That Maverick, Stubborn, Successful Sales Rep
There’s one on every sales team. He doesn’t get along with others. She goes right when everyone else is going left. He is argumentative. She is not management’s favorite by any means.
But he/she is the number one sales rep in the company. Okay, maybe not always number one, but certainly profitable and successful.
However, along with the good comes the bad; managing the sales rep is difficult for obvious reasons. Tell him what to do and he is likely to do the opposite. Invite her to a meeting she thinks is not worth her time and she will not attend.
And just when you think you are going to explode, he/she makes a huge sale and does a “fly-by” near the tower (read: your office) with a Cheshire cat grin, further infuriating you’re already infuriated brain.
I know this rep, probably because I was/am this rep.
Every once in a while, I get the pleasure of coaching this rep. It requires a different approach, one where you put almost as much effort into getting them to be able to hear you as the time you put into the coaching advice itself.
Here’s what I tell them: Don’t change a thing. Remain aggressive. Sell with confidence. It’s okay to go your own way. Be yourself, even if it’s not popular.
Those words are balanced and countered with: Be careful with what you say. Maintain a professional demeanor. Don’t let confident stray into cocky. Communicate with management if your way is not their way. Convince them (i.e. sell them on the idea) that your way will get them where they want you to go.
The mistake managers make is to force their will on the maverick sales reps. Smart managers guide behavior from afar instead of questioning every step. If you start in Boston and the goal is to make it to San Francisco, why do you care if someone wants to go via Seattle, especially if there is good reason (other than the coffee).
There are four questions managers should ask maverick sales reps when the goal is new business:
- What is the minimum number of new business calls you will commit to on a daily basis?
- Who will you be calling (i.e. new customers, existing customers, etc.)?
- Why is this the best use of your time?
- What do you need from me?
Then, get out of the way and go manage something else.
When my daughters were younger and we were considering whether to take them out of public school and expose them to a Montessori education, what convinced me was a story the head of the school told me. There were two fifth-graders who came to their teacher with a request: They wanted to know how many hamburgers stacked up on top of one another it would take to reach the moon and were given the latitude to find out. I thought that was brilliant. If you ever meet one of my girls, you will meet three people who are unique, successful, creative, and occasionally annoying.
Talk to me, Goose.
Go to BillFarquharson.com and click on the “Training” link in the header for more information or to contact Bill and discuss your sales challenges.
Bill Farquharson is a sales trainer for the graphic arts. Email him at Bill@AspireFor.com or call (781) 934-7036. Bill’s two books, The 25 Best Print Sales Tips Ever and Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How? as well as information on his new subscription-based website, The Sales Vault are available at BillFarquharson.com.