Last week I was working with a team getting ready for a frontal attack on the second half of the year. One of the reps, Henry, a capable fellow, been plying his craft for a number of years, a type of rep I call the “Eighty Percenters”. Some years he exceeded quota, some years he missed, when he missed it was not by much but still a miss, then he would refocus, and put together a few successful quarters. Interestingly enough he had exceeded plan during 2010 and 2011, when others didn’t; but had run into a rough patch thus far this year.
As we began our review he said something typical for reps in a slump or behind target, he asked out loud “Why me?”. As the sales equivalent of Zeus or some sales oracle and their council, high on Mount Revenue, had decided that this was not the quarter Henry was going to make his number; they plotted and placed obstacles no mortal sales person could overcome thus assuring his failure.
While I understand the frustration, and empathise with Henry, the reality is that the only answer to Henry’s question was Henry.
Rather than asking why me, it is a much better use of time to understand what Henry did, did not do, did well, and frankly what he messed up on. Assuming there was a level playing field in each of the sales Henry was involved in, it is clear that someone else did a better job, or more accurately, took the right steps to understand and satisfy the needs of the buyers involved.
These could be factors directly related to how Henry executes his company’s sales process. For instance, after looking at how a couple of deals he lost unfolded, it was clear that Henry had skipped a couple of critical steps here, and got ahead of the buyer at times, making assumptions where validation and next steps would have served him better.
It was also clear that he did not take the time to learn from each sale. Henry was happy to celebrate deals he won, but did not take the time to see if the underlying factors were still valid, had changed, or why he was winning the deal. I can relate, what’s the old saying about when it’s not broken why fix it. But sales is about leading the process, not just responding/reacting to things, especially since wins were not as abundant as the plan called for.
While Henry did do the obligatory review of lost deals, much of what surfaced was not changing the way he approached his next deal. Sure he could point to a few small steps here and there, but some bigger changes were still “gonna be next week”, before they became part of his routine.
To be fair, his manager should have been more proactive, and accountable for some of the things Henry was or was not doing, but in the end it is Henry’s territory, income and professional success. He needs to get involved in his success, not ask, “oh why me?” The only answers is that is “who else should suffer the outcome of your execution, or lack thereof?”
So next time you are tempted to ask “why me?”, first ask, based on your actions, who else?
What’s in Your Pipeline?