Paul was meeting with Harvey, one of his salespeople, to go over his performance for the past six months. Last month was the best month that Harvey had ever had. In fact, it matched the best month the best salesperson, Melinda, had ever had.
“Harvey, I don’t know what you did last month to have such a good month, but you ought to keep up the good work.”
“Thank you, Paul,” responded Harvey. “I think I just got lucky, and everything fell right into place.”
“That’s not the case; you worked hard to get these to close. Why can’t you do that all the time?”
“Oh, I’ll admit I worked really hard, but I do that all the time. At least this past month, the working paid off.”
“There’s no reason you can’t do this again this month,” said Paul.
“Paul, I’ve been in sales now for fifteen years, and I know that I’m not that good. Hey, I’m the first one to tell you that Melinda will always be better than me. She’s a lot sharper than I am.”
“Melinda’s good, I’ll give you that. But there’s no reason you can’t at least even out how you perform. You know, one month you are at the bottom and the next month you are up there with her. Why not shoot for a happy medium?”
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do. All that sales training I’ve been to in the last year has been working. Last month is proof of that.”
“At least,” said Paul, “you make up for the lousy months.”
“I don’t see myself as being as good as Melinda, but I’m sure not as bad as some of the losers that have been through here. I just keep plugging along, doing the best I can.”
“Do you want to attend that training session next month?” asked Paul. “Might keep you fired up and producing.”
“Sure, what the heck. It certainly can’t hurt. Besides, I might learn some new tricks . . . an old dog can learn a new trick! I’m proof of that.”
Harvey, as you can see, has real good months and real bad months. What’s most frustrating to Paul is that the good months are few and far between, despite all of the sales training Harvey has been put through. At least he’s a plugger.
Sales managers don’t manage salespeople. They manage winners, losers, and “at leasters.”
How do most sales managers decide which of the above categories their salespeople fall into? They look at the monthly numbers. From the numbers comes the decision as to who needs to be “fired up,” have his “battery recharged,” and all the other similar phrases.
Those considered winners are offered more sales training, but no one in management really wants them to attend. After all, this is someone who produces, and the training time takes away from sales time.
Those considered losers are offered the additional sales training, but everyone, including the losers, knows the unspoken hope is that they take their “skills” somewhere else.
That leaves the “at leasters.” At least they have good months to make up for the bad. If only they would get their act together and be consistent.
Does firing up an “at leaster” ever work? Sometimes it does in the short run. But it never lasts.
An “at leaster’s” picture of himself is someone who on average does a decent selling job. So why the up and down performance? He’s having a bad month but knows, because of what he’s done in the past, that it won’t last. He’ll have a good, maybe even outstanding month. Eventually he does.
But then he says to himself, or maybe even to others, “I’m good, but not that good.”
He then goes right back to the selling behavior that produced the not-so-good months. How to manage this situation? Note his selling behavior when he’s on the way up, then especially note it when he’s heading back down. Don’t try to intervene when he’s heading back down—you need to know what he does and does not do.
It may sound nuts, but he’s not aware of his behavior! He’s on autopilot. Now you know the behavior you need to focus in on and correct. You, in effect, show him the picture of himself when he’s producing and when he’s not producing. You help him compose a consistent picture.
A salesperson’s picture of himself will match his sales. To change his sales, help him compose a new picture.
©1995, 2007 Sandler Systems, Inc and TEM Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.
S Sandler Training Finding Power In Reinforcement (with design) and Tactics for Sales Managers are registered service marks of Sandler Systems, Inc.