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Selling with Kahle: Is the Solution Them, Or Is It Me?

IN THIS RAPIDLY changing economy, everyone is looking for a simple fix for dealing with the uncertainty of our economic environment. It seems like few are happy with their situations.

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IN THIS RAPIDLY changing economy, everyone is looking for a simple fix for dealing with the uncertainty of our economic environment. It seems like few are happy with their situations. And all but a few point their fingers at the changing economy and vibrant competitive environment as the source of their dismay.

Humans must have a genetic inclination to blame things outside of our control for our situations. We lament our fate and cast ourselves as victims. If only someone else would fix it. Maybe the government will make everything good again.

Unfortunately, as long as our gaze is directed at “them” (market conditions that have changed and are outside of our control), we will never free ourselves from the constraints on our income and prosperity. We can’t do anything about “them.”

The real secret to improving our conditions is to work on “us.” James Allen said, “Men are often interested in improving their circumstance, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.”

What was true 100 years ago is still true today. Salespeople, sales managers, and executives must look inward for solutions to their problems.

Salespeople must understand that it was OK just a few years ago to “have your own style of selling,” to never invest in your own improvement, to make your living off of your existing relationships. Today, all of these are obsolete ideas that must be changed. It’s time to look inward and work on yourself.

To effectively deal with the changing economy, salespeople must become more strategic and thoughtful about the investment of their sales time, and they must bring value both to the customer and to their employers in every sales call. They must view their jobs as professions, not just jobs, and become serious about improving themselves. In many cases, salespeople will have to gain new skills in working from a home office and running sales calls via phone and video technology.

Likewise, sales managers must stop coddling salespeople who aren’t committed to continuous improvement and greater productivity. They need to hold them accountable for practical expectations of growth and development. They need to put in place practices that call for quantifiable expectations on the part of their sales team, regular measurements, and greater thoughtfulness and strategic planning.

Sales managers must look inward, understanding that their chances of success are dependent on them, not the market, understanding they can do it better, and doing it better brings better results. They must examine their sales forces and use this window of opportunity to weed out salespeople who have no interest in developing and who don’t have the capability to succeed as a professional salesperson. Now is the time to review the bottom third of their sales forces and seek to upgrade.

Sales executives need to recognize that the current state of the economy, and the resulting impact on the attitudes and perspectives of employees, has delivered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make significant changes in the structure of the sales force.

Recall just a little over a year ago.  To make wholesale changes in sales territories, account responsibilities, the roles of the inside and outside salesperson, sales management practices, compensation plans, and expectations for continuous improvement—all of these initiatives would have been met with resistance from the majority of the sales force. Today, most are willingly cooperative, aware they can be replaced if they don’t follow your lead.

CEOs and CSOs who look inward and use this window of opportunity to streamline and rationalize their sales systems will increase their productivity and lay the groundwork for disproportional growth when the economy turns up.

The world is full of victims who lament their condition and blame sources outside of their control. Leaders accept their responsibility to look inward and improve themselves.

Dave Kahle is a leading sales authority, having written 12 books and presented in 47 states and 11 countries. For more information, visit