Shared Mediocrity – Sales eXchange 178 – A Question To Sales Leaders38

Sports have trade deadlines, sales organizations have trade season, usually at the start of the year, just after bonuses are paid. What I never understand is why companies, and sales leaders  participate in this silly ritual.

You see this in almost every industry,  employees, specifically sales people, move from one market player to another.   Doesn’t matter if I am working with software companies, wireless, service providers, you name it, it is much the same.  I ask people to tell me about their sales background, and inevitably, they’ll tell they have been in the business 12 years, four with one company, five with another, and three at their current place of employment.  I once had someone who was on their third tour with the company I was training and had done stints with three other.


Unlike sports, there is no free agency where top players can go to the highest bidder.  In fact I would argue the opposite exists, the journeymen sellers are almost always B or C players.  The rock star sellers, the real proven A player are not very inclined to move, and companies who thrive on cultivating and keeping A players go out of their way to do everything they can to keep them happy and rocking.

Companies hiring the journeymen rarely understand the error of their ways, and as in sports when things go wrong they go after the coach, in the case of sales the front line manager.  The poor soul who is supposed to deliver results with other companies’ discards.  I am not saying that the managers don’t share in the blame, they do, but senior leadership should know better.  They pressure the manager to perform, fair demand, and the manager succumbs and hires an available body; not just any body, but an “experienced” body with a “book” of clients.  Right!

These sellers rarely become big hitters, some become “80 per centers”, but most continue to be lack luster performers, doing no better than they did at the last company that discarded them.  At time they manage to get out of Dodge before they are booted, but their ineffectiveness does not, it is something they carry from place to place.

Just go on LnkedIn and you can see it clear as day.  One seller I trained at two different companies in the same vertical has had five sales positions with four different companies in the same industry.  Never fired, always managing to jump before their employer’s suspicions were confirmed.  The only reason they got a second stint with their current employer was because a buddy was promoted to hiring status.

What I have also found is that rarely are these journeymen counter offered by their current employers, sure there is feigned regrets, “sad to see you go” as they hold the door open.  Whereas with the rock stars, everything is done to avoid the situation at all.

In the end I think it comes down to a lack of conviction on the part of sales leadership.  While they always talk about quality over quantity, when it comes to hiring, they seem to favour quantity over quality, preferring to have a body in a territory vs. the patience to wait for the right body.  As for the argument that at least having a performing body is better than an empty territory, I am not sure.  The journeymen will underperform, as will the territory, but a bigger cost is opportunity cost.  Who will the journeymen turn off during their stint, how much money will they leave on the table or discount in deals they do get, and how many deals will they miss just because who they are.  Their book never follows, but their bad habits that got them their do, and now instead of forging forward, you are left to deal with their mediocrity.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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