Salespeople, Do You Know Where You Stand?


A former colleague once said to me…..

“George, you are one of the most likeable people I know.”

It was shocking coming from this man as our relationship wasn’t good and he was rarely nice to me. He never helped me in any beneficial way when I was new to the job, and attempted to undermine me several times. All my other sales colleagues were open and generous with their time, so his behavior seemed a bit odd from the start.

Thankfully, the nature of his character didn’t affect my job performance in the beginning months and I essentially steered clear of him. I couldn’t initially figure out why he acted in such an unprofessional way, but made sure to keep an eagle eye on his words and actions. 

I was enjoying the job immensely and gaining valuable experience, although it was becoming obvious that he wanted to shine a light on my sales performance, and not in a positive way. He was a veteran salesman and doing well, so it was puzzling as to why he kept nagging me about my progression. I was comfortable where I stood (and had some early success), so his questions were slightly irritating. When he was promoted, I knew the spotlight would get much brighter on me. 

The day he tried to paint me in a bad light regarding my sales results, I was more than ready for his antics. To his credit, he did have a little firepower in his bag of tricks, although he had no idea that the ammunition he planned to put forth would be met with equal force and much better preparation.

It wasn’t long before we were sitting in a meeting with our boss; a meeting he arranged and I expected. In a somewhat tense atmosphere, he presented his case about my sales, leading with the aforementioned firepower of telling the boss that I wasn’t selling a particular product well. I immediately admitted that I wasn’t, but also emphatically noted that nobody on the team had sold anything of significance with it. 

Everyone knew this product was a step above “terrible” and the commission on it was the same as our popular products.  In my experience, incentive does wonders for producing strong results; something I brought up. What was the incentive to sell a product that had virtually no appeal and a standard commission? The boss basically observed our interaction, as he tended to let colleagues solve their own issues. We agreed that I would put more effort into it and moved on. 

Feeling emboldened after a good first round, he then went for the knockout punch by saying that my overall sales results weren’t as strong as they needed to be and that I needed to improve and be more focused. He sounded good but was short on specifics. This was the moment I had been waiting for.

After he was done with his empty rhetoric, I asked him “Do you have any evidence to support your claims”? He had no adequate answer for the question, and stumbled a few times, yet kept harping on how I had to do better. If he had done his homework, I doubt this meeting would have ever taken place.

My next words had everyone’s attention. 

I respectfully made the truth apparent to my colleague and the boss, by telling them my actual results (by product) and how they compared to the team – most of which were very positive and much different than the misguided words he presented earlier. I handed both a paper with those results and my year to date sales figures. I could see a slight smirk on the face of our boss. I then passed a copy of the sheet to my colleague.

What he failed to realize is that I kept up to date results of my sales, along with how it compared to other salespeople. In addition, we had a sales contest (with cash prizes for the top 3) going at the time and I was in 2nd place; something that the boss didn’t know. It was a long contest and the sales changed rapidly, so it wasn’t easy to keep track of, although I knew where I stood weekly.  Needless to say, the boss quickly ended the meeting by saying to my colleague “Why are we here again?” The boss liked him, but he did have a few words with him after I left the room.

What if I hadn’t been prepared that day or didn’t know exactly what my sales were? My colleague had eloquent presentation skills, so the perception he tried to make stick could have worked. In addition, a lack of preparation in that meeting could have derailed the overall success I achieved in the job.

Every salesperson should know where they stand (in terms of their own sales results) at all times. Also, knowing what you need to sell in order to reach your sales target should always be top of mind. If you don’t have that information, your manager and/or leadership is doing you and the team a disservice. 

Often that information is there for a salesperson without management input, but sometimes one doesn’t bother to track it. I’ve seen good salespeople miss targets by the tiniest of margins, simply because they had no idea where they stood and/or what sales they needed to produce in order to hit their goal. Being an effective salesperson is about closing deals and hitting targets. If one doesn’t know their up to date sales, it can be difficult to maximize revenue potential. 

I like to think that I gained a bit of respect from my colleague that day. Even he was surprised by the positive and detailed results I put forth.  It was an important lesson for me in business and one I never forgot. I’m grateful his negativity didn’t turn me into a person I was not or make me bitter at the way I was treated. I focused on my performance at work and made sure to display an aura of kindness around him.

To this day, I’ve never come across anyone like him. After witnessing more of his personality, I concluded that it wasn’t so much about me, it was more about his desire to succeed. He was the type to do whatever it took for personal gain. It wasn’t long before others began to complain and talk about the error of his ways.

The strange thing is that he was a likable guy and had tremendous success. I don’t think his clients saw or noticed the side I was privy to on a regular basis. Our relationship never progressed beyond cordial.

His kind words to me were during one of our last conversations. He deserves a lot of credit for praising my likability that day, as he seemed sincere. It was a small dose of closure after numerous unpleasant interactions.

Happy Gswede Sunday!


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