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Thought For The Day

Fix A Complacent Sales Team

© The Gulas Group 2010

John is the owner of Widget Distribution, Inc. He has a seven-person sales team with one sales manager. Faced with stagnant revenues in a tough economic climate, John decided to have a conversation about this issue with Bill, his sales manager. John made a suggestion that the sales people needed to learn some new behaviors to be more effective sales people. John's suggestions were, improving on setting and monitoring goals. Other areas to focus on would be how we create a budget when there is not a budget available for our products and service. In addition to these areas John asked Bill if he knew what intrinsically motivated each sales team member and what their behavior style was. Finally, John asked about each team member's Emotional Quotient. John was shocked by Bill's answers. It went something like this: "You know, we've tried some of those assessments in the past and they just didn't work. We've also worked on sales training in the form of improving behaviors. This didn't work well either because the sale people are so set in their ways they never would change their behavior. Besides, when would we find the time to do that training? We gave each team member their goals at the beginning of the year. If they would just call on more people they could meet their quota. In addition, we should be happy! Look at how many companies are losing revenue in this economy!"

Bill is suffering from sales leader complacency. In one sentence he would say we need to improve and constantly grow. In the next sentence Bill would begin with "yes, but. . ." Bill, like so many sales leaders, is conflicted and confused, which leads to fear and complacency. He is under the impression sales is only a numbers game and his job is to put the fear of God in those pesky sales people until they hit the goals he and the boss came up with. If they don't hit the goals, just start over with a fresh face. So is Bill a lost cause? I'm not sure. Perhaps the answer is yes, no and maybe. But this I know for certain: It takes emotion to make a sale and it will take an emotional turning point to move Bill out of his complacent mindset. So what will pull Bill out of his emotional hangover?

Start with emotions to improve behaviors and competencies. Using some examples from an article by Chip and Dan Heath titled "Why Emotion, Not Knowledge, is the Catalyst for Change" plus the formula for superior performance from the Gulas Group and Target Training, John came up with this solution. John realized he had to get Bill to see the amount of money that he left on the table for the past two years. Remember, this money left on the table was there because the sales team had missed their goals for the last two years an average of 20% across the board. Projected sales were $17,500.000 for each year. The company did $14,000,000. The amount was short $3,500,000 give or take for two years. John would receive a 2% override on all sales over $14,000,000 in addition to his lucrative salary and benefits. So John had just left approximately $70,000 or more on the table for two years. There is no cap on his bonus.

Bill is caught up in sales manager complacency. The company was still profitable and things were good, just not great. Now here is where the learning comes in. John went to his bank and put $140,000 cash in a briefcase. He opened the brief case and let Bill look over and count a lot of the money in the briefcase. He then powered up his trusty PowerPoint and ran through some full-color slides of what $140,000 could have bought Bill. He videotaped the entire session and would send clips of that to Bill throughout the next year. Guess what? The next year in a down economy the company did over $18,000,000 in sales. For those thinking this is a fairy tale, I will now explain scientifically why this happened.

It all has to do with emotions being the catalyst of change. Here is the formula for superior performance. What precedes superior performance is competency, and thus better decision making in the moment. Improving competencies is preceded by improving behaviors. What precedes behaviors is cognition, the ability to acquire knowledge. The key for superior performance is that for all these areas to function properly, you must start with emotions. Emotions trump all the other components on the path to Superior Performance. That is what was happening to Bill. Until he actually saw the money and the pictures of what it could have bought, he was not emotionally engaged.

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