Personal Drive Sells More Than Years of Experience

How  sales people’s lack of innate personal commitment affects business and what sales managers can do about it 

It is difficult to grow as a salesperson if you don’t have personal reason to.  Scratch that! It is impossible to learn, mature and expand as a salesperson if you do not have personal purpose to; a selfish drive, that transcends, “here you earn as much as you want to” or “the sky is the limit”.  This personal drive may take forms as different as there are characters.  The absence of this selfish drive tragically affects both the salesperson and, inadvertently, the business.

Personal sales growth may come, yes. But it will be in squirts, surges and spurts. With nothing to drive you, the relentless floods of internal pressure for numbers, and external rejection by buyers, will drown you. The longer a salesperson stays without personal reason for growth, the higher the chances of him propelling his experience into inexperience. He progresses retrogressively; his experience becomes defined by duration and not capacity; the ten years experience he professes to, is actually one year’s experience ten times. He ignores the basics and cruises on assumptions. I will simply wing it; I’ve done this a hundred times before; I don’t need to get a prognosis, I already have the diagnosis. He does what he never would have as a novice- he becomes complacent. With increased “experience” he atrophies.

What is personal drive? It is the response the seller gives to the question, “Why am I selling?” When most start it’s because they are enticed by the “earning as much as you can” catch phrase. Soon they realize that the bright rainbow will shine only after they weather the storm of the steep learning sales curve.  At that point, not only will their rainbow show, they will get a shot at the pot of gold at the end of it. Until then, the intrinsic desire to want to help others or understand human behaviour will keep them going; or, maybe the burning desire to earn enough to pay for the degree that has prevented them from getting a real “job” will; it could also be that selling is the only way they can keep up with the Joneses or extricate their family from grinding poverty; or maybe, competition and recognition turns them on and as long as these are evident they will do anything to chase that neon rainbow. And when the rainbow shows, being human, their personal drive may change and now the pot of gold becomes the focus-they may want different things: a Masters, national or regional job recognition, a stylish car, to tithe more, a classier neighbourhood, trendier furniture, to flirt in the league they feel they now belong, to mingle with the Who’s Who etc. Many sellers lack this compelling need or don’t even know of it-successful sales managers make it their business to identify and focus the salesperson on it.

As for the business the seller represents, there is nothing firm to step on and catch a glimpse of the future; nothing to take to the bank as projected future cash flows against the overdraft for salaries sought. If only salespeople knew how their actions (inaction?) directly affect business. A company’s bottom-line is quite literally only as good as it’s front line.  Some businesses counter this problem by having an army of contracted salespeople and through trial and error sustain a semblance of monthly cash flow normalcy. At one time companies managed this challenge by purging a significant percentage of a sales team because “they lost their spark” and replacing them with a “fresh spark”. The jury is still out on the sustainability of these strategies.

To be fair though, this absence of a personal reason isn’t just a sales problem. It is also the reason why many people keep switching jobs. Whatever the preferred wind that blows your sail, catch it or you will drift into high waters unguided, and you will drown.

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