As a young salesman, a good contact of mine, used to send ice-cream vans round to customers and prospects on warm summer days – an extravagance that cost his company many thousands of pounds.
Not only was this done with full approval from senior management, his enterprising behaviour was encouraged.
How would a junior ranking sales person in your company be treated, when suggesting this kind of left-field tactic on a hot summers day?
We all know that many sales positions have a high churn rate, sometimes approaching 30% per annum, and of course worryingly, it’s usually the top performers who move voluntarily – the low performers tend to hang on by their fingertips!
Have you ever been brave enough to factor in the lost opportunity costs of the resulting hole left in your organisation when a top performer leaves?
Let’s consider some some figures. If your top performer delivers £600,000 in annualrevenues, then three vacant months is £150,000 in lost revenue.
However, even a top performer (if you’ve been able to find one this quickly) will take a few months to get up to speed. Which means that if she sells at 50% capacity (I’m an optimist) over her first 3 months in post, that’s another £75,000 in lost opportunity. This very conservative case study takes you to £225,000 in lost revenue, every time someone leaves.
Wouldn’t it be good if we could keep this churn of top sales and business development talent to an absolute minimum? Well, perhaps we can, if we begin to accept business developers and sales professionals, just like many entrepreneurs, as ‘freedom’ and ‘opportunity’ driven people.
In this way, we can start to harness these value drivers to work for your business. However, if you seem to be constantly challenging or restricting their freedom and new opportunities for enterprise, you may run into what I call the snowboard effect. I’ve named it the snowboard effect after hearing Sam’s story.
Sam was a high level snowboarder and asked for permission to leave early a couple of days per week, in order to train for an upcoming trip. Permission was refused because it didn’t fit exactly with company working time policy.
Sam had outperformed as a business development professional, driving sales many millions of pounds over his annual target. However, his direct boss insisted on strict working time parameters – for example, never leaving early to go to the gym or the dry slope.
This restriction on his freedom, led to Sam saying,
…you know what, I think I’ll just take the snowboard trip, and find a new job with a different company on my return.
Sam then left the organisation and went on to his next high level business development position after the snowboarding – a company where his talent and results were rewarded with the freedom to go to the gym whenever he liked! Small freedoms can make a big difference to entrepreneurial sales personalities.
Top sales people are often enterprising, single minded and results focused. Like entrepreneurs they are also persistent, capable of innovation and willing to handle rejection on your organisation’s behalf!
To attract more of the best sales and business development talent, and to keep those you’ve got in your team what can you do? Perhaps you might consider whether you treat your sales people like the freedom loving, innovative, value generating entrepreneurs that they might just be or become, if you only encouraged them.
So what did become of our loyal ice-cream relationship builder?
With his enterprising behaviour both encouraged and rewarded, this young person remained loyal and resisted the offers from many rival organisations. Based on his business generating performance, he’s now deservedly a shareholder in the US based subsidiary of the company.