Sales and Dogs
I have great affection for sales people. Every entrepreneur must be a salesperson at some level if they are to succeed. Throughout my career I have not only worked hard on sales but been involved with the coaching and training of many a salesperson.
Successful salespeople are worth their weight in gold but they are not without their challenges.
When you think of salespeople you should think of sled dogs. Great sled dogs, like sales people, can pull a company through mountains of snow, up the hills and back to safety with relentless determination. They can quite literally make a company.
Startups and entrepreneurs know the value of these people and pray quietly (or maybe not so quietly) that such a person lands in their office. But here is where the mistakes begin.
Because they generate such revenue, sales people are often given too much free reign. Imagine those sled dogs without a lead. Likely they fight, make a mess, and don’t travel in the direction you need them to.
Tons of companies try and control salespeople by throwing piles of incentives at them. Stock options, bonuses, higher commission rates etc. This only makes it worse because it doesn’t cause them to behave any better, just gives them reasons to believe they are the most important ball of energy in the universe and deserving of more stuff – like thrones.
If you want to keep sales people from blowing up your culture then build a sales “team” rather than a bullpen of salespeople. Build incentive structures that reward both group and individual behavior and recognize them for “service” and other issues that aren’t directly tied to revenue generation but align with the company’s mission and goals (especially in relation to the customer).
In addition, it also helps if the sled driver has some respect from the dogs. This is goofy talk for “the person who leads the sales team must have some experience (positively) with the sales process and know how it operates (they must be solid managers). In essence, don’t get someone like your CFO to lead your sales team. Good sled dogs will run over such a person without even slowing down.
An awesome sales team is a powerful tool that any company will need to win against it competitors. But make sure you build your sales force with some harnesses so you are all “mushing” in the right direction together.