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Disengaged sales talent: The problem may be you!

· sales leadership

Monday night I was sitting in a hotel bar in Sunnyvale, California grabbing a bite to eat.

At the table behind me were four people talking business. I’m guessing a CRO, a VP of Sales and two sales managers.

I was not trying to listen...really...but the person I believe to be the VP of Sales (who oddly resembled Seth Rogen, by the way) went on a rant towards the two sales managers that I couldn’t tune out:

“There is a large percentage of our reps, I’d guess 60%, who aren’t engaged. They just show up, do the minimum, then go home. We need to identify them and then manage them out of the business.”

The CRO then asked the two managers, “What do you think about that statement?”

The managers seemed taken aback. There was a discussion about whom he was referring to.

I almost turned around and went on a rant myself.

Quick football analogy: The Chicago Bears defense is possibly the best in football. Incredible talent, including a couple of potential eventual hall-of-famers. They're now 3-4 on the season (3 wins, 4 losses). They haven’t played engaged football in the last couple of weeks, having lost both games. Should the Bears replace the players to increase engagement? Or, are they just uninspired?

In any department (sales, marketing finance) or even business (a store, a restaurant, a bowling alley), there is a percentage of people who are uninspired coming to work each day. They come to work each day to their jobs, do the minimum to get their check, and go home.

Is there a percentage of those individuals who are in the wrong roles? Absolutely. Some just don’t have the skillset to succeed where they are and need to be moved. 

Should some go away, which are potentially creating a toxic environment? Sure. And those are the ones who should (more often than not) be removed.

However, for the majority, you can point a direct line to the environment created and implemented by leadership. If the individuals have the talent, it's likely that they aren't in an environment that inspires them to utilize that talent day in and day out. Who's fault it that?

So for Johnny VP of Sales above, maybe just handing him a mirror would have also done the trick versus me going on my own rant.

I kept quiet. My rant is here...I have a blog, so I might as well use it to unload, right?

- What are you doing to create engagement?

- What are you doing to create a place where your reps can’t wait to come in every day and do their best?

- What are you doing to create an environment where they’re recognized for their effort?

- What are you doing to ensure that they know what they’re getting into every day?

- What are you doing to provide the resources and space so they can feel in control / have autonomy?

- What kinds of things are you doing to make your talented individuals feel a real part of a team?

- Is the juice worth the squeeze for these individuals? (aka, is the reward is worth the effort?)

Notice there was no mention of the quality of your in-office video game console, the on-tap beers or the ping-pong table?

The key question to be asking yourself:

- Would you want to work for you?

If talent is there but engagement is lacking, it may be time to look in the mirror. It’s likely the issue is the person communicating the problem.

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