The Cult of Personality

As I mentioned before, most salespeople tend toward high "I" behavior styles. This means that they are Influencers, which makes total sense for their role. Part of being an Influencer is the drive to find one's way around obstacles - again, a necessary trait for anyone in sales. It only becomes an issue when this trait and this drive are allowed to subvert the organization.

To spell it out: Don't let the tail wag the dog.

One of the things that tends to happen in any organization with a sales department is that sales receives the majority of the attention, accolades, rewards, and power. But since when can any organization function without any department other than sales? Any organization is an organism, and every department and every person in every department is necessary to sustain the whole. Take any cog out of the motor, and the motor no longer runs.

Salespeople will seek their way around internal obstacles, even when they are rules set up to protect the company. (See "Special Situations".) You cannot blame them for trying; it's in their nature, and it's a part of what makes them so effective in the field. Your job is to hold the line - even if it's not your line - and never let them cross it. Because once you do, the tail begins to wag the dog. (And this is coming from a several-time sales manager; I know whereof I speak.)

Also, because being "high I" means that you are often likable and persuasive, a disproportionate number of people in management tend to be "high I", even when their actual business skills are poor, and even in departments where a "high I" manager doesn't necessarily make sense (such as accounting).

Also, because of sheer force of personality, some salespeople can come across as prima donnas. In fact, many managers encourage them to be so, in the mistaken assumption that this will drive results. It doesn't. All it does is drive the perception that the sales department can do whatever it likes, and that no one else in the company has as much value as a salesperson.

What drives sales results are clear expectations, constant monitoring of results, and mentoring. (You must inspect what you expect, as a friend used to say.) And it is always better to have a salesperson that consistently hits 100% of quota than a salesperson who hits 105% one month, 85% the next, and 97% the month after. The kind of sales rep that hits those numbers is not a professional salesperson - they are someone who works on and off and occasionally gets lucky. That's not who you want on your sales team.

To make your organization work better, make certain that everyone knows that they are equally valued. Make sure that President's Club (if your organization has such an animal) is equally accessible to people from all departments (because everyone should have growth and performance goals, right?). If more than 50% of the people who attend are from sales, you're doing it wrong. Also, make sure that everyone who goes gets the full experience.

Make sure that your managers become managers because they are the best qualified person for the job - not because they are the nicest guys or the most persuasive. (Companies that boast that they only promote from within limit their success by doing so.)

And, above all, remember that internal obstacles are often there for a reason. Give careful thought to any attempt to step over them, and avoid salespeople who blow smoke to benefit themselves in the short term at the expense of your organization.

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