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(SALES MANAGEMENT) The Untouchables

6-20-2014

You know who they are. Every business has them. They are sellers but their titles often begin with “Senior.” Their tenure with their employer is typically longer than most and, owing in no small part to attrition, they have accumulated an impressive account list. As a result, their billing is at or near tops in the building every month.

At most companies, these senior sellers operate by a different set of rules than everyone else. They pay little more than lip service to management initiatives for new business development. Their unit pricing is below the company average and their activity reports are turned in late or incomplete. The “special” rules that govern these elite account executives are unwritten but they are, nevertheless, very real. To management, they are “untouchables.”

What would happen to the revenue flow if a “super seller” decided to quit? The truth is that most managers just don’t know. And, understandably, they are unwilling to risk losing these “special” account executives by holding them to the same standard of accountability as the rest of the staff. Management would prefer to accept the negatives that may result from their tolerance of the “untouchables.”

And there are many potential negatives. Examples include:
• The atmosphere in the sales department suffers. Lower-ranking sellers notice and resent the preferential treatment accorded senior account executives;
• In spite of producing substantial revenue, “untouchables” often underperform, failing to deliver an appropriate share of budget from major accounts. Tepid management can never be sure; and,
• Because these senior sellers corral so many meaningful billing clients, managers often lack the flexibility to reward promising young account executives with additional active customers. After being well trained, new talent departs for the competition.

As an on-site consultant, I’ve often been given “hands off” instructions for these senior sellers. Since I don’t face that constraint in this forum, here are the top five thoughts I would share with “untouchables”:
1. You are good but you could be better. If you aren’t moving forward, you are certain to be passed by;
2. The best way to measure the quality of your work is through the eyes of your peers. Do other sellers frequently ask for your help? Are you a well-used resource for everyone in the sales department? If so, you should take pride in your role. If not, it’s time to get busy…again;
3. Your work will suffer when you operate in a vacuum, but to earn critical help from peers and support staff, there must be a “U” in “team”;
4. You won the approval of management by displaying passion and superior performance, but that respect must be constantly renewed; and,
5. Past performance earns you a place in history but it is today’s performance that keeps you from becoming history.

These Horton-isms have value for sellers of all stripes – managers might consider copying my remarks for their entire team. I would, however, suggest you do so without additional comment. Should one of your “untouchables” take offense, better to let me be the heavy.

Jon E. Horton is the author of The 22 Unbreakable Laws of Selling available in both paperback and Kindle versions from Amazon.com. For more of his blogs, please visit www.JonEHorton.com. Comments to Jon@JonEHorton.com.




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(6/23/2014 1:45:33 PM)
Right on target about this Jon----I think about this problem often----and "nudge" whenever I can. The problem is that although no one is "perfect'---you are right that everyone needs to re-evaluate their efforts and strategies from time to time---no matter where you are in the "salesperson pecking order". Good article!

- Davis Nathan
(6/22/2014 11:58:01 PM)
Selling us about RELATIONSHIPS. Individuals who have been selling at any one station, for any prolonged length of time, usually have done a good job building those relationships. And there is not one station anywhere, that is a " must" buy anymore. So for an outside consultant - who is dealing in theory- to come in and disparage long-time professionals for the appearance of "doing something" is at best disingenuous, and at worst destructive.

- Bob

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