The economic climate has changed the buying process, and thus the sales process as I discuss in my blog: Are you Enabling your Sales Force or Emasculating them?. Buyers are taking longer to make purchases, they want better prices, extended terms, some of your competitors are making irrational price proposals just to pay their light bill, and there are now more people and they are often C-level executives the buyer’s company involvd in the buying process.
Having led sales and marketing teams for over 20 years, through good and bad times, some of your salespeople may be in a dangerous ( and costly) place…
The Domain of Losses.
We’ve either been their personally or witnessed the following.
You are in Las Vegas, or another gambling location and you (they) are wining. It feels like you can do no wrong; you are “lucky” tonight. Then something changes…the dealer at the blackjack table, new dice, a new ball for the roulette wheel and the next thing you know you are losing. Bet after bet you are loosing and very quickly you are no longer playing with the house money you won but now you are dipping into your own. What was fun and the time of your life has become something that makes you anxious and irritable. You know you should walk away and live to fight another day, but a strange little voice whispers to you; you will have to bet more to get back to where you were when you were wining. Most of us can resist this voice and walk away.
However there are those few who enter a dark, anxious and fearful place; The Domain of losses. In this zone studies show people make unethical decisions when they are under goal. Their desire is to see those chips (commissions) grow rapidly again and they start making irrational long shot bets to get whole again. As the losses continue to increase the aggressive irrational strategies increase and the losses grow exponentially.
If any of your salespeople are in this fearful and irrational place after missing quota for a number of months and having little if any personal commission contribution,…
you must pull them away from the table. (Their market) or it could cost you for years.
What signs indicate a salesperson is in or may be in; The Domain of losses?
1. Every sale has a price concession
2. Customers pay their invoice short due to un-communicated “deals” your salesperson gave them to get the sale.
3. The salesperson’s Accounts Receivable exceeds other regions selling the same products by 10 days or more.
4. You notice an increase in expenses
5. They complain about product quality more than other sales representatives selling the same product in other regions.
6. They focus on features competitors have and your product lacks
7. When asked to create a plan to correct their performance you receive a strategy that is basically doubling down. Their entire year hangs on the thread of landing that new account they have been promising they would close for the last six months.
8. You lose key customers in their region who have been with your organization for years
9. As an individual they are living beyond their means
10. They act alone, no sense of teamwork or trust in other department competencies…” I’ll have to do it myself”
11. You receive complaints from your internal customer service and accounts receivables about this person, their mistakes, and poor overall attitude with the rest of the team.
12 . You catch them lying to you about meetings they had with accounts
If you read the above and you have someone on your team with three or more of the above you need to help them push away from the table (market) as.. .
They are scrambling in fear, when they should be focusing on real opportunity.
As the leader you must recognize the warning signs early and take bold corrective action;
pull them away from the table
seek to understand their fear drivers ( income, job loss, loved one pressure)
help them rewrite the stories , thoughts that have become beliefs in their minds with tactics and outcomes their irrational thoughts could not see
if they do not change quickly…Fold (their membership on your team)
Having been a salesperson and managed salespeople for years,we are a rare breed. Ideally you want someone who understands their market, your product and the problem it solves for the buyer, and they have relationships built on trust with their key account buyers. The trouble is this requires skill, art and science. I prefer the Mavericks who break though the roadblocks to a sale than the Gelding’s waiting for direction on how to overcome the objections they are experiencing.
When the chips were flowing in regardless of what your team did, they did not need to be all that good.
Challenging economic environments will help you to quickly identify the sales leaders from the sales losers.
If you are the person in fear mode, doubling down to get caught up you first need to;
Recognize what you are doing , and that it never works
Connect to your fear driver
Challenge your fear driver(s) to see if they are true
If not true- you need to intentionally re-write the thoughts that become beliefs so you leave the domain of losses and your fears subside so your creative problem solving returns
If true ask for help
As CEO, has your VP of Sales said something like: “you are right, Bob’s numbers are way off and his expenses seem high, but he has always come through in the past” make both of them leave the table.
How about your team?
Do you have any team members in the domain of losses?
Could other departments also enter this zone? If so provide examples.
Has a key account complained recently about their bill being wrong?
Is your entire team in the Domain if losses?
Have you pulled team members away and helped them return after training to exceed expectations? …Tell us about it.
As the leader you must be constructively paranoid about your buyers, their buying process, sales, and sales team members.
If you see any of the indicators I discussed above do yourself a favor and pull them away from the table sooner than later. Your shareholders and key accounts will thank you, and when you change your salesperson’s perspective… they will thank you.
(Ok thanking you probably is a push…, they will perform and you will go home at night and be able to sleep)