Why Don’t Sales People Show a Little More Initiative?

On a fairly regular basis, sales managers and business owners tell me that what they really need is a sales team that’s much more entrepreneurial – they desperately want their salespeople to show a little more initiative towards their problems and opportunities.

One of my old bosses knew just how to coax the (previously untapped) entrepreneurial spirit out of me – but he did so because he also understood two vital things about the way I liked to work.

Firstly; I’m not much of a pack animal – packs hang around together for each others comfort and safety – and I neither wanted or needed that safety net.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the camaraderie of a company beer – but I never wanted to hide behind the team’s results – I wanted to stand proudly in front of my own.

Secondly: I like to know that I’m definitely in charge of the job you’ve given me to do.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a $10Million negotiation, a sales team, a designated geographical area, a church pantomime or your lunch order – if you’ve given me the responsibility, then either let me get on with it or give it to someone else.

If you want to watch over my shoulder every time I take a breath – you should probably save yourself a big bag of cash and swap me for a stuffed marsupial in a business suit – because you certainly won’t get the best out of me – and if you’re there anyway – you might as well be doing it yourself.

Actually, now I look back, I recognise that every business I ever thrived in – every employer who ever got the best out of me – had a sort of sink or swim vibe going on – and that forged me into the sales person I am today.

Important points to make here about those businesses;

1: If they offered training, then they trained you really well. After that they expected you to make the most of the information given and succeed really quickly – they’d made their investment – you either had to shine out or shoe it.

2: The businesses that didn’t have a training culture always allowed you to fall over while you found your way. Learning to walk was part of the process – nobody was ever expected to just pop into existence running. Pretty much everyone was finding their feet. But absolutely everybody was displaying maximum effort.

We all knew that we were being given this space so that we could learn how to walk and then sprint – not dangle from the door in a baby bouncer and be spoon fed.

So, if you want your sales team to show a little initiative;

Always….

  • Interview for attitude and aptitude
  • Make sure you hire people who display electricity and fire
  • Give them the right tools and enough space
  • Be clear about what you expect
  • Celebrate success

Never…..

  • Ever accept second best
  • Let them fool you into changing a formula that works just because they’re inadequate
  • Be enamoured by a legend from a competitor who wants to retire ten years early on your payroll
  • Take your eye off the arrow in the distance pointing to the neon sign that says “the money’s here!”

And to finish off, the big question is this;

How entrepreneurial do you actually make your sales team feel?

Go on, be honest with yourself.

Do you want them to go a bit mad scientist every now and then while permanently feeling as if they’re running they’re own empire?

Or deep down, does that bother you a little bit too much?

Here’s the thing – if you make a decision to hire future entrepreneurs and mad scientists long before they become the next Richard Branson, James Dyson or Steve Jobs – then you will probably become rich and successful a good few years before they do – while attracting others just like them who want to join your exciting, exclusive club.

However, if you continuously hire the cheap or safe options – then cheap and safe are probably the results you’ll continue see.

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Posted in Accountability, Education, Focus, Motivation, Sales Management, Sales Skills, Sales Success Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,