Sales is perhaps the most important thing you can screw up

Salespeople are typically one of the best ways to find where the real opportunity sits.  The question: who buys it and why? is timeless in not only its simplicity, but also in its ability to cut to the chase on where value really sits, why, and what alternatives are in play.

I’ve learned over time is that hiring really good salespeople and then focusing their motivation (compensation, success, results, etc.) in a straightforward and meaningful way will ultimately uncover the really interesting and critical information about your business and the real value vector of your offerings.  The trick is you have to hire smart and hungry salespeople and be really clear about the motivation piece.  Screwing up either prerequisite up will render horrible results.

A few years ago, I had a fantastic sales guy that worked for me.  He was a bit of a prima-donna and demanded more from me (by far) than anyone else on my team.  He wasn’t afraid to call me anywhere or anytime, and call me out if he thought it was appropriate, even if it wasn’t.  He wasn’t afraid to ask really hard questions of anyone, anywhere regardless of title, rank or position.  He was incredibly passionate about succeeding both personally and professionally.  He also possessed a strong dose of equal parts skepticism and optimism.  At times I couldn’t stand his brash attitude or bluntness.  He demanded a lot of attention (and money).  Eventually he left for greener pastures and the loss to my team and the business in general was huge, way more so that I had expected.  I’m not saying his leaving was preventable or for the wrong reasons.  People move on and things don’t work out.  It was the after-effects that left a lasting impression on me.

I learned something important.

Great sales people don’t always do or act exactly the way you want or hope they would.  At the end of the day, results are the real and true measure of their value to the business.  Strong performers in this world demand a lot from the company and the company’s leadership.  They want and need leadership that listens, acts, motivates, and doesn’t mince words.