There comes many a moment in every sales rep’s life when he’s torn between what’s good for him and what’s good for the company. Being the touchpoint between the customers and the company, a good sales rep can always see both sides of the wall. He can always figure what the customers want from the company and if the company is able to deliver that to them. He can also see how well the company is performing in terms of revenue. Every salesperson gets a kick out of closing multiple deals and watching the revenue skyrocket.
But, for a ‘thinking’ sales rep, closing deals don’t always result in euphoria. Most successful CEOs start as sales reps. They have a ringside view of the business through their sales years and start developing leadership intuitions that are much beyond what’s required to close a sale.
The sales rep’s ‘CEO sensibilities’ kick in at the wrong times. Especially early in the career for a sales rep, it becomes counterproductive and creates more harm than good. The ‘thinking sales rep’ starts deciding for others. He rejects deals that he ‘knows’ the organization cannot deliver. He becomes empathetic to product and engineering burnouts. He pushes for fewer features. He becomes pragmatic.
While it’s good for a sales rep to have a peripheral view of what’s happening around him and his job, it’s not good for him to delve into it. Simply put, a sales rep should stop trying to be the CEO. His job is to close and not worry about what’s optimal for the company. This doesn’t mean making promises which the company can’t keep. This means he shouldn’t draw conclusions about things that he has no control over, based on past information. He has to take informed decisions. Informed in the sense that he should make sure that the company is in on the deal and the whole organization, right from presales, to the product, to engineering are working to back him. Where they don’t, instead of being pragmatic, he should raise hell with those that can move the ground beneath to make the deal happen.
When he is advised that there aren’t enough resources, he can either accept it and let go of the deal or convince the company why it is important to take the deal and impress on the need for it. The company can either rally behind the opportunity and change its priorities in light of the deal or make deliberate decision to stop chasing a deal and say no. In either case, the best sales rep negotiates to win till the moment the organization steps in to take over that decision from his hands and makes it an ‘organizational decision’ to pursue or to move on.
When the next deal comes along, the sales rep, instead of becoming cynical, should make it a point to go back and check if it is doable instead of camping on the “Not right now” which his organization signaled to him the last time. An informed decision includes acknowledging the fact that information is always in a state of flux. A piece of information from the past could’ve expired by the time this new deal comes along.
When we interviewed Hayden McManus of ATG Stores for our interview series People in Sales, she shared with us her “aha” moment when she realized that she, as a salesperson, doesn’t have to do the job of the CEO.
“I quoted $7k after discount. The client point-blank refused my offer and wanted it for $5k. Now, I know the product originally cost us $5k and that my company will gain nothing from this deal. The financial year was drawing close and I knew our company wouldn’t want non-profitable deals. I was worried my company won’t be able to meet its forecast. I’d already spent a lot of time in this negotiation so I decided to consult my supervisor before turning down the client. To my surprise, my boss told me told me to sell it for $5k. That’s when I realized I shouldn’t try to play the role of the CEO. I didn’t know that ‘per deal’ profitability isn’t how organizations view profitability. They are instruments to push sales reps to do the right things, but exceptions don’t break the bank. When in doubt, always consult and stop worrying about the company.”
So, should a sales rep try and fill in the shoes of a CEO? No. As long as informed decisions are being taken, a sales rep shouldn’t worry about the organization.