12/06/2013 | Sales management
Not withstanding the appalling way that events were allowed to unfold in public, the recent headlines about Wayne Rooney’s decision to finally sign a new contract for Man United reminded me of several businesses we have seen over the past few years who have done all they can to hang on to a star sales performer in the belief that life without him/her would be a disaster for the business. They have risked calls of inequity and undermined much of their efforts to engender loyalty to the company’s values and ideals, simply because they thought they needed one individual above all others.
Now I’ve never seen top drawer selling as a team game but most businesses thrive through a mix of individual talent, determination and most of the staff pulling in the same direction so a team ethic of sorts is usually desirable. The problem is that if some of the sales (and wider) staff feel aggrieved at the way one of their number is treated (well or badly in fact) this can often lead to a lower level of satisfaction and overall performance from them. So what you might argue, if the person you strive to keep is bringing in or responsible for one of the main revenue earners for the business, isn’t this a price worth paying overall?
Well maybe. My problem with this approach is that much of the time the ‘star’ performer is no such thing. Much like Rooney at present, they might have bags of talent and a great track record but are they actually still earning their money or is it just happening around them regardless. If you haven’t spotted that their motivation has evaporated before now then you should have done but either way ask yourself how integral to the future success of the business are they really? Isn’t this a great opportunity to find someone even better?
The real challenge here of course is knowing what good looks like in the first place and making sure you measure the inputs of sales success not just the outputs i.e. orders/contracts etc. If you genuinely know what it takes to succeed and monitor it accordingly you’ll know when these things aren’t taking place much earlier in the process and be able to take pre-emptive action. If the individual fails to respond then maybe it is time for a change but to fit in with your timescales rather than theirs. If they do respond then the rest of the team will see the early intervention, will appreciate why it happened and see that help is at hand for them too before things get too far.
I’ve just read through half a dozen cvs for a client who wants me to interview their authors for a Sales Director’s role and they are all littered with contracts they helped negotiate and accounts they managed successfully. My problem is that only one of them talks about winning business in the face of competition and the things they had to do to succeed. Only one of them talks about targets achieved and revenues exceeded through their own merit. I mention this as an illustration of the number of people who think they are in sales but are in fact in account servicing - an important role but hardly the same!
If your star performer is actually just managing the biggest account then don’t over-estimate the importance of the relationships they have - rarely do they transfer from one employer to another.
If on the other hand, you have measured all of the inputs and know for sure that you the person is genuinely strong then act early help them rediscover their motivation. If they’ve already said their leaving (and they probably told their colleagues before you don’t forget) then make sure that they genuinely did contribute significantly to the success and don’t promise them anything that you wouldn’t be happy to give the rest of the (good) staff. I have a feeling that negotiations with the rest of the Man United squad will only get more expensive over the next 12 months.
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