For sales reps everywhere the 2020 nadir includes fewer in-person meetings, frequently distant or disgruntled clients, the struggle to mitigate the work-from-home distractions, and on-going inventory problems. Healthy, functional teams are stronger and more resilient during a crisis. Yet many sales reps’ inadvertently hurt their teams in one or more of the following ways:
- They become Boxer. Healthy disagreement and dissent are an important part of team culture. Sales reps who do their job as if “work harder” is going to improve their situation will, like the workhorse, stop contributing the fresh thinking needed to solve immediate problems. Leadership may recommend new strategies and tactics. Without critical discussion or dissent these “snowflake” directives may increase a sales rep’s stress and tendency to withdraw from the team.
- They hoard. Nobody on a team benefits when one person with a great idea decides that hoarding it is better than sharing it.
- They detach from the front lines. Under normal circumstances successful sales reps often work closely with branch managers, counter staff, warehouse teams and delivery drivers. These invaluable relationships help sales reps gain a clearer understanding of client needs, market conditions, and emerging opportunities. Ignoring front line friendships weakens the sales rep in terms of collegiality and optics.
- They forget their “Why.” Purpose-driven employees are engaged, happier, and more productive. It’s easy to forget Purpose when you’re trying to convince your five year old daughter to do another ABC Mouse during your Zoom meetings. The “Why” devolves in to something along the lines of “get through the day, put out fires, cold call people who don’t want to talk to me, try and walk the dogs, repeat.” Nonetheless, sales reps without a purpose may make short terms decisions that fix a problem but are not in the long term interest of their team or organization.
- They focus on weakness. When everything that made you feel confident and successful are gone some sales reps try to strengthen their weaknesses instead of strengthening their strengths. Teams succeed because of their compounded strengths rather than their better-than-average weaknesses.
- They try to solve everything themselves. This is impossible. Customer needs have gone from simple to complex in a matter of months. The pace of change has accelerated past the point that one person can solve them on his or her own. It doesn’t matter how much expertise a sales rep has–there aren’t enough hours in the day to meet every customer’s unique needs. Deciding not to collaborate with their team hamstrings a sales reps’ ability to comprehensively serve his clients. Smart sales reps understand that collaboration with team members is the new selling expertise.
- They become optimists. From 1965-1973 James Stockdale spent seven and a half years in a North Vietnamese prison. He was savagely tortured. He endured solitary confinement for FOUR YEARS. Think about that the next time you’re having a bad day. Stockdale’s ability to simultaneously accept the reality that he would likely die as a prisoner along with the belief that he would eventually be free is known as The Stockdale Paradox. Sales reps who allow either extreme hopelessness or extreme optimism to influence their outlook are unable to either function in the current, crappy reality or deal with possibility that it may never change. Successful teams that are comprised of stoic individuals will survive the crisis. .