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Can a Sales Driven Company be Heartfelt?

Shortly after the publication of my book, "Just Listen" Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone,  I gave a presentation to a financial services company that prides themselves on understanding their client's needs because they said they wanted to improve their listening skills.

In such presentations in addition to providing something didactic, I like to facilitate discussion and sharing of best approaches from the participants.  I also ask that people be forthcoming with the best techniques that they have learned. 

Two thirds of the way through my presentation I explained a few of the approaches from my book that they could use.  After I finished making my points one person pointed out that what I had suggested was exactly an approach that the most successful person in the group used, but never shared with others.

I looked at that successful person and said with a smile, "Son of a gun, shame on you! I said at the outset that people were to share their secrets to successful selling with the group and you've been holding out."

He smiled like the cat who swallowed the canary, taking pride in his "secret sauce." 

During a break I asked him why he held back.  And with no hesitation he said, "Why would I share secrets that I have learned through my own initiative that give me a competitive advantage over the other people who have not taken the initiative to go beyond our standard training? It's all about numbers and why would I give away what helps me get the best numbers in the group?"

I then spoke to the sales manager in the group who said, "Hoarding special techniques to become a top salesperson is the usual practice and it is exactly that which cause the superstars to stand out.  And then after they become that star, they are in a position to become a sales manager who gets their numbers from the results of others.  It is at that time, that they will share their secrets with their people to help them get those results."

Here's my question?

Is their any place for being heartfelt in a company in which the "dog eat dog" "zero sum game" approach to hoarding sales secrets until you become a manager prevails?

To put this in perspective, in the 1990's Jack Welch, CEO of GE, was asked, "What is the responsibility of a company like GE to the community and world around it?"

He replied in his true irreverent Jack manner with something along the lines of, "The top priority of a for profit company is to get results and make a lot of money.  If a for profit company focuses too much and too early on helpfing the world around it, it won't make enough money to survive to do it.  That's why they're called 'for profit' rather than 'non-profit.' And then if it makes enough profit so that their is much money leftover, then its values will dictate how that money is spent.  If its values are to help the community it will; if it's values are to reward executives with money that allows them to buy jet planes, second and third homes, multiple country club memberships, then it will do that."

So do heartfelt ends (such as making a lot of money, much of which is used to help the community and world around it) justify less than heartfelt ways and cutthroat company values of making that money?

What do you think?


Reader Comments (1)

Incentives are powerful. And, done wrong, can be powerfully limiting. We are struggling with that with our sales team. They have been given hard number goals for their territory, which is frustrating to them, and can make them greedy to get every short term credit they can. There is no heartfelt support for their fellow salespeople, who they otherwise call friends, or at least are friendly to. I'd love to see a holistic, supportive compensation program we could model.

February 17, 2013 | Registered CommenterDavid Jung
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