The Importance of Desire in Selecting Sales Leaders

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We’re all familiar with the concept of “what got you here, might not necessarily get you there.” Here's a personal example that I think really highlights this concept:

I had a client who grew from $8 million to $24 million in a 5 year period. They went from 2 locations to 15 locations with one of the locations being their first international expansion into Canada.

Then in 2009, they had their first flat year. Like most people, they blamed it on the economy. However, for the CEO, this reasoning seemed dubious, because the type of industry they’re in is not impacted by the economy: they’re in the critical power industry, and their clients are organizations that require 24/7 power, such as municipalities, data centers, hospitals and the Navy. In fact, many of their clients have mandates that they must use these services.

So we were hired to get to the root of the problem. Here’s what we found:

Amongst the various things we did to assess the situation, we interviewed many members of the team. When we interviewed the VP of Sales, he shared the following:

“I’m 52 years old. I’m too old to learn anything new. And besides, I’m going to retire in the next 2-3 years.”

Basically, the VP of Sales who was predominantly responsible for leading that 5 years of tremendous growth was also the primary reason that they were flat in 2009.

We discovered that he had been making a significant income over the last 3-5 years and pretty much had his retirement home paid for. He also had been recently diagnosed with some health problems, and since most of their new growth was going to be focused on international expansion, he had no desire to travel to foreign countries and to continue working as hard as he had in the past.

The CEO’s response: What do you expect me to do, fire him?

The CEO couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t understand how his star sales leader who got them to where they were was also the cause of their flat year.

Ultimately, the issue was this: the confusion was not about whether this guy could continue this growth but about if he had the desire to do so.

My response: Of course not! Don't fire him! Quite the contrary. Celebrate the success he has achieved and retire him early. Pay him out what he would have earned over the next few years as part of a bonus for the success he clearly contributed to.

However, the CEO was hesitant about my approach because he thought his VP of Sales still possessed significant value towards their growth. So instead, the decision was made to keep him on but to expand the leadership team by incorporating others into their decision-making.

What happened next: In 2010, they achieved 24% growth. In 2011, they achieved 27% growth. It was towards the end of the 4th quarter, in 2012, that the CEO finally realized the impact that his sales leader was having: in 2012, he called me to say that they should have achieved 35% growth, but the VP of Sales kept pushing back and fabricating reasons why they should not expand internationally.

The key here was the VP’s lack of desire.Never confuse someone’s ability with their desire to do what it takes to achieve the results.

The great news is that this issue doesn't have to have a significant impact on your growth. Salespeople and sales leaders can take a 45 minute test that identifies the desire, ability, knowledge and skills specific to your sales growth needs. The OMG Sales Assessment tool is the tool that has been helping assess over 600,000 salespeople for over 25 years with a 95% validity score on its accuracy.

Test your sales team’s desire now and..

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