Want to Enjoy Sales? Think Creativity Before Closing

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Seth Godin (referring to human nature):

“If it’s work, they try to figure out how to do less, and if it’s Art they try to figure out how to do more.” – from his TED Youth Conference talk, “Stop Stealing Dreams

So, by Seth’s definition, what is sales, merely a job or an art? For most of my career, it’s been the latter. Obviously, our quotas and deadlines don’t allow for such silliness. Only recently did I learn that I approached sales non-creatively by choice. Following Mr. Godin’s logic, throughout my career, I naturally did the least amount of selling required. Fortunately, this was not always true. There were times, albeit few, when I liked the job itself, not just the reward.

Surely salespeople can’t be artists? Consider for a moment, that artists, essentially use creativity and skill to express unique ideas. Contrast this with sales, where we find solutions for now and seek to repeat them for other customers. This process works – until it doesn’t.

When a sales solution stops working, tradition is to wait for management to acknowledge the problem and tell us how to revise our approach. As we grow, we learn to use our creativity and communication skills to overcome challenges ourselves. Creativity and skill. Sound familiar? This approach, when effective, can be more enjoyable than copying someone else. Not to mention, it also results in more business and resume-building experience.

Still, it’s easier to grab someone else’s answer to an objection than to formulate one. If being “artistic” in our sales approach is so great, wouldn’t everyone do it all the time? Unfortunately, the following barriers block us from doing so:

Ambitious Insecurity*

Salespeople are often capable of delivering tremendous value, provided they don’t act like box-checking robots. Without knowing it, we can fall victim to the assembly-line mindset. Yes, many of us sell tangible products, but what we work ON, is people. We can’t simply repeat what we say or do expecting the same result from them. Still, we insist on explaining lost sales in terms of adherence to set procedures. As a result, salespeople win promotions based on their deference to current processes instead of their ability to improve them. Even worse, this mentality pervades up the chain of command making creativity a privilege of a high-ranking, ill-informed few.

Learned Greed

The culture of sales overtly uses tangible wealth as a measure of success. The more we sell, the more we make, and the better we are. Therefore, we learn that the act of selling has no value, unless accompanied by money. Again, it’s just a job. To make things worse, American culture pressures parents to have high incomes. We acknowledge the need for family time and communication, and answer it with expensive youth sports and vacations. Ironically, these require us to work more and be away from our families. If we simply raise our tolerance for mediocrity, we may find we’re Ok with not having the best of everything. We may even gain more freedom in the process.


Years spent focusing on survival can change us, if we allow it. Quid pro quo is at the heart of the traditional sales mentality. And, more and more of what we do in sales is measured. It’s no wonder salespeople become calculating in their customer, work, and personal relationships! Ironically, this incessant need for fairness robs us of finding it. It’s a problem of mental real estate. The less time we spend measuring ourselves and others, the more time we have to be creative in our jobs.

Outcome Hyper-focus and Irrational Fear

Are you like most others in believing that earning a lot of money automatically makes you a good parent, spouse, or person? In contrast, some of the most popular historical figures (ie. Gandhi, MLK, Rosa Parks), are known for their bravery in doing something new, for the betterment of others, and not for wealth. If you lost your job today, would you instantly become a loser? If you don’t believe you’re worth more than the wealth you generate, why should anyone else? When we’re free from fear, we’re free to create. It’s that simple.

For better or worse, the purpose of salespeople will continue to be revenue generation. We can’t change how others will measure us. Still, it’s impossible to lose a game we refuse to play. We can let others judge us while we continue to work creatively. Jobs, like salespeople, are replaceable. Artists are unique. Therefore, we can ask more of our current employers and the ones we chose to join. This may mean seeking flexibility and freedom over money.

In order to change the current, perform or die culture of sales we must first loosen its grip on our minds. Let’s release ourselves from factory work and embrace creativity. Sales will be nothing more than a job until we do.



*This an adaptation of the term “Insecure Overachievers” used by author, Laura Empson in her Harvard Business Review article entitled “If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Working 70 Hours a Week?”.

Are You in the Right Sales Job? Answer This Simple Question.

Are You in the Right Sales Job? Answer This Simple Question.

Are you in the right sales job, or is there something better out there for you? I think I can help you find the answer – provided you consider what happened to me.

Once upon a time, a large, global corporation stopped compensating its sales force on actual sales volume. My colleagues and I, working for this company, hoped the change would bring about a more utopian work environment. Maybe we would be paid a healthier salary? Maybe we would be empowered to really serve our customers and no longer have to sugarcoat the truth? Most of us on the sales force would’ve agreed that we sold first class products. Therefore, it wasn’t hard to convince customers to use them.

Such naive exuberance! The new compensation system, turned out to simply be a replacement of the tradional pay for sales system to a pay for sales metrics system. These metrics meant we were measured more frequently than ever on activities that had little meaning to us or our customers. I remember quickly resenting the loss of the old system. In hindsight, it wasn’t the money. I was still made around the same amount as before. What I really lost was the ability to craft the job on my own terms.

From this experience, I learned a very important lesson. When we complain about unrealistic quotas, we ignore the real problem – the concept of outside measurement itself. Any assigned sales metric, whether it’s sales volume or anything else, attempts to inspire the sale person into action. Yes, goals can be motivating, but only when WE set them. Taking on someone else’s goal is not the same thing. Be honest, when you accept a sales job, you’re not actually taking on the company’s goals. You don’t really care about selling over-and-above the required 10,000 widgets. Deep down, you are saying to yourself, “This job’s prescribed goal helps me achieve my personal goals.” More specifically, we accept that the money coming from the job’s achievements will lead us to our desired personal achievements.

Unfortunately, always doing (and believing) what you’re told can be the fast track to growing old. You wake up ten years later with a higher mortgage payment and no more happiness than you started with. In most salesforces, only a small percentage of sales people make the bulk of the compensation. For those lucky few who make it big and retire to a beach, there are about 1,000 of us who don’t. What’s easier to believe – only one of every 1,000 sales people really works hard, or measuring life fulfillment based on something so random is ridiculous?

Instead of focusing on getting rich, try being rich. I don’t suggest spending beyond your means, but taking a mean look at your spending. Your neighbor with the Porsche may be swimming in debt. That cruise that your teammate brags about may be collecting interest on her credit card. Real wealth is an equation:

What you make – What you spend = Real Wealth

Here’s what you really need to ask yourself: If your commissions (or other measurement system) where taken away and replaced with a comfortable salary and benefits package, could you still do your job? Are you truly inspired by the work itself? A job worthy of your time should do this. Keep telling yourself the money alone makes it worthwhile. At best, you will only ever tolerate your job. Still don’t believe me? Daniel Pink, in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, says workers should be paid enough to take salary off the table. Research has proven, the more money you make beyond about 70k per year, not only fails to add hapinesss, it starts to take away from it. Are you in the right sales job? You now have the answer!


Ps: I doubt one blog post will change your mind about the futility of finding happiness from making more money. Have the courage to read Daniel Pink’s book if your belief in it is that strong. To find it on Amazon, click here.
Pss.: Are you instead wondering if sales is the right job for you, period? According to David Hoffield, you will likely be selling in your next job – even if it’s not in sales:

Don’t Take Another Breath Without READING THIS NOW!

The sky is falling! Just ask your favorite business blogger! Out of work? Need a better job? Here’s five things you MUST do before your next job interview. Not selling enough? Here’s the six things you SHOULD be saying to all of your customers. If you find yourself irritated with with the flood of fear-engendering advice on social media, you’re not alone. As you read this, another list of the 5 things you MUST do is waiting for you in one of your accounts. Go ahead, read it, and come back. I’ll wait…

Back so soon? The article didn’t change your life? Below, I’ve shared my pet peeves with the melodrama of the blog posts I call “must lists”. They would have us reading all day if they could. After all, the danger of not taking their advice is just too great! Rest assured, you will not lose a good job or a big sale if you choose not to read my concerns below. You may, however, relate to some of the absurdity I discuss. I welcome your comments at the end of this post.

When reading sensational, must-list posts, first consider the source.
I admit, articles with titles like, “The 5 Keys to Winning Your Dream Sales Job” seduced me for years. Often, they are written by job recruiters turned career experts. Heck, I still read them today for entertainment purposes!. While masquerading as experts with close ties to employers, most recruiters do what you already do – send resumes and hope for a response.

When you gain experience selling in a field, you quickly advance beyond the shallow level of industry knowledge the typical sales recruiter possesses. Their goal is to send as many qualified candidates as they can to raise the likelihood of earning a placement fee. Their advice tends to be very specific and certain, yet unproven. Never talk salary. Always close for the next interview. Emphasize your experience in blank. None of this ever guarantees success. If they really were interviewing experts, wouldn’t they be working a better job?

Authors use titles with words like “must” and “should” to scare you into reading their blog posts.
On the surface, using these two words seems just part of living in the real world. It’s reasonable to think that you MUST sell product to stay employed. Ask a therapist, and you will be told beliefs using these words are irrational.

Underneath your “must sell” belief is a deeper, “must keep my job” belief. This tells you that losing your job makes you a bad person. Using ‘must’ and ‘should’ when giving advice is an easy way to appear authoritative without having any real responsibility. Nothing happens to me, the author, if my advice turns out to be useless. Even worse, I’ve now encouraged you to incorporate a ‘must’ or ‘should’ into your belief system. In reality, there are no must-Do’s or Don’ts, only choices. If you’d like to delve further into freeing yourself from the musts and shoulds in your life, read “How To Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT).

Blog posts titles often want you to compare yourself to others and feel inferior in an effort to get you to get your attention.
The nine habits of top performing sales people imply that whatever you’re doing, it’s not good enough. Somewhere in the list provided are surely one or more habits you neglect. Shame on you! Ask yourself, does this feeling of inferiority actually help you? Worse yet, does following these habits guarantee success? No two customers, products, or industries are alike. Why would there ever be a universal list of keys to success that applied to all of us? Before you can seriously question this, a new must list appears in your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter feed.

Bloggers (including your’s truly) can oversimplify complex problems.
Sometimes, the dilemmas we face simply need more time and consideration It’s like handing a widow a blog post entitled, “Six Quick and Easy Ways to Handle the Loss of a Loved One”, while she’s leaving the funeral. As blog writers, we want to gain your attention with quick, easy-to read articles that keep you coming back to our site. There’s no way to give you the same level of stunning and relevant insight in five minutes of reading versus an hour or longer. I reference books that dive a level deeper whenever possible not only to give proper credit, but also to provide a true return on the time spent.

The advice your given conflicts with other advice, even from the same blog.
Dress formally. Dress casual. Be aggressive. Be patient. Start a conversation with small talk. Never start a conversation with small talk. On and on it goes. Absorbing it all can be mind-numbing. As as misguided follower of must lists, you will easily find that whatever choice you make is wrong and worse, you should have known better. Inaction is often our response. Instead of feeling inspired, you’re left with a little less time in your day and a little more guilt.
Does chasing must lists sound like fun? Instead, here’s four things you can do to feel more fulfilled (just kidding!). As mentioned, I still read these kind of posts. No blogger or business writer wants to give bad advice and not all of their advice is bad. It’s often the packaging of their ideas that undermines them. And yes, most recruiters mean well too. I have friends who swear by them (instead of ‘at’ them like I do!). Just take what all bloggers say with a grain of salt. Look at all must posts with a healthy dose of skepticism. Finally, If faced with a serious problem, consider committing time to reading a book or speaking to an expert you trust and respect.



To find Dr. Ellis’ book on Amazon, click here.

Sales Words: The Performance Effect

Jealous of the Top Performers on Your Sales Team? Here’s a Reason to Reconsider.

In addition to recognition and accolades, top performing sales people enjoy a hidden side benefit that helps them retain there status for ever longer. What I call the Performance Effect is the added motivation gained from simply being a top sales person. Whereas before, you might have identified yourself as a mediocre performer, now you have the extrinsic reinforcement that say you’re a top gun. To you, it makes sense to spend that extra hour or two making an extra call or answering an extra RFP. All the while, everyone else on the sales force wonders how you do it. For reps with steadily growing territories and stable performance metrics, the performance effect may sustain itself for months, if not years. For sales reps who experience significant and frequent changes, the effect may be fleeting.

As shocking as it may sound, the performance effect is something to avoid rather than envy. The reason? All good things come to an end – even for star sales people. One small change in performance measurement, product pricing, or territory geography is all that may be required. The longer a rep believes his own positive press, the more profound the fall from hero to zero can be. Sales people experiencing this abrupt change may become bitter and experience a level of self-doubt. A rep feeling this way may feel she somehow “lost her mojo”.

Unlike other jobs, sales people experience a wiping clean of their performance slate every year. We start every year with $0 in sales and essentially need to prove the right to keep our job once again. Therefore, more so than in others professions, sales people need to be reinvigorated. Daniel Pink, author of “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, believes we all need to see the power of intrinsic motivation. Having a strong sense of meaning or purpose in your job makes you resistant to the extrinsic ups and downs of things like quota attainment. According to Mr. Pink, other essential factors to motivation include autonomy and mastery.

To check out the book click here. If you decide to purchase, please use my link. Doing so supports this blog and keeps me writing!



Sales Words: The Closer’s Fallacy

If Closing Is Essential To Generating Sales, Why Do I Win Business Without Doing It?

Nothing stirs up emotion, positive and negative, in sales people like the “C” word. Some think it’s a relic of the past. Others contend it’s more important to close customers now than ever.

The Closer’s Fallacy is the mistaken idea that the close itself generates the sale. If you can just ask that perfect question, in the right manner, at the end of a call, the customer has no choice but to say yes. Modern research, such as that cited by David Hoffield in “The Science of Selling”, proves that customers make multiple decisions throughout a sales presentation – not just at the end. They seek out answers to their own questions and make their own decisions.
Merely asking your child to brush his teeth applies a form of pressure. So does asking your customer for her business. As a parent, you have leverage. Do what I say because I’m your parent and I said so.. With customers, no such leverage exists. Therefore, sales people can exert strong influence, but never truly compel their customers to take action.



PS: Do you agree or disagree? Please share this post with a friend or leave a comment below. Also, if you’re interested in any of the books I refer to, please use the link I’ve provided (usually the name of the book) to purchase on Amazon. In doing so, your helping support me and this blog. Thanks!

Sales Words: Offer Erosion

Lose a Customer Suddenly Without Any Explanation? The Answer Could Be Offer Erosion.

Not to be confused with Brand Erosion, a term referring to the deterioration of brand identity, Offer Erosion occurs on a much more tangible level. As we know, good products and services often rise to the top of the market. Buyers instinctively seek them out in order to maximize value. At the same time, companies succumb to the never-ending drive to produce returns for investors.

Cutting costs is quicker and easier than producing new product offerings. Sometimes, this comes in the form of delivering less to the customer for the same amount of money. Small reductions in value (ie a slight price hike here, a reduction in features there), may go unnoticed by the customer until a clever competitor presents them a product that looks head and shoulders better than their current vendor’s.

Have you ever seen your product or service erode over time? Can this be avoided? Please comment with your thoughts.



Sales Words – Golden Oasis

Good numbers make everything better! Don’t they? In most companies, sales performance trumps all other metrics. What I call the Golden Oasis is a version of the Halo Effect that applies to sales people when they look excellent on paper. Their advice is sought by other sales people and management alike. They seemingly can do no wrong.

Experiencing this phenomenon can make you, the sales person, give yourself too much credit. You must be an expert because the results say so! Don’t they? To the dismay of many, this luxurious state of mind is temporary. The loss of a big customer, a change in market conditions, or a price hike are just some of the circumstances that may cause a sales rep’s golden oasis to evaporate.

Can you think of a time when you were fooled into believing your own greatness? I welcome your comments!


Eight Ways Salespeople Ask To Be Manipulated

Yes. We in sales are victim to many things out of our control. Unrealistic employers. Unreasonable customers. They can make us feel like toys in a the mouth of golden retriever. At the same time, we fail to see how we set ourselves up to be manipulated.

Here are eight ways sales people unknowingly allow themselves to be manipulated:

1. They’re not honest about what they want.

It’s OK that you took sales your job because it was a stepping stone or you simply needed a paycheck. It’s also OK that you got fooled into thinking your job was more lucrative or rewarding than it actually is. Being thankful for what you DO have is always more rational than lamenting the things you SHOULD have. It’s irrational to expect what you want to be handed to you, without having to ask. If you want your customer to make a commitment, ask for it. If want to be promoted, make it known to your boss. Otherwise, why should anyone help you if they think you’re already satisfied?

2. They’ll do almost anything to make more money.

Bad news! Beyond about $75k a year in household income, more income doesn’t result in more happiness. In his book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants“, Malcolm Gladwell demonstrates that you really can have too much of a good thing including money. In fact, after a certain point, more household income makes raising children more, not less, difficult! If true happiness could be bought, rich people would always be happy. Instead, they always want more out of life, just like the rest of us. If you doubt what I say, add up all the salary you’ve made in your entire career. Do you still derive lasting happiness from all the money you’ve made? I didn’t think so.

3. They overpromise to customers.

Would you say anything to get the sale? For sales people, getting answers to customer questions can feel like time-consuming grunt work. For customers, getting those answers from you can make the difference between a product to buy and one to avoid. Yes, some customers will waste your time. It’s up to you to qualify them in advance and only commit to what is realistic. If your customer expects perfection, you probably haven’t educated them properly. Telling them what they want to hear without the backup of truth is a recipe for disaster. If you think answering pre-sale questions is grunt work, wait until you have to deliver on an unrealistic expectation! Not every objection is a deal-killer either. It’s your job to find out.

4. They overpromise to their management.

Yes, bosses do love employees who do what their told and make them feel smart. The problem? Everyone is wrong once in a while. If you don’t respectfully question your manager, you create in-need grief in the future. A prime example of this is forecasting. You know your leadership wants an aggressive number, so you give it to them. Congratulations! You’ve just put unrealistic pressure on yourself that you will, inevitably, transfer to your customers. When this backfires, you may cause reactance* or an overwhelmingly negative customer reaction. Remember, sales reps get fired over lost business, not conservative forecasts. See my previous post, “In Sales, “Playing The Game” means “You Lose” For a discussion on this.

5. They fail to question the company on behalf of customers and vice versa.

In business, telling others only what they want to hear helps no one. The best sales people balance the needs of their employer and their customers. If your company currently loses money on your product, they may need to raise its price. Sometimes your job is to sincerely explain this to customers. Conversely, price increases can make your product truly unaffordable for a customer, despite the value it provides. It’s also your job to explain this to your management.

6. They assume they have no career options.

Is only thing you hate more than your current job is the process of finding a new one? It’s easier to do your job in public and complain in private. However, employers don’t respect job tenure as much as they used to. Adaptability to change is held at a high premium. Overstaying your job is like holding a losing investment. The losses can pile up. You may regain lost income and skills that can result from staying too long. The time you lose can never be replaced.

7. They fail to scrutinize the product or service offering when accepting a sales job.

If you’re new to sales, getting your foot in the door with a mediocre market player is ok. Ultimately, it’s up to YOU to find good products to sell and good companies to work for. No salesperson, including you and I, is good enough to overcome a poorly priced or designed product that isn’t supported. Don’t let your ego take the place of the facts. Your sales career is about more than you and how good you are. Do your homework. Talk to customers. Talk to other sales people. Make an informed decision. Even if you’ve been in the same job for years, it never hurts to objectively re-evaluate your situation.

8. They chase winning harder than a dog chases a stick.

Sales competitions, Table tennis. Whatever the contest, is losing never an option for you? While competitiveness can predict success in simple sales cycles (ie. retail), it restricts your growth in more complex, higher-ticket sales jobs. Why? When competing, we narrow our focus. Complex sales situations require creativity thinking.

Still, if you’re determined to reduce your job to a game of win or lose, don’t forget who makes the rules. It’s not you. It’s not your manager. It’s the customer. See my post, “Think BACk: Freewill Is A Bitch!”, for a more thorough discussion on this. If you push product A, when your customer needs product B, she’ll conclude you put your own needs first. As a result, you may lose the opportunity to sell anything to her company. All because you needed to win.
It may seem, at first, the answer to avoiding manipulation is to turn around and manipulate others first. Not so! Instead, focus on being true to yourself, your company, and your customer. Balancing the needs of all three is never easy, but it’s what a job in sales demands.


To check out Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” on Amazon click here.

*I first learned the term “reactance” from David Hoffield in his Book, “The Science Of Selling.” It’s a comprehensive, science-based look at the sales profession. To check it out on Amazon click here.

5 Popular Sales Tactics that are Manipulation in Disguise

The most important timeframe for sales people is NOW. The most important goal? GROWTH. Losing bids and losing customers is secondary. The problem? Think back to your best personal experience with a sales person. It’s doubtful he or she was forceful or deceiving in any way. Don’t your customers deserve the same treatment? You know not to lie to customers – even though it can bring short-term success. It’s time to reconsider any sales tactic in your arsenal that doesn’t directly help customers.

Here are five sales tactics that are manipulation in disguise:

1. Non-verbal Persuasion

Think mirroring, using facial expressions, how we dress, eyc contact, etc. These tactics are scientifically proven to make a good impression on a customer. They subconsciously make us more appealing. Is this such a bad thing? Maybe not, but imagine a salesperson dressing like you, posing like you, and smiling like you. Creepy!

2. Passive-Aggressive Pressuring

This is anything from showing up smiling at the same client every day to casually mentioning a tragedy experienced by a company similar to theirs. Whether or not your customer notices immediately is irrelevant. Although your words and actions are polite, what do your actions communicate? Is the insight you’re presenting really a cause for concern? Fear mongering and fake kindness waste your customer’s time and ruin relationships. Customer’s work on their own schedule, not yours.

3. Lying by Omission

This one should be obvious but sales people do it everyday. It’s the fine print that we omit from our presentations. It’s the discount card telling you your medicine is $15 when it ends up costing $150. It’s not alway our fault. Sometimes, corporate keeps us in the dark. What the customer doesn’t know, WILL, eventually hurt them. Getting the sale is never worth risking your credibility. Tell the whole truth.

4. Relationship Selling

Strong business relationships are paramount. Personal relationships can be very helpful, but only when they’re genuine. Don’t be the sales person who goes to family parties or sporting events with clients he can’t stand. Sooner or later your customer will know your a fake and so will you. Try hanging with your real friends a little more. They probably miss you!

5. Keeping Score (Quid Pro Quo)

This means using favors of any sort as leverage. John David Mann and Bob Burg’s book, “The Go Giver”, sums it up nicely.  Among other sage advice, they implore us stop keeping score. Stop expecting something in return for the extra care and service you give to your customers.  Instead, be generous because it’s the right thing to do.  Aren’t you annoyed by sales people who think they can trade a free gift in exchange for a high-pressure sales presentation? To truly give something “free of charge” is to offer it without ANY strings attached.

The verdict:
Are you a horrible person because you’ve used one of these sales tactics I’ve mentioned? Not at all. What separates manipulation from skilled selling is sincerity. If you are having a good conversation, you probably automatically use non-verbal relating techniques. Put your time into answering objections instead of avoiding them. If your customer turns out to be a nice guy our gal, be their friend. Just be a real friend, not one that asks for something in return.

But these techniques work!  Isn’t it my job to sell?  Yes, manipulation techniques do work, but only until your customer figures them out. Then you’re screwed. Don’t risk losing next year’s customers by manipulating them today.



If you’d like to get out “The Go Giver” book on Amazon click here.

In Sales, “Playing The Game” Means "You Lose!"

Are you playing the game?
Do you ignore the inept policies, bad managerial decisions, and unrealistic expectations that come with your sales job in hopes for a brighter future? Do you instead do EXACTLY what you’re told in the manner you’re told to do it? Do you tell management what they want to hear, not how you really feel?
Why We Do It:
You look good to your manager.
You get favored treatment.
You have job security.
You see no other alternative, except the shame of undperformance.
Why We Shouldn’t Do It:
1. You look good only if your numbers are good.
Most of us are only two bad quarters away from a performance improvement plan. Following company protocols rarely, if ever, saves anyone with weak sales results.
2. You take incomplete or bad advice.
If making the sale was as simple as following the 5 step strategy you learned in training, you wouldn’t have a job. A high school kid would be doing it. There is always more to do and learn than management tells you.
3. You often don’t improve your skills.
Doing only what your told is a convenient excuse for not trying anything new. It’s been years since your boss has really sold anything. Have the courage to expand your abilities by talking to customers, reading books etc.
4. You are vulnerable to the next market change.
Selling by the book may pay handsomely now, but when your market changes, you’ll be behind the reps who were thinking ahead.
5. You annoy your customers.
Your customers pay for the value that you and your product bring them. Even the ones that like you have limited patience. Don’t waste their time with anything that doesn’t meet their needs even if it makes the boss happy.
6. You perpetuate the very conditions you complain about.
Can you lose weight without diet or excercise? If you don’t at least TRY to change your company for the better, nothing will happen! The pharmaceutical industry is a great example. For years, many doctors have often not allowed sales reps to talk to them. To make their sales call metrics, pharma reps have, for years, simply put fake calls into their CRM systems. The result? Unrealistic call metrics never go away!
Modern research supports not playing the game as well. For a more in-depth analysis, read on:
Sales is a world of accountability gone wild. When they say “Sell!”, we say “How Much!” Yet we are only as good as our latest sales report. Again, regardless past achievements , most of us are only two bad quarters away from a performance plan. You tell yourself you seek challenge, achievement, and money but more so, you fear failure.
In her book, “Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas”, Professor Laura Empson says that many companies look for employees they describe as “insecure overachievers”. These employees hide their insecurity behind a tremendous work ethic.  Many salespeople suffer from what I call the Oxygen Mask Problem.  “Please put your own mask on before attending to children” We’ve all heard the safety message when flying. The Insecure Overachiever does the opposite. He or she thinks that taking care of everyone else will ultimately result in taking care of herself.  Except the world doesn’t work that way, especially in sales.
Playing The Game
Playing the game in a sales job means blindly following a set of rules with the hope that your career will be taken care of. As an official game player, you may see others who don’t follow suit as irresponsible or reckless. Ironically, it’s you that is not facing up to reality.
Sales people complain about everything from unfair pay, to manufacturing delays, to the color choices for their next company car.  Some complaints are frivolous.  Some are not. Either way, when at the next company meeting, a manager asks for feedback, you, the good rule-follower, remain hidden in the crowd refusing to speak up.  Then, at the hotel bar later that evening, you unleash your complaints on whomever will commiserate. Congratulations! Send me your jersey size because you are officially playing the game!
You tell yourself there are valid reasons for doing this.  It’s what everybody else does.  It avoids getting you noticed for being a complainer. It puts you on your boss’s good side.  Playing the game paves the way to your next promotion. It’s the best thing to do for you and your family. When the opportunity comes to act independently or speak up you turn it down. Ironically, in an effort to avoid betraying the system, you betray yourself.
Take A Time Out
Change is scary isn’t it? The system you hate is still one you know.  Why take a chance when things can get worse?  “I’ll just put my head down, do my job, and wait until things get better,” you may think.  Unfortunately, things don’t usually get better on their own.  Some have thought, “I’ll change the system by first rising through the ranks and then working to make a difference.”
Eric Barker, author of the popular motivational book “Barking Up the Wrong Tree” calls this sequencing.  It’s the belief that you can plan your life in large chunks. Life often intervenes with family issues, health isssues, and anything else to send your dreams up in smoke. After downing the huge dose of conformity it takes to be promoted, you will you have the willpower to think of the less fortunate souls you left behind?  There’s a reason newly minted sales managers are know for playing by the book.  They are pre-selected based on their willingness to do so.
So, am I saying you should flip off the boss at the next meeting or conduct a Ghandi-style hunger strike until conditions improve? Absolutely not! Let’s revisit some reasons not to play the game and explore some ideas of what to do instead.
Reason One:  Your Boss Is Human.
Sales people, like craftsmen, see their skills grow with experience.  Unlike craftsmen, the material they work with, their customers, change constantly and have a mind of their own.  Chances are, the customers and situations your boss dealt with, as a salesperson, are not the same as yours are now. High performing salespeople don’t even make the best managers, according to a large study published by the National Bureau of Economic research entitled, “Promotions and the Peter Principle“. The sales advice your boss gives you has it’s limits.   The more experience you have in sales, the less valuable this advice is.  Lower your ROI expectations on what your boss tells you.
Reason Two:  You are being judged on your results, NOT on how well you follow rules.
What you do means more than a number on a spreadsheet.  Like it or not, this is still the way most salespeople are evaluated.  Whether or not you agree with the system is irrelevant.  Most managers are playing their own version of the game and you have to live with it.  In reality, how much you sell trumps everything else.  A stellar record with turning in reports and kissing up to the boss rarely saves anyone with low sales numbers.
Reason Three:  Remaining silent helps no one.
The Bystander Effect, coined by researchers John M. Farley and Bibb Latané in the 1960’s, is a phenomenon in which witnesses to emergencies are less likely to help a victim when in a crowd.  Sound crazy?  It’s not when you consider that each individual expects someone else to help out. Ignoring serious problems doesn’t solve them.  It’s like telling your 13-year-old to skip all the difficult problems on his Math final. Not bringing up a legitimate concern to management can do a disservice to your real boss – the customer.  Don’t forget, he or she makes the buying decision, not your manager.  For a more thorough discussion of this point, check out my post “Think BACk:  Free Will Is A Bitch!” Speaking of customers, how often do they change their buying habits without you or another salesperson supplying them with a reason? Serious problems don’t solve themselves.  YOU need to speak up. It’s that simple.
What you can do about it.
Take responsibility of your own happiness. To address problems you can’t solve on your own, you have three options: bring the issues to the attention of someone who can solve them, decide not to let them bother you any longer, or seek out a better job.
Be thoughtful in the way you present your concerns.  Do not make your complaint personal or deliberately insulting.  Explain the ramifications of the problem as you see it.  How does the problem hinder the sales process or your customer’s business?  Finally, be prepared for any response.  If you’re miserable and your company shows no signs of improving, look for a better opportunity.  The same holds true if your company ignores problems and sacrifices the business you worked hard to win.
Be brave enough to demonstrate how much you care about your company. It’s unlikely you’re alone in noticing what needs improving.  You might gain more respect from your peers for doing it.