Your Colleagues Want You to Fail

by RJ on September 26, 2012

Your Colleagues Want You to Fail

There’s an old joke that starts out when several friends are camping in the wilderness and a large hungry bear is approaching the camp. One of the campers tells the others to run as fast as they can to get away. As they start to run one of them is taking his time and lacing up his running shoes. Another camper asks him why he is wasting his time lacing up his running shoes when the bear is approaching. The runner replies that he only has to out run the slowest runner to survive and not the bear.


This story reminds me of a problem in many sales organizations. Sales people in general look at the lowest producer as the minimum level of sales production necessary to stay on the job. In other words if I can stay ahead of the lowest producer then I look better and can keep my job. I don’t have to work as hard as the highest producer.


Many people in life are always intrigued by others who are worse off then themselves. This scenario makes them feel more important and more successful in life. The same holds true in sales. If you’re not on the bottom of the sales ladder then you feel more successful in the middle and not being noticed as much as the bottom tier.


It does take more work being in the top 20% but it’s worth the effort. Someday you may find yourself on the bottom and out of a job. It’s not easy coming back from the bottom unless you have the skills and drive to accomplish the comeback. If you get too complacent you may find yourself in a hole that’s hard to claw your way back. In some markets the sales cycle could be 6 to 9 months. If you do not have the necessary potential clients in your sales funnel, you could find yourself in the bottom for several months. This may be too long for upper management to keep you on the payroll.


In professional football or any major sport, if you are not performing at your very best there are many others who are looking for your job and will replace you. If you can’t come back from the slump then you may never get another chance. In most sales companies if you are not a top performer it’s also harder to get another job. The new company that you may be interviewing with is looking at your past performance. They don’t want to hire sales people that have been on the bottom of the sales ladder. It’s in your best interest to stay away from this better then the lowest performer mentality and start raising the bar.

Make yourself a promise to get out of the bottom 80% and get into the top 20%. How do you start? First sit down and be honest with yourself and find the reasons why you are on the bottom. Is it your lack of enthusiasm? Maybe you’re in the wrong job and you don’t fit in the company or the market. You could have made a mistake and thought you could embrace the product and market but once you got involved you found out that it’s not your strength area. That’s OK, you have time to change. The question is, are you going to change jobs or are you going to change your attitude? This is not an easy question especially if you have been in the job for a few years. It’s going to take some serious thinking and maybe some sessions with an expert in career development. Never be ashamed to admit that you are not a great fit for this market. There is a good fit for you somewhere.


Now if you are serious about being successful in the company that you are with presently, then get to work. First find out what you don’t know about the product and market. Ask some of the top performers for help. Most of them will love the admiration. Learn from them and practice what they are doing. Take some sales classes, sign up for on-line webinars that fit your situation. Visit some customers that have your product and learn why they bought the product and how they are using your product.


When I was assigned to sell computer systems into the newspaper and publishing market I learned very quickly after several calls that I had no experience in this market and without any sales to build upon I was not affective. I was very lucky when the publisher of the Boston Globe told me that he did not know much about computers and I did not know much about the newspaper industry. He made me a proposition. He said if I come to work at the Boston Globe for 2 months and learned about the newspaper business then he would learn about how computers could help his business. I told him I would have to talk to my boss. Luckily for me that I had a great boss named Irwin Jake Jacobs who thought this would be a great experience.


After completing the 2 months at the newspaper I was well aware of the benefits that our computer system could offer. I was put into different positions every week to learn the different aspects of the newspaper business and actually got a graduation hat made from the first newspaper published on the day of my completion of all aspects of the printing process. We actually learned that if we added some features to our system that the newspaper needed then we had the best system on the market. I was then able to meet with the publisher and explain to him how our system could help with many processes of production to save time, save money and print a better product. We got the sale and became one of the leaders in the market and now could go to other newspapers and explain to them what we did at the Boston Globe and could now do for them.


Remember customers are looking for solutions to there problems not yours. Show them that you understand their business and show them how you can solve their problems and save them money and time. Good luck out there.




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