Fear Your Salespeople
Are you afraid of your sales team? “Of course not,” you must be thinking when actually you should be.
In a conversation a few months ago on this topic with David, one of my Executive Advising clients, he gave me the most incredulous look at hearing this statement. Hailing from Texas, he leads the sales team in a large technology company.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Scott,” he said. “That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. You’ve always given me great advice, but you’re way off base on this one.”
I understood his surprise and asked him to hear me out. “David, if you didn’t have NPS, Nice Person Syndrome, there would be nothing to be afraid of.” David was well aware of his NPS, a tendency of many leaders to avoid situations that could turn in to confrontation or conflict because it doesn’t feel nice.
“I know I struggle at times with my NPS, but what does that have to do with it?”
“Your default, because of NPS, is doing what makes everyone happy. While that’s admirable, making people happy now actually can rob them of their future happiness.”
This clearly got his attention as he asked me to explain further.
“David, in order to increase market share, you rolled out an improved sales plan that we had collaborated on together. When your team learned that you were implementing a more assertive approach, they pushed back, hard. They told you things like, ‘you’re going to destroy our culture’ and ‘you’re trying turn us into the type of pushy salespeople who work for our competition.’ Why did you decide on an improved sales plan in the first place?”
“Because I know we can be more and do more. Assertiveness is a good thing, especially when you can back if up with the type of value we provide”
“So why not stick with the plan?”
“Because I don’t want a revolt.”
“So, you’re salespeople sold you on the idea that you were wrong to roll out this plan.”
“But I know I’m not. I … wait, they did sell me on their way of thinking, didn’t they?”
“Exactly! When people are afraid, they employ their strengths in an attempt to influence or change the situation. Your team was afraid of how the new plan would impact your culture, and how they are perceived by buyers. They used their sales skills to sell you on their beliefs.”
“And I bought in. Man they are good at selling! And you’re right that I should be afraid of allowing them to influence me in such an unhealthy way. Now I just need them to use their assertiveness with our prospective customers.”
The company moved forward with his plan and is now on pace to have their best year ever.
David’s story is not unique. Most of you reading his story have some degree of NPS, making you susceptible to being sold on ideas that keep the peace. While many salespeople may not be trying to take advantage of your proclivity for being nice and promoting happiness, their fear of change initiates their tendency to sell, sell, sell. And your NPS buys in, unless you take action to counter this cycle.
This Week’s Radical Accountability Activating Action: Stop borrowing from tomorrow’s happiness to make people happy today. Do the next right thing, even when it’s not the most popular thing.
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