Sales management should be gladiatorial but not in the way one might immediately assume…
We’ve all, to a greater or lesser extent been conditioned by the macho culture of ‘salesman’ indeed I know of alleged ‘sales coaches’ who use the classic “always be closing” clip from Glengarry Glen Ross as coaching material, which is rather scary. However the fact is that, once upon a time, a thick skin, overweening ambition, a monstrous ego and a flagrant disregard for ethical behaviour were indeed the pre-conditions for sales success.
I still meet many sales managers who see reviewing an opportunity, the pipeline or an account plan as an exercise in ego reinforcement, a battle to establish and reinforce dominance, ‘mano a mano’.
This, inevitably, leads to an approach from the sales folk, either of obsessive and defensive over-presentation, mendacity, deceit and sandbagging or, for some, a full-on testosterone-fuelled session of mortal combat. As our gladiatorial chums would have put it “morituri te salutant*”. Now I’m pretty convinced that there are really relevant lessons to be learned for Sales managers and directors in the excellent work of Ridley Scott, Russel Crowe and their movie Gladiator, but those lessons are definitely not about the inherent manliness of single combat, or indeed tiger slaying.
For me the defining moment for ex-General Maximus Decimus Meridius was when he led his fellow gladiators to success in the arena by organising them as a team, assigning roles, setting out a plan, and getting them to take responsibility for aiding and abetting each other, that kind of approach to sales leadership is still a rare find in many organisations, partly down to the rewards structure (if you’re each rewarded solely on individual success, co-operation and sharing can be financially harmful) and that’s partly the result of persistent cultural “you’re on your own” prejudices.
How do we change that? Well, I’m glad you asked.
We’ve found, over the years, that reviewing one deal, one opportunity, one account as a structured and managed team exercise can bring real unity to a team, players start to get involved, to see the value, to identify how each can benefit from another’s experience, knowledge and insight. It always results in a better approach to the deal, a set of outcomes to move things forward, identification of a some “Aha!” moments.
It’s a start, to working better, and for many sales teams, the sense of relief is palpable. And once they’ve all seen the value delivered it can then be managed to become ‘the way we do things here’.
So is it time for salesmen, saleswomen, sales managers, pre-sales, account teams and sales directors to start declaring, “I am Spartacus”?
Ave emptor qui sunt vendere salutant*
(*feel free to correct my lousy latin)