One thing you have to love about sales is that while some fundamentals are constant, the execution continues to change and evolve. This evolution and change challenges sellers every day, taking them to new highs and lows depending on how they respond. A delicate balance that dares their abilities and preys on their fears. Top performer are not so much fearless, as they are people who leverage those fears, and channel the energy in a way that drives their success. The chronic underperformers, C players, are so far removed from the reality of selling that fear is not the main ingredient of their failures. Where fear is a silent killer is in the middle pack, the B players, usually the largest percentage of any sales team.
These are the ones you want to move up to be A players, and despite everything you do, replicating the very things you do for A players, sharing the observed habits and behaviours of A plyers, only a handful move up to the premier league, they spend their entire career being solid B players. The reason for this is most often the limiting factor of fear.
This explains the many “Motivation” pundits who line up to help you “crack the code” of changing the results of your B players. They offer to share their secret for motivating these players to new highs. But it’s no secret and plain to everyone once these “motivating helicopters” leave town, and the dust, noise and hype settle, these reps continue to bounce of the floor and ceiling of the B Zone.
These B Players are gripped by one of two fears. The first, common and relatable to many is the fear of failure. Given the peer pressure of not just society, but sales culture, failure frowned upon and limiting in so many ways. While everyone will talk about learning from your mistakes, the reality is that it’s not often tolerated. There is no doubt that there are many enlightened dealers who can take failure as a springboard to learning and development, the fact is that not many front line sales managers fall into that category, meaning a lot of lost opportunities for development, both for individual reps and their entire organization as a result. I have a unique vantage point on this, in workshops when people are asked to practice in “safe environment”, the fear is strong, many otherwise smart people, would rather look stupid in front of their peers, than face their fears and improve their skills and results. In the end it is easier not to, than fail.
The other fear is a mystery to me, the polar opposite of the above, and that is the fear of success. Yes, success. When the norm among your peers, the people you socialize with, participate in football pools with, is to be a solid B, you risk being cast out if you transform to one of those A’s. Not only is there one less B to commiserate with, but now you are one of those guys. Don’t believe me, watch the dynamics when someone is promoted to manager, see how their former mates respond. Fear of success thrives on tearing others, usually successful sellers, easier than elevating one’s own abilities. And again, it is easier not to, than carry the wieght of success.
The only thing I have been able to figure out is that success takes and brings accountability. Failure does not. Those who fail to take accountability for their activities and everything that requires, find it easy to not be accountable for the results. On the other hand, to be accountable for your success requires that you be accountable for all that takes. Something that is not for the faint of heart.