Inspirational and Ongoing Management

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was the god of commerce and travel. He was not a good god, however, which provided an explanation to the ancient Greeks—wrong as it was—for business deals gone bad and tragedies at sea. Zeus looked the other way as Sisyphus carried out his crimes against humanity, but one day he crossed the line. On that day, Sisyphus committed an act so heinous that Zeus had to punish him. For the rest of eternity, Sisyphus was condemned to push a big rock up a tall mountain. Just as he reached the top of the mountain, the rock would roll to the bottom, and Sisyphus would have to start all over again. All day, every day. Here the ancient Greeks get it right. There’s nothing more painful than meaningless work. When asked to push a big rock up a tall mountain day after day, people stop caring and simply give up. This is no more true than in the world of sales. Daily call sessions, outbound email, repeated rejection, and the constant pressure to sell, sell, sell becomes old quickly, if … if there’s no meaning at the top of that mountain, no reason for pushing a big rock up there. Once you’ve established an authentic, trusting relationship with your salespeople, the next motivational essential is unleashing their unique passion. Again, I must emphasize how important it is for trust to come first before anything else in your leadership toolbox. Apart from trust, salespeople won’t tell you what’s going on inside because they’re convinced you’ll use it to manipulate them. And no one wants their own private emotions used as a weapon against them. But the opposite is true as well. When your salespeople trust you, they’ll openly tell you what makes them tick and allow you to use it to help them become the best version of their sales selves. Or, in the words of Victor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” Purpose and vision are two powerful leadership motivators. The two terms, often used interchangeably, are very different from each other. Purpose is aspirational. It’s a mission, a cause, a reason for being that’s inspirational and ongoing. In one sense, a person never completes their purpose. How could you say, for example, that you’ve achieved perfect health, and now you’re done with that? You’ve fulfilled this purpose and can scratch it off your list. No, health is an ongoing objective, an aspirational mission that always challenges us to be our best. Vision is different. You actually complete a vision. It’s a specific target, a measurable goal. Challenging, yes, but achievable. Purpose is our north star. It’s a fixed point that guides our path. But we never arrive at the north star, do we? We do, however, arrive at the top of a mountain guided by the north star. The top of the mountain is the measurable vision we set for our path and the view we enjoy when we get there. So, if your ongoing purpose is to be healthy and fit, you may choose a variety of mountains to climb: a marathon, a cross country cycling trip, or a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. While the vision part of being healthy changes in what you do and how you do it, your purpose doesn’t. Purpose outlasts vision and energizes it, but vision gives purpose the practical expression it needs to turn mere theory into reality. When your salespeople trust you, they’ll freely discuss the purpose they have for their lives and the places they see that purpose taking them, their vision. I’ve found over the years that people choose sales as a career for four distinct reasons: fortune, fame, freedom, and family. For some, not most but some, the primary reason they sell is to make lots of money. They did the math, and the math of a different kind of job didn’t make any sense to them. If they’re going to spend fifty hours a week at work, they might as well be making the most money they can possibly make in that time. Their salary - and the things their salary lets them buy - is the wind beneath their wings. Not very romantic, but that’s what motivates some salespeople. And that’s okay. For other salespeople, much more than are willing to admit, it’s not about the money. It’s about what the money means. That’s what I refer to as fame. Not becoming a media darling but receiving personal attention and public recognition. They love being on top of the leaderboard, being awarded prizes in front of their peers, and being praised by their supervisors. Sure, the money’s fine, but many sellers are more motivated by being seen as a superstar because of the status that star power gives them. Freedom is also something the money means for some. These people sell not for public recognition, but for the autonomy it provides. First, they can’t imagine having a job that would require them to sit in a cubicle away from the rest of the world eight or more hours a day. Being out and about—on sales calls, making presentations, traveling to new places—is part of the freedom they crave at work.