Short Stories

Un Natural Selection – part 1

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

Andrew Carnegie

Industrialist & Philanthropist

I was working trying to get a contract with a sales organizations and I was reviewing their Year to Date (YTD) sales data. The sales director said all the “classic” things that diffused the attention from him and toward the people he hired (of course, that fact never came up!).  In less than 5 minutes, he used all the clichés associated with the bell curve of performance in sales organizations:

“Let the big dog eat.”
“I give the best leads to my stallions, some to my horses, and none to the donkeys.”
“This is a dog eat dog world…survival of the fittest.”
“I believe in two things in sales: Natural Selection and the 80/20 Rule.”

That’s where he got me.

Natural Selection defined by Dictionary.com:
The process by which forms of life having traits that better enable them to adapt to specific environmental pressures, changes in conditions, or competition, will tend to survive and reproduce in greater numbers than others of their kind.

The 80/20 Rule states: 80% of the production will come from 20% of the team.  Which means that only 20% of the production will come from the majority of 80%.

I don’t get angry much, but he had to see the change in my face and posture, though I tried to veil it. In many ways, his was a typical and classic view of sales performance. Yes, I know that these “laws” play out in dynamic sales organizations, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

As I looked back down at the sheet with over 200 names, I didn’t just see raw statistics.  I saw people, families, kids in college, mortgages and hopes for the future – all tied to this man’s organization.  All connected to this great profession of sales.

I could see that some were riding high and it validated what I know about the income possibilities of sales.  I was proud and happy for these top performers! Others were steady performers and while not burning up the charts, were making a decent living. Others were at the brink of being fired.

Why am I so passionate about fighting these “laws” in sales? 30 years ago, Natural Selection and Pareto said I wouldn’t make it in this business. It bell curved me before I even got into the game. One of the first sales positions I applied for gave me an Aptitude and Compatibility test.

I failed.

The results showed I didn’t have some of core characteristics of an ideal sales person. I understand that they were trying to weed out the weak (selection) and only bring in the 20% prototype.  Looking back, I am glad that I didn’t get the job. Thankfully, the next place “took a chance on me” and I ended up being the top person within 6 weeks.  Ahead of people  who had been there 6 years!

The one thing that Natural Selection and the 80/20 don’t consider is the “human factor”.

Sure, a single cell amoeba takes eons to evolve (not a Darwin reference!) and nature is cruel to those organisms that can’t hack it.  It kills them off through environment and predators.  But that is nature – it shouldn’t be that way with humans.

It shouldn’t be that way with sales.

Why? Because the human factor allows us to “change and evolve” in an instant. As humans we are blessed to be thinkers, dreamers and achievers, but we do need help sometimes.  I told this sales manager the same thing I tell every organization that gives me some version of the bell curve scenario.

“Some of your people are just one ingredient away from breakout success. Sadly, many of them will never get that ingredient.”

Then I went for the close (hey, I still wanted him as a client!).

Is your organization ready to break the mold and do what it takes to help them find that ingredient so that your revenue can increase and the people you selected can become successful? Then it’s time you used…

Un-Natural Selection!

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Brandon L Clay

Storyteller Strategist Coach

I am a storyteller and have been using simple stories to help people see bigger possibilities for their lives. They are based on my real life experiences and I believe they will be relevant for your life, too.

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