I was blessed to spend three glorious days over this recent Labor Day holiday with my three teenagers. We had a lot of fun and the memories and bond we created will last a long time. During the experience, I marveled at how these fragile little things my wife and I doted over were well on their way to self-sufficiency as productive members of society.
I also marveled at how far they STILL had to go in order to get there. Its like their bodies are mostly ready – but mentally they are still very much children. The kicker is that they think they are grown up enough to be left alone by mom and dad and do whatever they want.
In fact, hanging out with them reminded me of another group of undeveloped people who think they know all the answers: mid-career sales professionals!
Hell of a segue, I know.
But seriously, I observed all the following in these three days with my teens:
- Easily distracted
- Emotional, even irrationally so
- Lack of understanding of mind/body connections (proper sleep, need for exercise, healthy food, etc.)
- Are occasionally brilliant
- Crave structure and accountability even while discounting it
- A managerial nightmare: take a lot of time and coaching yet are often unwilling to change
- Think they are better than they really are
- Feel indestructible and invulnerable
While I love them, they can be extremely challenging to deal with. Many sales managers and executives that dealing with some of their salespeople is exactly like raising surly teenagers.
However, like teenagers hopefully do, mid-career sales professionals eventually blossom into leaders with the right “upbringing.”
They go from being incredibly needy to willfully becoming the face of the brand. They put the company and its goals ahead of their individual needs, because they know their own needs will be met if they help their company along first (assuming they work for the right firm, of course).
Rather than find fault with everything innocent you say, they turn into caring communicators that work to solve problems you present, instead of blaming you for them or resenting you for bringing them up in the first place.
They become driven by a passion to become the best and put in extra effort.
In other words, rather than be completely self-centered, they become “other” focused and seek to serve, rather than be contributed to endlessly for little in exchange beyond simply existing as part of the team.
How to get salespeople to grow up
You know, its not easy. It’s work. Just like raising teenagers. It involves some or even all of the following:
- “Come to Jesus” talks
- Coaching and advising
- More coaching and advising
- Pep talks
- Stepping back and letting them fail
- Rewards for accomplishments
- Recognizing efforts, even if not successful
- Punishments for “crimes”
- Counselling on healthy physical choices
- Spiritual guidance
Having dealt with many salespeople, I can truthfully say that your expectation also has a lot to do with it. If you expect a salesperson to fail because they are “no good,” they are going to pick up on that, just like a teen will if a parent views them as “less.”
So, the trick is not to give up on these seemingly crazy, hormonal, and exasperating beings (both teens and mid-career salespeople) and keep pushing them to grow and face the challenges life is going to throw at them.
Because if they do, they can reach the stars.