You Enjoy the Price You Pay for Success

By Bill Lee
May 01, 2014

A local business owner told me recently he had no choice but to terminate one of his salespeople because he was consistently failing to earn his draw against commissions actually earned.

"We've known for a long time we needed to terminate this salesperson and today we finally got up the courage to pull the trigger," he told me.

In the next breath, he said the company's overall sales were booming. "Our biggest problem right now is operations. Sales are so strong that we can't hire delivery personnel fast enough to keep up with the workload."

To many, these two statements may seem inconsistent. A salesperson has lost his job because he couldn't generate a satisfactory level of sales, yet overall sales are booming. How could this be? I believe there's a simple answer.

As a sales trainer, I frequently see this kind of inconsistency. And it's taking place right here in our community. Some salespeople are doing extremely well, and others are starving to death. As author Jim Rohn says, "It's a mystery."

In this particular business, I happen to know that the top salesperson earns annual commissions in excess of $200,000. The terminated salesperson's annual commissions were approximately $20,000, only one tenth of those of the sales leader.

Do you believe that this company’s sales leader is ten times smarter? Or works ten times harder? Does he have ten times more product knowledge? Since I know both men, I am positive that the answer to each of these questions is absolutely not. The answer is simply that the under-performing salesperson is not willing to do the things that the high-performing salesperson is willing to do.

It's been my experience that top performers think winter all summer. When business is booming, for example, that's when their prospecting efforts are the most vigorous. They realize that sales and marketing activities are a part of selling that can never be ignored, even when business conditions are excellent.

When the economy turns down, prospects are inundated by salespeople looking for an order. But during boom periods, many buyers report that they rarely see a new salesperson. Doesn't it make sense to do your prospecting when your competitors are fat and happy? As Zig Ziglar frequently said, "There's no traffic jam on the extra mile."

It's not that top performing salespeople enjoy doing the things that make them so successful, it's just that they enjoy the results they get from their efforts. The very thought of failing is so repulsive to them that they are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.

Reading sales books, attending sales seminars, and listening to CDs and DVDs is not great fun for most salespeople. But the real sales pros, those who do well in good times and in bad, are willing to go through the educational process because they like the results.

Many of the salespeople who attend my seminars are frequently the ones who actually need sales training the least; they're already earning top commissions. But the salespeople who are starving to death are often too busy to learn anything new. "I've heard all that stuff before," you'll hear them say. "I don't need training, I need more competitive prices."

The key is sales activities. How are your salespeople spending their time? In the selling profession, doing things right is not nearly as important as doing the right things. So monitor and measure how your salespeople are spending their time and you're off to a good start at gaining control of your company's destiny.

Whoever is managing sales is also responsible for making sure novice salespeople are prepared to represent the company in a variety of ways. Among them is practically on Day One being called upon to negotiate prices with veteran customers and prospects when you’ve don’t have a clue how to negotiate. Another is having to deal with an angry or irate customer in a professional manner.

Negotiating is only hard when you try to maintain a reasonable profit margin, then it becomes really difficult. How to respond to pricing pressure should be a part of every salesperson’s orientation into the sales force. Whether it be a pricing issue or an angry customer, there are books, webinars, DVDs and seminars to teach salespeople how to perform these and many other routine duties of a salesperson.

Another famous quote from Zig Ziglar is this one: "You don't pay the price for success, you pay the price for failure. You enjoy the price you pay for success."

Try this: Create a training library for your salespeople. The library should include books, webinars, CD and DVD albums on selling, negotiating and customer service.

Anytime you purchase an educational product for members of your business team, I encourage you to get into the habit of asking the person reading the book, listening to a DVD or attending a seminar, to give you in writing the specific things they plan to do differently as a result of the their exposure to new ideas.

I hope your business is booming this spring.

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