Organizations are getting a raw deal; they recruit salespeople with impressive credentials and experience and expect these individuals to apply what they know and have done to improve performance and achieve higher levels of market success.
The problem is, salespeople and everyone else are the victims of an education system that teaches compliance; adhere to the rule book and you will pass.
Seth Godin in his book Lynchpin describes it this way: “Here’s what we’re teaching kids to do (with varying levels of success): … fit in … follow instructions … be a generalist … don’t fail … try not to have other kids talk about you… don’t challenge authority…”
Students are judged on their compliance ability by the performance grading system. A “D” means that the rules were not followed (shame on you!) – and thus non-compliance – whereas an “A” concludes almost perfect compliance.
The best students color inside the lines perfectly; hardly a blueprint for innovation and creativity.
This imprinting is manifested by salespeople all applying the same rules of the day to common problems of how to deliver standout results.
They chase best in class organizations to copy how they sell; they push products emphasizing features and technology; they are driven to meet short term quotas and they focus on acquiring new customers as the means to hit their growth targets.
In return, they expect their efforts to produce superlative results and distinguish their organization from others in the herd.
The problem is, if everyone is playing in the same box and complying with the same rules, no one stands out. No one gets noticed; no one is visible. Every participant is mediocre and bland and the market meanders to commodity dynamics with price acting as the supreme commander.
We need anything but compliant salespeople who simply apply the accepted rules of their craft; contemporary markets riddled with fierce and hungry competition punish those that do.
Compliance produces robots; sameness.
Compliance is 180 degrees out of phase with the conditions that foster innovation and creativity.
We need salespeople who invent their own set of rules for success and who find applying the rules of the day repugnant.
We need salespeople who are driven to stand-out rather than fit-in; to do whatever it takes to create something amazing.
We need salespeople to create art that people care and talk about.
We need salespeople who invent new boxes to play in; who love coloring “outside the lines”.
We need salespeople who are masters of non-conformity and contrarianism who are not afraid to go west when everyone else is going east and who are not afraid to be criticized for their outlandish thinking.
We need salespeople who have been honored because they are weird, odd, quirky, strange, “out there”, and unusual and who are more comfortable in the sparsely populated tails of the distribution curve than in the densely populated middle.
Let’s find, honor and keep “off-the-wall” salespeople.
Compliant sales is boring, risky and will NOT take organizations to where they need to go to thrive and survive.