May 1, 2013

The Tim Tebow Story Should Cause You to Look Carefully at Your Sales Talent

I love the NFL. And I love everything I know about Tim Tebow as a person.

The entire Tebow story is intriguing  (although probably not worthy of the amount of airtime devoted to it by ESPN over the past few years). Like everyone, I was captured by the drama two seasons ago as Tebow improbably led the Broncos to the playoffs, and then won that crazy game against Pittsburgh. It was awesome to watch and easy to root for both the Broncos and Tebow to succeed. But that improbable, and I’ll dare say, miraculous, run, didn’t mean that Tim Tebow was an NFL-caliber quarterback. Just like those who have occasionally attained their sales quota or new business development objectives are not necessarily professional sales hunters that can be counted on year-in and year-out to make their numbers. Hold that thought; we’ll come back to it.

A few dads and I were talking about the NFL and the draft during at our kids’ 7th grade baseball game last Friday night. The conversation turned to Tim Tebow (this was still days before the Jets released him). We all shared our theories about him while making fun of the circus surrounding the Jets. When asked why the Jets refused to play him last year, in spite of their abysmal season and the acute failure of starting QB Mark Sanchez, I gave a blunt answer: He must be an absolutely terrible QB who demonstrated in practice that he could not execute the throws necessary to succeed in the role. Period. Why else wouldn’t they have played him?

Sure, Tim Tebow strung together a few thrilling victories the previous season with Denver (albeit, in a bizarre and unconventional manner). And he had tremendous success playing in college — at a different level, and in a different environment. But that doesn’t make him an NFL QB with the makeup and skills necessary to play consistently.

Is this starting to sound familiar yet? Is this a whole lot different than the salespeople in your organization who once had success — in a different time, and in much different economic environment? You know exactly where I am  going with this. Picture those folks on your team who haven’t been delivering the results lately. Sure, they once did — a long, long time ago when your industry was hot or when the economy was booming. Remember those glory days when almost everyone made their numbers? When you could be reactive and simply respond to all the demand? The good old days when a relationship-type salesperson succeeded simply by being likable, in the right place at the right time, and by taking care of his/her existing accounts. Those were great days, weren’t they? Unfortunately, however, they’re gone. At least they are for most businesses I see.

There are many contributors to what I’ve started to refer to as “The Sales Crisis.” Without a doubt, one of the biggest is the fact that the very same people who survived, or even thrived, during easier times, still constitute the majority of those in Sales today. And unfortunately, many of those people lack both the skills and personal makeup necessary to succeed in the significantly tougher Sales environment most businesses find themselves in today.

Tim Tebow is awesome. He’s an  incredible man. But desire alone doesn’t mean he can become a top-producing starting NFL QB. And many people in Sales today are wonderful, nice, highly relational, fun and well-intentioned people too. But that doesn’t mean they have either the natural talent or the acquired skill necessary to hunt down new business.

Personally, I hope Tebow changes his mind about what position he wants to play. As big-hearted and big-bodied and strong-willed as he is, there has got to be an appropriate role for him in professional football. And I hope you take a hard look at the talent on your sales team to determine if you’ve got the right people in the right roles.

 

[If this post has upset your apple cart or has caused you to pause, I am glad. There are not enough hard conversations about sales talent taking place today. If you’ve got another minute,  I’d encourage you to scan this post about Sales Hunters and this old fan favorite that asks whether your salespeople are hunters or farmers]