He couldn’t answer the question and was subsequently terminated for lack of performance. He went from being the star of the show in 2016 to being a lazy bum in 2017. He didn’t feel motivated to continue his successes. He let complacency take over. And, with one week of visits, Maria showed her organization and the remaining 2 sales people that complacency has no place in a growth oriented company.

 

Maria’s case may be a drastic example. However, it happens every day in sales. Good sales managers, like ‘A’ level sales people, can recognize when someone (or a team) is becoming complacent. Stop it before it sets in otherwise you’ll need to throw a grenade at them.