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Do You Wash a Rental Car? Thoughts on Ownership in a Sales Department

no-one-washes-a-rental-carMaybe you’ve heard the saying that no one washes a rental car. Think about it. Does anyone try to budget time on the way back to the airport to run through the car wash? Of course not. Even if they’re OCD and are obsessive about cleanliness, they still don’t wash that rental. They know someone at the rental car company will do it, and the thought won't even cross their mind.

Why is this the case? Because the car isn’t theirs, and it isn’t even the property of a friend. We keep our own car clean, and we may very well wash a friend’s car before returning it as a token of thanks, but a Hertz car? An Enterprise car? Are you kidding?

It’s all about ownership—ownership of the car or ownership of a personal relationship we value. Ownership is key. The same principle has application in the organizations we lead, whether it’s a large company or a small sales team or something in between. If you want your direct reports to be proactive and accountable, make it clear who owns the car, er, the project or the account or the responsibility.

Make Sure Your Employees Don't See Your Department the Way We All See Rental Cars

As a leader, you know this, but how often do you behave in ways that let people off the hook, that make it unclear whose back that monkey is on? When you see your people acting not quite like owners, jump out of your skin and ask yourself what things you’re doing that send the wrong message, that communicate that you’re the owner and not them? Don’t just study what you say (the problem may not be in your words); look at what you do.

Here’s an example where actions were speaking louder than any words:

I was talking to a company executive this week and she related the story of a sales manager in her organization who had not fired a salesperson for weak performance in many years. She had a file of performance reviews showing a trail of non-performance for several sellers but never took action. Over time, the salespeople took note: In that sales department, ownership of revenue goals seemed to rest with someone else, certainly not with the salespeople. Not surprisingly, performance was tracking further and further behind goals. Ownership is key.

5 Ways to Add Ownership to the Sales Team

  1. Hire salespeople who have the talents to do the job.
  2. Make your expectations clear and be consistent about expressing them.
  3. Coach and guide when needed, and then get out of the way.
  4. Make sure the compensation plan is aligned as perfectly as possible with the behaviors and results you want to see.
  5. Have a strong talent bank so you can remove non-performers promptly and replace them.

Be clear whose car it is and it will get washed! Ownership is key.

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Topics: Management, leadership