Nobody likes to feel used. This is probably not a news flash, but salespeople don’t like to feel as though they are being used by their sales manager to hit their budget or bonus. I bring this up because recently, I attended an industry conference and happened to be sitting next to two sales managers discussing their second-quarter budgets and how difficult it was going to be to hit them.
The manager doing most of the talking said to the other, “I just don’t know what I am going to do. Maybe I just need to get more bodies in here and get them out selling and hitting the streets. The folks I have in here right now just aren’t getting it done for me, and I don’t want to miss hitting my bonus in Q2.”
Those who know me, know how difficult it was for me to hear this and not jump in! Instead, I decided to write this blog post and share my thinking with you. Let’s face it, the conversation I overheard is not that unusual, is it? Sadly, this is a prevailing sentiment among many managers these days who believe their ticket to success is hiring more salespeople than they actually need because some won’t make it, putting those sellers through product training so they are well-versed in what they can sell, and then telling them how much activity they expect of them. They believe if they get that right, BOOM! They’ll hit their numbers. Even some of the more savvy sales managers, who recognize this is not how to achieve success, behave this way.
That strategy doesn’t work. Ever. People don’t want to be made to feel that way, and treating them as mere cogs in the machine only leads to higher employee turnover, higher customer attrition, lower employee engagement, and the perception over time that this is “just a job.”
You get what a friend of mine describes as “compliance and not commitment.” So, why do people do it, then? I think there are a few reasons:
- That’s the sales environment they grew up in, so sadly it feels normal.
- They’re so focused on making their bonus that they can’t see any other way.
- They don’t value the unique talents of their people and believe that anyone can do the work if they try hard enough.
- They don’t have a better plan and don’t know what else to do.
Growing and developing our people is the best strategy! Had I pushed myself into that conversation that I overheard, here’s what I would have said, “Let me suggest a different way for you to approach this. Change your end-goal. Rather than focusing on the goal of hitting your budget and driving your manpower that way, instead change your goal to developing your salespeople into superstars. If you grow each individual to maximize their potential and improve their sales performance, you will have a team of superstars. Do that, and you will accomplish more than making your bonus. You will end up crushing your sales numbers, setting new records, and making your salespeople love working for you. Remember, you worked hard to find talented salespeople and bring them on board. Don’t throw that work away by making it their job to hit your budget.”
The moral of this story is that it’s essential to hire talented salespeople, but hiring them is not enough. After you bring each person on board, you need to commit to growing and developing them way beyond their initial training. Talented people are never done growing! Do this, hire and develop each individual in your organization, and you will always win in the long run.