There is no “i” in team…


A small percentage of reps work in a team environment, where a lead generation rep, account executive, sales engineer, quotation specialist, or others work closely together on a routine basis. The vast majority of reps live or die on their own individual efforts. They may be able to call a manager for advice or help on a call, but that’s about it. They are on their own and they know it. If they don’t produce they will be fired (or if on commission will run out of money and quit). Any pretense that this is not they case will cost you credibility.

Sales draws an inordinate number of sports enthusiasts to its ranks. Sales is seen as the most competitive of careers. There’s even a scoreboard to identify winners and losers. This is all fine and dandy except that the reality of the job makes it more analogous to individual one-on-one sports like tennis, golf, and the like.

Managers see teams. Reps see the opposite, especially if they are purposely pitted against each other in a ruthless winner-take-all battle for recognition and bonuses. Managers want the reps to work together and help each other. Managers win when this happens. Problem is there’s nothing at all in this for the reps. At best reps go along with the charade so as not to draw the ire of the boss, after all most reps are not in the top 20% where their success infers some measure of immunity from ridicule, threats, and coercion.

Managers that lead by fantasy may be well suited for a gig at Disneyland. The rest of us better embrace reality and act accordingly. The time wasted in futile attempts to get “reps as part of teams” to act against their self-interests can be better invested finding ways to get “reps as individuals” to identify their own self-interests and ways to achieve their goals.

Pretending you’re a coach and spouting inane cliches like “no pain, no gain” is worse than useless, it’s counterproductive. What you have is a group of individuals and the more of them you can get to success, the bigger your success. Reconsider pay plans that reward a few at the top while alienating and demotivating the majority. Set a standard and if reps meet it they get rewarded. This way every rep can be a “winner.”