Last night a group of B2B sales leaders who will speak at today’s Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston gathered for our traditional pre-game Speakers Dinner. During the course of the conversation, one sales leader stated, “I believe salespeople are lazy.” This sparked an intriguing discussion about many issues near and dear to all sales leaders (including motivation, management, hiring, training, and sales enablement).
When pressed to say more, this sales leader acknowledged that many reps have the “gift of communication.” They’re outgoing by nature and have the ego strength to deal with rejection. However, the belief was that truly successful salespeople (aka, those whose performance puts them in the top 20% of the sales organization) “work harder than anyone else.” As for the middle 60%, they typically won’t take initiative to educate themselves on how to become better sellers (beyond passively absorbing whatever training the company provides — if any).
Here’s a quick summary of responses from other speakers.
1. The buck stops with the sales leader. As one speaker said, if you believe salespeople are lazy, ask what you’re doing as a sales leader to encourage that. What are you doing to inspire salespeople to succeed? Remember that inspiration is not the same as motivation. Motivation is creating an urge to action. Inspiration is about providing an opportunity to achieve a sense of meaning, personal fulfillment, and connection. Reps want both.
2. Sales 2.0 actually allows salespeople to be lazy. In the past, sales reps had to beat the bushes to find prospects. A few sales leaders in the room recalled their own early experiences using the phone book to make hundreds of cold calls, with no training or coaching whatsoever. Today, marketing automation solutions and other Sales 2.0 tools mean salespeople don’t have to work as hard to find prospects. Moreover, an expectation sets in that prospects will be “delivered” to reps as a matter of course. Thus salespeople lose some of their drive to take initiative when prospecting.
3. Consider that some salespeople are happy being in the 60%. Many middle performers are ambitious — but only to a point. Many *like* (or are at least satisfied by) being where they are. Folks in this category might never respond to sales enablement programs or training in the way that sales leaders would like.
4. A culture of laziness is frustrating for everyone. A longstanding challenge for any sales leader is getting middle performers to raise their level of performance to that of the top sellers in the organization. It can be frustrating to invest in training, coaching, sales enablement programs, and hiring best practices in an effort to move that needle but never see any return.
All in all, it was a thoughtful and respectful discussion among some highly talented B2B sales leaders. Which is just what we’ve come to expect from these gatherings. We’re grateful to everyone who joined us and shared their ideas.
If you’re attending the conference, don’t be surprised if this question comes up during presentations. Often we hear the most interesting conversational threads from the Speakers’ Dinner referenced during the next day at the conference.
We’re looking forward to a terrific event — stay tuned to our blog and follow @Sales20Conf on Twitter for more reporting.
Salespeople: lazy, or not? Share your opinion in the comments section.