My friend Mike Weinberg wrote a post last week about Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. Mike used Lynch to compare “team players” with top producers. Mike’s point was that a lot of top producers aren’t very good corporate citizens. My friend Dave Brock weighed in with his thoughts too.
Like both of their posts, what I am going write is going to make some people uncomfortable.
I have personally built a sales organization that produces revenue in the top 1% of all companies in the United States. I was able to do this with no more than 9 salespeople at any one time. A big part of the reason I was able to this successfully was due to the fact that all of them shared a certain set of attributes.
The first attribute is combativeness.
I have never had a top producing salesperson that wasn’t combative. I don’t mean competitive; that’s something different. I mean that they were willing to fight, to argue their point, to go to war for what they wanted.
The best performing salespeople I have ever led fought with me over things they believed to be important. They argued with me over strategy, tactics, customers, deals, and execution. They were productive arguments, not just arguments for argument’s sake.
These same salespeople fought with clients too. They argued about what the client needed to change. They fought for the things they needed to gain a competitive advantage. They fearlessly defended their pricing.
They also fought for their clients when operational changes were needed. If they needed to ruffle feathers, feathers were ruffled. If they need to go up the org chart to get changes, up they would go. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t also capable of being extremely nice, extraordinarily charming, and that they didn’t also show appreciation for the work that the people on their teams did to support them and their clients. It doesn’t mean that didn’t work well with others all the time, nor does it mean they didn’t collaborate (Russell Wilson handed Lynch the football in the play Weinberg has embedded in his post. Lynch didn’t push Wilson down.).
Every high performing salesperson I have ever managed was difficult to “manage.” But this “downside” comes with a major advantage. And this brings us to the second attribute.
The second attribute was that these salespeople are easy to lead. You don’t really manage top producers; you lead them.
These high-performers didn’t need me to motivate them to do their jobs. They didn’t need me to tell them what to do. All they needed was to know was their goal and our strategy to win. Once they were given direction, they managed themselves.
They wanted to be led. They wanted to win. They wanted everyone to play as hard as they did.
Being successful requires that you sometimes make people uncomfortable, that you have the difficult conversations, and that you fight for what you believe to be right. Are you too worried about being perceived in some way that you avoid these things?
Do what you know you need to do even though you fear it this week. I’ll see you back here next Sunday.
And, if you haven’t already signed up, join me tomorrow for the first ever Virtual Sales Kickoff at 11:00 AM ET. I will be joined by Mark Hunter, Miles Austin, Jeb Blount, and Mike Weinberg. Our good friend John Spence will send you a special follow up video.