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Squirrel Spotting: Top Salespeople Need Love Too
Peter Smith makes a case for giving your top salespeople space, but not so much space that they feel entirely alone and unappreciated.
One of the great paradoxes with superstar salespeople is like the rest of us (or even more so), they want to be left to their own devices to hunt and prospect, unencumbered by anything they view as an obstacle.
But they also want to be loved, and they need to be loved.
Superstar salespeople want to feel like they are part of the group, respected, perhaps even the most respected members of the team.
They need to know that what they see as their unique talents—the ability to engage customers and influence buying behaviors—is valued, without the irritant of petty rules and regulations.
It is that latter aspect, the rules and regulations part, that infuriates managers of top salespeople.
Managers want to be fair and equitable. They want to give everyone the same opportunity to be successful and they can’t understand why there’d be one set of standards for the team and an entirely different set for one person.
It is hard to argue with that sentiment. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone, to paraphrase the Ritz-Carlton, behaved like proper ladies and gentlemen? Wouldn’t our lives be that much easier if all our people were equally motivated, emotionally mature, and sensible in all their choices and decision-making? What a lovely, utopian planet we would have (well, at least within the confines of our own businesses).
Lost in the well-intentioned sentiment of wanting to treat everyone the same is the irony of top performers not acting the same as everyone else.
They don’t ask you to call them in the morning to deliver a pep talk. They don’t wait for managers to point them in the direction of customers.
They don’t need convincing that what pays the bills are sales, profitable sales. They don’t waste time with activities and projects that don’t move the bar, and they almost always prioritize selling activities over everything else.
There’s no doubt star salespeople can be difficult to manage. Their maverick-like behavior can drive their colleagues crazy, and they do push the envelope in their efforts to make sales and to minimize distractions.
“Great salespeople need space to make their magic happen … Leave them, but don’t forget to love them.”But, before you get too caught up in your well-intentioned efforts at fairness and equity, ask yourself: Does the rest of my team bring to the table what my top salespeople do?
The idea that sales from top sellers would have happened anyway, even if they didn’t work at your store, is optimistic and self-serving.
The best salespeople have an inherent wiring that is not shared by their colleagues and their talent is reflected in their ability to self-prospect, to close more sales at a higher average ticket, to add-on and up-sell, and to develop repeat business through assertive and self-driven clienteling.
Great salespeople need space to make their magic happen and that magic is oxygen for our businesses. They should be given every opportunity to do what comes naturally to them. Their drive is not a function of training or outside motivation; it is inherent.
Let them do their thing and pull them back only every now and then to ensure they don’t go completely off the rails. Don’t try to manage out of them what you never managed into them in the first place.
Leave them, but don’t forget to love them.
Don’t misinterpret their desire to go it alone with not wanting to feel like they are a part of the team.
Make sure to tell them—privately, publicly and authentically—that you value what they bring to the table and what they mean to your business.
In “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t,” Simon Sinek wrote: “As much as we want to stand out and consider ourselves individuals, at our core we are herd animals that are biologically designed to find comfort when we feel like we belong to a group.
“Our brains are wired to release oxytocin when in the presence of our tribe and cortisol, the chemical that produces the feeling of anxiety, when we feel vulnerable and alone.”
Top salespeople will seek newer pastures when they feel ostracized or apart from the group.
They want the freedom to make things happen and to blaze a trail. What they don’t want is to feel like they are on the trail alone.
Peter Smith is president of Memoire and author of two books, “Hiring Squirrels: 12 Essential Interview Questions to Uncover Great Retail Sales Talent” and “Sell Something: Principles and Perspectives for Engaged Retail Salespeople.” Both books are available in print or Kindle at Amazon.com. Connect with Smith on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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