Herding Cats

Here’s a concept that I suspect holds back many a salesperson in their ceo-ambitions.

I enjoyed an Asian pint or two with a global, English high-up techie who told me about what happened at a recent corporate community day he enjoyed.

You know the kind of thing. Everyone leaves the office on a Friday afternoon and goes and re-paints the local playgroup centre. All good. In this case, it was to plant and garden a derelict piece of land, turning eyesore into valued rest place.

The staff were split up along functional lines (perhaps the first organising mistake?). Straight away, the engineers assigned themselves roles, made a plan and set to work in sub-teams.

An hour later, a promising new flowerbed was taking shape.

Yet the chief techie noticed something quite alarming.

He glanced over to the space where the salesteam were.

No progress was visible.

He noted that the salespeople were all off doing whatever they were doing on their own. Individually. They were destined to produce precious little.

The techie went over to have a chat with the head sales honcho. He was in a state of despair.

The phrase that sprang to mind for them was that getting the salesteam to work all together on something was like ‘herding cats’, ie, impossible.

The techie even jokingly enquired, ‘how do you cope with this lot, every day?’

Smiles aside, there’s a serious point here.

For instance, was this lack of focus indicative of absent team bonding, or an inability to properly strategise?

Whichever, it made me look back and ponder how many genuine sales teams I’ve ever seen. I’m struggling to think of any.

I sense a re-alignment is necessary. An extra crumb of commission based on a shared sector target? Well, perhaps not. I’ve not see this work either. Although I’ve never been party to one where the reward earned would be proportionate to the contributions, so that may be a telling evolution.

And what about extra points for ‘sharing’. You know, the kind of team play almost uniformally absent, such as mentoring, verifying work or off-bid call accompaniment? Again, make this reward non-monetary and there could be legs in this as well.

Either way, those that win are clearly rarely the indomitable maverick but rather the cultivator of team glory. Which way is your sales approach heading?

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