It was the famous Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who first said: "I wish to show here an inward picture which does not become perceptible until I show it through the external". While I am sure that Kierkegaard was not addressing a group of organizational leaders, sales managers or sales people when he first wrote this, he was in fact offering some highly consultative insight far ahead of his time for executives. In particular his remark suggest the helpfulness of having some sort of external mechanism in place by which should help to elucidate issues that feel hidden, opaque or ambiguous.
It is important to recognize that Business Development Consultants and Sales People alike are often starved for quality feedback. Contrary to the "I've got it together" stature with which they typically comport themselves around the company or in front of a customer, the truth is, on the inside they are always asking the question: "How am I doing".
And why shouldn't they? They are keenly aware that they are judged everyday by highly transparent performance metrics. There is in fact, nowhere to hide. And when a gap exists in their duties from where they are and where they need to be, they recall the way they improved their performance as an athlete, musician, or thespian. They remember the times in their lives when they were under pressure to perform, and how feedback became the external mechanism that helped improve their awareness and concurrently facilitated performance enhancement.
And while I contend in this blog that sales people are starved for feedback, you may also think "Not so!" On the contrary, one might think that sales people are defensive, arrogant, deflecting, and quick to point somewhere else any time a "feedback" conversation is initiated. And the reality is, that this dynamic is also very true as well.
How then is it possible that two seemingly opposite dichotomies could be equally true? For several important reasons:
1. The Leadership Team has not made it OK, to fail. Consider that he highest paid people in the world are paid to fail on a tremendous scale. Consider a pro baseball player. How many of you would pay your children millions of dollars for a test score of 35%? Ludicrous of course. But not in Sports. Baseball players get paid seven figure salaries to fail, and to fail publicly, on TV for that fact!
Would you allow videos of your best sales people to be shared across the organization? This is in essence what pro sports teams do all the time. Yet corporations, do the opposite. They only want to post successes, and success stories. Yet this isn't where most of their team's professional lives are spent. Reality for most sales teams is in the trenches of canceled appointments, meetings that are cut in half, demos that don't go the way they are supposed to.