I used to work in Sales. I wouldn’t call myself a “guru” but I was comfortable in my roles in Sales, Marketing and Business Development. I always believe that those roles are important for anyone who wants to grow into leadership roles; the constant running to achieve targets, the cajoling of customers and the drive to reduce your debt portfolio albeit on monthly basis is a phenomenon that keeps you up at night and makes you think on your feet.
This article is not a Sales 101 tutorial. I was privy to a discussion by two top sales Managers during a conference sometime in 2005. Both of them had a Sales Force of about 15 personnel each, well equipped with everything needed to succeed in their territories. The discussion was centred on the attitude of some of the personnel working for one of these Managers; Mr Desmond was complaining to my boss about the way some of his personnel react whenever they failed to meet their Sales target.
“I tried my best, I cannot kill myself”; that is their usual slogan Mr Desmond told Max (my boss). “I get so infuriated every time I hear this phrase. Sometimes, I feel like smacking them on the face; if only I could. Your livelihood his dependent on the salaries paid by the organization; this Organization depends on you to deliver your Sales target to meet its obligations to the other staff, its suppliers, creditors and the society at large. Yet the only excuse I get from these folks when the expectations of the organization are not met is that they tried their best, they cannot kill themselves. It’s bizarre”, he said.
To put it into perspective, I was new in Sales when I overheard this conversation. Over the years that followed, I worked with different Sales personnel from different territories; some of them excellent while there were few lazy ones. Some were smart, some were very hardworking while there were others that would not do any heavy lifting for the company.
These last bunch will not go an extra mile to ensure that the sales target was met. Once they felt they had tried their best, “que sera sera (what will be will be)”. What if the organization cannot pay the salaries of the folks in the office, who cares? What if the target is met by 100% credit sales without cash collection, who cares? “I cannot kill myself”.
In my experience, this attitude is prevalent among Sales guy (only the lazy ones) who are posted to areas where the supervisory reach of the main office or Headquarter is limited. It’s easy for these guys to laze around for a month and then report mediocre sales figures for the month. My concern sometimes is that the time they use on concocting a good excuse could have been put into better use.
The “I cannot come and kill myself” mentality is an attitude that is capable of destroying any individual or organization. It starts small, gradually permeates to every area of our lives, makes us sit on our hands while others are breaking fallow grounds and finally leaves us in the mud while our contemporaries are soaring in their endeavours.
Other humans are not going to be paid salaries because I failed to me my target; “I cannot come and kill myself”. The young people in the neighbourhood require mentoring so that they don’t join the wrong gangs; am I their parent, “I cannot come and kill myself” for anyone. Other people are getting new certifications or acquiring new knowledge in their careers and I am sitting on my hand, playing office politics; “I cannot come and kill myself”.
Sometimes, we cannot tell if others have done their best but we can speak for ourselves. The issues are these; one, always remember the lives of the people that are depending on “your best efforts”. Two, only the individuals that are willing to give “their all” make it to the top; life gives you lemons, its left to you to turn it into lemonade. Three, in that same market where you are giving loads of excuses, a different individual with another kind of attitude will make a good success out of it. The list can go on and on; “a word is enough for the wise”.