Should a Salesperson be Punished after a Huge Sale?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, May 04, 2015 @ 11:05 AM

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My wife and I watched with a combination of fascination, sadness and shock as the coach of our son's 12 and under AAU baseball team made them run suicides after the double header they won on Saturday, and again after the double header they won on Sunday.  Why would he punish them after winning four games this weekend?  And how does this apply to sales?  You'll be amazed by what you read.On Saturday, the team had a chance to win both games by the mercy rule (the game ends if one team is ahead by 10 runs or more after 4 innings), but let the other team back into the game both times.  The coach didn't like their effort and execution and taught them a lesson by making them run suicides for 20 minutes after the second game.

On Sunday, the team won the first game, but allowed the other team to tie the second game forcing extra innings.  They eventually had a walk-off win, but once again, he thought they were flat, didn't like their effort, pointed to mental mistakes, and made them run suicides for 30 minutes after the second game.

As his parents, this punishment overshadowed a very impressive ball-crushing performance by our son.  But for the coach, the team's performance comes first.  The coach is paying more attention to behavior, attitude, and effort, than he is to the score.  He believes that by focusing on these three things, he will drive home the lessons he wants them to learn from this.

Shouldn't sales leaders be applying these lessons with their sales organizations?  While the best sales leaders do, in fact, follow this strategy, many sales leaders pay too much attention to sales results - the numbers - while ignoring the significance of metrics and conversion ratios that lead to revenue.

For example, Bob leads the team in sales this quarter with $500,000 in sales and he is praised, recognized, and presented with an award for his outstanding performance.  But it's a sham.  Bob landed one deal the entire quarter instead of the 6 he should have closed.  Although his quota for the quarter was only $300,000 and he killed it, if this deal hadn't come through, he would have been dead last.  Additionally, this deal was forecast for the previous quarter, so he really had nothing going on this quarter.  Had sales management looked more closely, they would have seen that he did not add any new opportunities to the pipeline in the quarter, and had only 6 conversations on just 12 outbound attempts.  Where was his effort?  What's with his attitude?  And where was the behavior?  Should Bob have been the hero or should it have been pointed out that he sucked all quarter and happened to get lucky once?

Clearly, it benefits the entire sales organization to call attention to a big deal and a quota-buster.  We want to make sure that everyone knows that these results can be achieved and should be achieved.  At the same time, if the other salespeople approach Bob and ask how he did it, the opposite effect will occur.  They would learn that it is OK not to make calls, not to have many conversations, and not to convert those conversations to meetings.  Additionally, they would learn that ineffective qualifying and forecasting can pay off, and letting prospects off the hook, not closing the door, and being passive and mentally lazy can work as well.

The scenario with the Bobs of the world is no different than what happened last weekend with the baseball coach.  We can't reward results unless the attitude, effort and execution that led to the results was consistent with those results.  In addition, we shouldn't punish salespeople who put forth the proper effort, attitude, behaviors and execution, only to come up short.  When we identify the most meaningful KPI's, and recognize salespeople for achieving those, the results will come.

[Update - Stick around and read the comments to this article, add one of your own, share it on LInkedIn or Twitter (buttons above the photo) and read this follow-up article.]

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales conversation, Baseball, sales behaviors, sales KPI, sales effort, sales forecast, sales execution

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years.  Dave's Blog earned a Bronze Medal in 2016 and this article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016. Read more about Dave.

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