Ego is a dirty word in sales and sales management

Having a big ego is often associated with the sales profession. For many years, the supercharged Alpha male, 600 lb sales gorilla has been the poster person for successful salespeople.

And then there is the larger than life sales manager who charges in to save the day by taking over the sales call, making the sale and demonstrating to everyone present just how much better he is than the salesperson. With stories like these swirling in the ether, it is often assumed that a big ego is the key factor that makes salespeople and sales managers successful. This assumption is wrong on so many levels.

Yet you hear, even today, that businesses are still looking for ‘hungry, aggressive sales performers’.

The truth is that these supercharged, salespeople, for all their so-called sales success and supposedly legendary status, actually fall well behind the real sales superstars in terms of achieving high level of sustainable sales results.

As for the domineering sales manager – they cause more harm than good; they take over the conversation to demonstrate their superiority. By showing off in the sales call and calling it coaching they make everything about themselves and leave salespeople withering on the sidelines as they suck all the ‘ego air’ out of the room and tell their salespeople to ‘just buck up and be like me’. What a joke!

By contrast the best performing salespeople, the real sales superstars, are the open-minded, curious, collaborative, team oriented, open to learning and aim for partnerships on every level type of people. These superstars have humility too – a direct contradiction to the behaviour of the ego-driven salespeople. The equivalent enlightened sales manager shares the same qualities as their salespeople and, as this manager knows, success can only be as good as the success of their salespeople.

These sales managers bask in the glory of their sales teams’ success, not in their own. So why do these egomaniac images prevail when we know that the opposite is a better approach?

We all know selling is a competitive profession; everyone is competing for the time and attention of their customers, trying to get in before the competitors. There are tactics, strategies and power games; and ultimately people’s jobs and livelihoods are on the line if these things don’t work out. Fear is never far away from the mind of a salesperson or sales manager.

An out of control ego is all about fear. It is all about survival!

If a business has created a climate of fear around selling and salespeople’s jobs and livelihoods are at risk, then there is likely to be lots of unhealthy egos at play. Often shielded by bravado (another manifestation of fear), many sales teams can look quite dynamic and ‘normal’ on the surface. But dig a bit deeper and there lies many distressful stories of survival. We know that in times of life threatening situations (or in the case of many Western salespeople, when their lifestyles are threatened) self-interest will prevail and unhealthy egos will prevail.

To get that time and attention with the prospect or customer, salespeople do need the skill, commitment and courage to contact and follow up on opportunities, knowing that they could get knocked back at any time. So, yes, there needs to be a certain degree of mental toughness, resilience, a thick skin.

However, an ego driven by self-interest and fear will never get as far as a person who can effectively weigh up their interest with the interests of their company and their clients and find the right path for all.

The same applies for effective sales managers. They know that to get the best results they should work with and through people, not around them or instead of them. Good sales managers are self-aware, thoughtful, respectful and respected, well prepared, and know what constitutes good sales performance. This means they can coach to the specifics as these relate to each person and where that person is on their sales journey to excellence.

Regrettably too many sales managers get promoted to their position without the training needed to be fully effective as sales managers and coaches. As a result, they often function at their Peter principle and their fear (of operating at a level beyond their competence) causes them to take control of the sales calls, dominate customer interactions and generally behave more like the Alpha male and 600 lb gorilla, than the effective leader, mentor and coach they should be.

So, if you or someone you know has an overly active ego that gets you/them into trouble in sales or sales management situations here are some questions to consider:
Are you currently letting fear hold you or your sales team hostage? If so what are you really afraid of?

What would happen if you got rid of fear as the overriding motivating factor for achieving sales? How would that change the dynamic of your sales approach or sales team approach to finding and winning new business with existing or new clients?

What would happen if you put your pride in your pocket and listened to the real needs of your clients and/or sales people instead – gave time and attention to their needs; seeing the world from their perspective? And then what would happen if you worked together to create viable solutions for everyone?

What if you have someone listen to you and really hear what concerns you are having; what your priorities are and what you want to achieve? How would you feel when they took you seriously and then looked at how they could assist you in achieving your goals?

How would it feel to put confidence back in your people by letting them do what you employed them to do and that is… sell?

Don’t let fear, and by default ego, drive your sales career or leadership style. It’s not a long-term strategy for success. It will only end in tears and that is not what people want for themselves or we want for you.

By the way, if you have hired the ego-driven, supercharged alpha salesperson and they are wreaking havoc in your business you may also like to read Why hiring and keeping the 600lb sales gorilla is a mistake.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

PS; You can get a sneak preview as well as purchase and download the detailed 49 page report of the 12 Sales Trends for 2013 now to see which trends will have the greatest impact on your sales optimisation efforts in 2013. In the meantime you can download our past trends here for free.



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