The old sales mantra is “when you close a big deal, leverage the momentum and get another one.” Although it is good advice, I have always been one to savor the moment and celebrate a little bit. I cannot appreciate crossing the finish line if I have to start training right away. I have always enjoyed and reflected for a moment before getting busy — until now!
Last week I enjoyed one of my more significant professional accomplishments. I was the inspirational keynote at a sales conference for BASF in Mainz, Germany. BASF is the largest chemical company in the world. They invited me to speak before 300 sales professionals, board members, and executives at their biggest sales event in 2012. I was honored and humbled. I was also selected and invited.
BASF searched in Europe for a “motivational sales speaker.” They could find motivational speakers and sales speakers, but they did not find a motivational sales speaker. Frustrated with a lack of great choices, they took to YouTube and found me. After a couple of brief conversations, I was invited to be their keynote.
Six weeks later I am on a plane to Frankfurt, Germany prepared to give one of the biggest talks of my life. I have presented to larger groups. I have presented on this topic before. This time it was different.
This was a significant event for BASF. It was up to me to inspire the participants to be excited and engaged about the strategic initiatives they were learning about. I was responsible for their perceptions and mindset when they left the event that day. And, I was the only outsider they would hear from. This was both a great honor and an incredible responsibility.
I knocked the presentation out of the park. The talk went great. Among other positive comments and accolades, the senior executive responsible for my participation acknowledged that “the final part of your speech motivated the audience very much.” My assignment was to motivate the sales organization – mission accomplished!
As I bask in the glow of accomplishment and reflect on an incredible trip, I must keep this momentum going. For the first time in my professional career, I am not interested in enjoying the celebration for long. I realized an incredible accomplishment in response to a very impressive opportunity. I want more. Now, I want to do it again. As another sales adage goes, “you are only as good as your next order.” I am working on it!!
Insanity – Watching businesses stubbornly go through the painstaking process of attracting experienced sales professionals, expecting great results and getting mediocre outcomes.
If you believe that the best process for improving your sales results is to lure your competitor’s salespeople you are in for a painful lesson. It is much like free agency in professional sports. Very few free agents ever live up to the hype of expectations — they don’t have to.
First, the reality:
- Baggage: Most experienced sales professionals bring their experience to your organization, that is a plus. They also bring their bad habits, arrogance, and attitude. Because they have been lured away, they are often untouchable, unteachable, and unwilling to be held responsible. After all, you hired them because they were experienced stars, right?
- Costly: No one ever jumps to the competition without an incentive. To lure someone away, the recruiting firm must add something to the mix that makes the current situation less appealing — more money, bigger benefits, better perks. Attraction in recruiting has its costs and sales professionals know how to maximize the return on their perceived value.
- Risky: If a professional was really enjoying their life in their current organization, why would they leave? If everything was going great, why would anyone ever leave their current situation? They would leave if things weren’t all that great. If things are not all that great, why do businesses incentivize them to leave? Recruiting experienced salespeople is highly risky. You are likely recruiting the burnout, loafer or malcontent — all very risky hires.
Now, the solution:
- Intelligence: Bring intelligence into the process. Create and offer an attractive results based compensation model that rewards outcomes, not experience. If you cannot attract a high performer who, if they hit their normal numbers, will make significantly more money — they are not your type of person.
- Development: Great sports programs develop their players. They know how to recruit and develop inexperienced players and blend them in very successfully with a few well chosen free agents. The key to growth in your business is not buying high priced experienced talent, it is knowing how to discover and develop inexperienced talent.
- Management: The “want it now” mindset is killing business. Short term behaviors, at best, lead to unsustainable, short term results — no one wins. Make a commitment to be intelligent about the hiring, development and management of your team. Sales effectiveness is not solely dependent upon a team of highly experienced, well compensated sales pros. It is an effective blend of effective management, strategy, development in combination with properly defined performance incentives. Great teams require great leadership — don’t lose sight of this fact.
There are no shortcuts or easy paths to building a successful sales team. The least effective of these processes is to build up a team of all-stars that come into the organization from outside. This is a lesson in perpetual insanity.
Attract and retain — develop, manage, incentivize — hungry professionals and I guarantee business will grow and grow consistently.
Final thought: Have you ever read the resume of a sales professional who didn’t “consistently meet or exceed their revenue goals every year”? Exactly!