There’s more to sales than selling

Hockey stick and puck

Just because someone can sell a sofa doesn’t mean they’re right for your team.

I used to play hockey on Saturday nights in an adult league with a bunch of great guys. It was awesome! One summer, a few of us took time off to take vacations, attend markets, etc. and we ended up missing half the season.

The team brought in a few guys to replace us, and they had different strengths than we did. These guys weren’t big. In fact, the only thing shorter than their fuse was their time on the ice because they spent most of the games in the penalty box. The captain of our team saw them play in a pick-up game and thought they would be great to sub in. “These guys are way better than Schulman, so we’ll be ahead of the game,” he said.

Not nice, but true. Everyone loves a guy on the team that can play and here were three of them. That’s when the demise began.

Just as much fun as the game, was the banter in the dressing room after the game. We all cracked a few beers and, win or lose, talked about shots that were taken, hits that were missed and horrible goals let in by our extremely average netminder.

The new guys changed all that in a matter of weeks, and the banter became more aggressive. Stupid actions by a few, with no potential upside, not only hurt the results of the team, but made a once jovial environment unbearable.
The season culminated when one of the new guys challenged the entire opposing team to step up and prove their manhood. That’s when the police were called to break everything up. Needless to say, the Chiefs were not welcomed back to the league and my hockey night was lost forever. That was four years ago and I’ve only laced up the skates once since.

What’s my point? Well, there are a few.

Most importantly is how I remember needing to fill a few sales spots on my floor and finding some guys who knew how to sell. Sitting in an interview with some of these people, I found myself dreaming of handing them a “Million Dollar Writer” award and awarding them the keys to a leased Mercedes for a year.

I would end the interview and immediately order more sales order blanks because I knew we would need them. I told myself I was only hiring closers and the people at the bottom of my sales board would find themselves selling at Target and out of my hair forever. The benchmark was moving on up.

I had two of these killers start on the same Monday for orientation. They asked good questions about policy, product and procedures. I was feeling good about them and they hit the floor with resolve and the taste of blood in their mouths, ready to pounce on their first ups. By lunch time, I had already talked to a few of the team about the new guys. They were complaining about their tactics. Terms like “forced recognition” and “early approaching” were used with vitriol.

I hung out from my balcony office overlooking the showroom floor and watched my Babe Ruth dreams turn into a Bill Buckner nightmare. They were skaters and I didn’t see it coming. They skated the floor with the grace of Evgeni Plushenko at Sochi and went from customer to customer, sniffing out where the quick deal was and obliterating the behaviors and morale that took years to build. I was speechless, but I knew what had to be done.

I cut their final checks and called them into my office and explained that the rules of engagement, common courtesy and respect for not only those you share the floor with, but for the ownership of the business must be secure. They made the floor an unsafe place to work because they jeopardized the ability of the people on the floor to make a living and the bottom line to my business.

In the end, we had a much better year than the previous in a worse economy and with the same crew because the sales staff understood that management wouldn’t tolerate rogue salespeople on the floor.

Two examples that prove just because someone can perform doesn’t mean that they are right for your business.

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