I had a conversation with another manager about the ideal sales rep and sales culture. It’s a conversation I’ve had so many times I knew what she was going to say far before she said it. The argument goes like this, “Sales people are different. They are motivated mostly by money. The best sales people are ambitious (hungry is another favorite synonym) because they want to make a lot of money.” It’s always interesting to me that it’s assumed sales people are somehow different from everyone else on the planet that doesn’t work on commission.
Ambition is not very useful to an organization because it is generally selfish in nature. Ambitious people generally want status. They want more money or a bigger title so that they can show off their new car to all their friends. Ambitious people will often do whatever it takes to get what they want. This might be overpromising to customers, undercutting other team members, or making choices that benefit them more than the company.
What any organization really wants is people with drive and passion, people who are internally motivated to be proud of the work they do and want to make a positive impact. Steve Jobs’ dad made sure even the backside of a cabinet he was building was made with quality and care because, even if no one else saw it, he knew it was there. This is a great example of someone who takes pride in their work. He didn’t do it because he would get a bigger bonus when his manager, if he had had one, came around and inspected the backsides of his cabinets to mark for his performance review. It’s clear he did it because the quality of his work spoke about his character. It represented something that would probably outlast him and he wanted to leave his mark.
People that are driven and have a passion to make something great, to change the world, will do their best all the time because they believe in what they do. Not only that, they will long-term out-perform anyone that’s just in it to get the biggest paycheck that quarter. Even better, they’ll do a great job even if it’s clear that they or their team won’t be meeting their target that week.
In value-based organizations, there is a mission worth working for and the people they hire are passionate about that mission. They don’t need to dangle carrots on sticks to get work done, because they have people that would never think about giving less than their best and would be insulted if you implied otherwise.
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Real listening is hard. Real listening takes a long time.
As managers and leaders, we hear a lot about active listening, but how many of us heed the advice? How many of us are actually listening to it? 🙂
I had a conversation with a team member the other day related to some challenges she was facing in the work place. The conversation took almost an entire hour, with me speaking for, at best, 5-10 minutes of it. If you are like me, this is hard to do. Often, our instinct as managers is to jump in and offer advice, to give solutions. We need to hold that desire in check, because the best solutions are the ones the other person comes up with on their own.
Really listening also shows your team member that you really care about what they have to say. Our days are packed with more tasks than we can possibly ever finish and sometimes we feel we don’t have the time to really listen to our team. That’s why we have to make that time, because supporting our teams is one of our highest priorities.
A great coaching conversation is more about asking the right questions and helping a person see things in a new light. Also, if you really listen, it shows you really care about what the person is saying rather than just waiting to jump in with your own opinion.
Fact: I once worked as a telemarketer. Related fact: I used to know a lot of shady people.
Telemarketing is the epitome of a sales job. With no pictures, no demonstrations, no relationship, you make your pitch. Like so many of these types of sales jobs, you work on pure commission.
Pure commission usually attracts a certain kind of person, a person interested in making the most money in the least amount of time. Short-term gain is the name of the game. It doesn’t matter how you make the buck, just that you make it. This is one reason why so many people hate telemarketers. Much like the stereotypical used-car salesman, they’ll say anything to get your money.
I had been working there for about a year when the company did something utterly surprising. Overnight, they scrapped commission and put everyone on a salary of 9 dollars an hour with opportunities for raises based on performance. Everything changed.
Over the next few months, the “scam and make a quick buck” employees started to disappear. In their place came a lot of high school and college kids who needed a job with a flexible schedule. Even better for the company, profits went up by 30% in 6 months across the board. This was despite the fact that only half as many pledge packets were being mailed (my firm raised donations for police organizations, so we needed the donor to mail the money in before we could take the fee for providing the infrastructure and call service).
What was happening? We were mailing out far fewer pledges and were paying sales reps regardless of whether or not they closed. How did profits increase? Well, before, sales reps would lie, guilt, or badger people into making a pledge. Once the pledge went out, they got commission on it regardless of whether or not it was returned. However, once the commission was gone, the people interested in doing anything to make a quick buck disappeared. In addition, there was no motivation to close as many pledges as possible.
Instead, the people taking their place were sincerely interested in raising donations for a good cause. They actually connected with the people they called and made people feel good about donating. This resulted in less pledges being sent to people who didn’t really want to mail them back and more people happy about the pledge they were making.
Bottom line: if you want a team that truly cares about your customers and is more focused on doing the job right rather than just getting it done, put them on a salary. Forget the commission, incentives, and bonuses. Instead, find the people that care about your mission and show them how they are making a difference. Your customers will see the difference immediately.
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High performance is unsustainable if demanded of yourself and your team 100% of the time. You also need to build in time to have fun and relax. Celebrate your successes. Take a breather after your failures. There is nothing more important than the health, both physical and mental, of you and your team. If people are driving themselves into the ground to hit a target or complete a project, how long can they last? When will they make a critical mistake or leave for greener pastures?
There is always tomorrow and your team will respect you more when you respect their work/life balance. So take a load off and put your feet up, even if it’s just for a second. Put your team before the job and you’ll find stronger engagement, longer term success, and healthier co-workers.