I received a call this week from a Texas client. In the course of our conversation, he told me that he had no choice but to terminate one of his salespeople because he was consistently failing to earn his draw.
"We've known for a long time that we needed to terminate this man, and today we finally got up the courage to pull the trigger," he manager told me.
In the next breath, he said that the company's overall sales were booming. "Our biggest problem right now is operations. Sales are so strong that we can't keep enough drivers on the payroll to keep up with the work load."
To many of you reading this column, these two statements may seem inconsistent. A salesperson has lost his job because he couldn't generate a satisfactory level of sales, yet overall, sales are booming. How could this be? I believe there's a simple answer.
As a sales trainer, I frequently see this kind of inconsistency. And it's taking place right in your community, perhaps in your very own company. Some salespeople are doing extremely well, while others are starving to death. As author Jim Rohn says, "It's a mystery."
In this particular business in Texas, I am privileged to know that the top salesperson earns annual commissions in excess of $350,000. The terminated salesperson's annual commissions were approximately $30,000, less than a tenth of the commissions earned by the sales leader.
Do you believe that the sales leader in this company is ten times smarter?
Or work ten times as hard?
Does he have ten times more product knowledge?
Could he be ten times more organized?
Since I know both men, I know that the answer to each of these questions is absolutely not. The answer is simply that the under-performing salesperson was not willing to do the things that the high-performing salesperson was willing to do.
It's been my experience that top performing salespeople focus not just on the present, but the future, as well. When business is booming, for example, that's when their prospecting efforts are the most vigorous. They realize that sales and marketing activities are a part of selling that can never be ignored, even when business conditions are excellent.
When the market turns down, prospects are inundated by salespeople looking for an order. But during boom periods, most prospects report that they rarely see a new salesperson. Doesn't it make sense to do your prospecting when your competitors are fat and happy?
Top performing salespeople spend as much time building new relationships and nurturing existing ones as they do engaging in the bidding process. Customers with whom you have good relationships will honor your quotes while prospects who are loyal to a competitor shop your quotes. Top performers never miss an opportunity to grow their relationships by doing just a little bit extra.
Remember, what sales trainer, Zig Zigler says, "There's no traffic jamb on the extra mile."
It's not that top performing salespeople enjoy doing the things that make them so successful. It's just that they enjoy the results they get form their efforts. The very thought of failing is so horrifying to them that they are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
For most salespeople, reading sales books, attending sales seminars and listening to audio-cassette tapes is not their idea of great fun. But the real sales pros, those who do well in good times and bad, are willing to go through the educational process because they like the results their efforts generate.
Many of the salespeople who attend my seminars are frequently the salespeople who actually need sales training the least; they're already earning top commissions. But the salespeople who are starving to death are often too busy to learn anything new. "I've heard all of that stuff before," you'll hear them say. "I don't need sales training, I need more competitive prices."
The key is sales activities; that is, how salespeople are spending their time. In the selling profession, doing things right is not nearly as important as doing the right things. So monitor and measure how your salespeople are spending their time and you're off to a good start at gaining control of your company's destiny.
For 36 years, I have been fortunate to know and be associated with Zig Zigler, the famous speaker and author. Of the many lessons I have learned from this great teacher, this one ranks near the top of the list: "You don't pay the price for success, you pay the price for failure. You enjoy the price you pay for success."
Bill Lee is author of Gross Margin: 26 Factors Affecting Your Bottom Line and 30 Ways Managers Shoot Themselves in the Foot. http://www.BillLeeOnLine.com