By John Chapin
I have a prediction, and I’m pretty good at predictions: Only the top 15% of salespeople will survive the next economic upheaval. Whether it’s a significant stock market correction, a tragic world event, or a financial crisis similar to that of 2008, the next calamity that shakes the economy and causes U.S. companies to tighten their belts once again will leave 85% of salespeople in its wake. For those in the 15%, that’s great news—but for those in the 85%, it’s a warning (and hopefully a wake-up call).
Here’s the logic behind the prediction: The biggest issue in the workplace is a lack of accountability. This has been true for decades when it comes to anyone whose primary role is to bring dollars into an organization, including salespeople. Many organizations let mediocre and poor salespeople continue to stay on the payroll, taking more money out than they bring in while also causing negativity, problems, and headaches. The next economic correction will leave companies unable to continue to support this dead weight. The correction will force them to be hypersensitive to where they are spending money, along with the ROI on that money. Anything not vital to operating or keeping it afloat will be jettisoned. Couple this with the fact that technology is already rendering mediocre and poor salespeople obsolete and it’s a perfect storm that will eliminate most of them.
The point of this article is not to be negative; it’s to address reality. Everyone is aware that the economy, the stock market, real estate, and pretty much everything else, go in cycles (and we’ve been riding a pretty good wave for quite a while). We also know that each hiccup in the economy causes further scrutiny of expenses and the bottom line. But whether the next economic storm comes in a week, or five years from now, you want to make sure you fall on the right side of the numbers. In other words, make sure you find yourself in the 15%. (And even if I’m wrong, the top 15% is a great place to be.)
For those leading teams of salespeople, the best way to protect them is to make sure they have the one attribute of the top 15%: They can validate their existence based upon the amount of good business they are bringing in. Sales leaders need to hire attitude and work ethic and watch activity. They need to set expectations and hold people accountable to those expectations. They need to provide sales skills and product training and know how to motivate each individual. Finally, they need to provide a positive environment and give their sales teams the tools and support necessary to do their jobs.
Salespeople should begin by taking complete responsibility for success or failure. It isn’t the market, the boss, or the pricing structure that determines success—it’s the individual, specifically activity, sales skills, and ability to influence others. Also realize that while an employer should provide training, most fall short—way short—especially when it comes to sales skills training. Ultimately it’s up to the individual to develop him- or herself personally and professionally. The best way to do this is to set personal and professional goals and then get busy achieving them. Start with an income goal for the year and then calculate the daily activity needed to reach that goal. How many sales need to be made to hit that goal? How many proposals, how many prospects, and how many calls need to be made? Make that many calls and more. Also, make sure to be sufficiently motivated and educated. Use whatever external, intrinsic, and peer motivation is necessary in order to do the activities necessary for success. From an education standpoint, be educated on the product and the industry as well as sales and people skills along with effective communication.
From a personal development standpoint, understand that the better a person feels mentally and physically, the better he or she will perform. Not getting enough sleep, not eating right, abusing alcohol or drugs, not addressing physical or mental issues, hanging out in the wrong places with the wrong people, focusing on the negatives, or otherwise not taking care of oneself is going to affect sales results—and probably significantly.
The message of this article is: Be ready for the next correction because it’s coming—sometime. When it happens, organizations will have to run lean. They will no longer be able to afford to carry salespeople who are simply along for the ride. There will be a massive thinning of the herd, a survival of the fittest. Those who survive clearly will be able to show that they are far more valuable than the information that is now readily available to prospects and customers via the internet and other sources. Yes, salespeople will still be needed, but only the experts who are out selling—only those who can separate the valid information from the misinformation, decipher what’s left, and get in front of people and solve their problems.
Chapin is a motivational sales speaker and trainer with more than 29 years of sales experience. He is also the author of the 2010 sales book of the year, “Sales Encyclopedia.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tagged with tED