Running a sales team is a delicate balancing act.
On one hand, you have a job to do and you need to make sure your team knows that they have a job to do as well. On the other hand, you have to keep the players loose and relaxed so they don’t play scared.
So when does a sales team start to suck?
When I allow it to. When I allow B-Players to remain.
Just because you scored a high-paying sales job, it doesn’t mean you deserve it. It just means you fooled a few people during the interview process. Getting a job and keeping a job are two very different things. As a sales team crosses the 70 day mark, I know exactly who is going to end up at which point if things continue on trend. I know their system, if they have any. I know how much work they put into learning the product, if any at all. And most importantly, I know their attitude and their work ethic.
If you’re the kind of guy who gets comfortable before you’ve earned the right to be comfortable, you’re halfway out the door.
A sales leader can manage everything except attitude. A loud, blowhard who agrees with everything the manager says, might return to his desk and do nothing for the rest of the day except count down the minutes to quitting time. Meanwhile, a pensive, but attentive team member may quietly return to his desk and double his efforts to improve his own production. Bullshit is easily detected by seeing how long it takes a guy to revert to his old habits after a stern talk. Some stay elevated and change their career trajectory from that moment on. Some return to the same pattern as before and will try to drag the others down so he doesn’t look as bad by comparison.
On every single team, there are A-Players and B-Players. There are people who achieve because their own standards are higher than that of the company’s. And then there are people who just do the g_____n minimum to keep a job. A sales manager who does not clip the weak link despite having reason to, is not only hurting himself, he’s letting down his client or employer who’s paying him to do the job.
A-players have 3 things that they are constantly improving upon.
1. Their attitude. The clock does not drive their day. Their activity and achievements dictate when their day ends. They have daily goals that are higher than those their manager sets for them. They don’t give a rat’s ass about impressing their boss or even the company. They grind it out because they know what they’re capable of. They grind it out to see a sale go deep into the evening because they want it. They grind it out because they answer to themselves, not anybody else. These are the guys that never have to apply for a job. These are the guys that I’m going to have to worry about getting poached by our competitors. B-Players just show up for shits and giggles and don’t seem to mind that they didn’t do a damn thing to earn their pay. A-players know exactly who they are and where they stand. B-players are constantly wondering what management is thinking. A-Players live to compete because they know they are constantly competing against the clock, the competition and their own emotions. B-Players hate to compete because they don’t want to put in the work required to win. Or worst, they’re afraid to compete because they think they might lose. So they tell the other whiners that competition is stupid and a waste of time and the other whiners will agree.
2. Their Process. A-players know exactly how they are doing. If I ask them, “How many calls did you make?” They know. “How many were good?” They know. “How many were sh_t?” They know. They have a process. They track everything. They know what they are doing, at what time, and why they are doing it at that time. They work on a system of trial and error. If I try this, this happens. If I increase this, this happens. If I cut this, this happens. B-players show up and f___king wing it. They talk a lot and might even be popular but their bluster is simply a tarp to mask the gaping vacuum that is their lack of process. A manager can teach and refine this. B-Players will simply ignore it and bank on luck and lay-downs and spend their hours trying to find loopholes and shortcuts.
3. Their Knowledge. A-players will always admit that they don’t know enough even though they know more than most. B-Players will always smirk and say ‘This sh_t is easy.” No sir. This sh_t isn’t easy. If it were, you’d be making minimum wage. A-Players immerse themselves in the industry. They read and listen to news that pertains to them and their customers. They study their customer base and they try things. Not everything will work but as long as more does than doesn’t, they’ve learned something. They constantly have ideas that they are willing to share. They always make suggestions to help a brother out. They always do the little extra that makes them extraordinary. In short, they’re leaders.
Every company has non-contributing deadweight. Some have more than others but in the end, it’s entirely the fault of the people who let them in and the fault of the people who let them stay. As leaders, our job is to find people we can make better than ourselves, people who will lead after we move on. The weak link on any team is not the guy with the softest performance – it’s the guy who has no interest in improving. Like anything else in nature, if he ain’t growing, he’s dying.