Sales Make it Happen
Anyone who has ever lead a team of employees, or an organization, knows the feeling of doing or saying something that deflates the morale of an employee or an entire team. This can happen in any segment of the business, but the sales organization is particularly vulnerable to morale deflation from well-intentioned - and old style - reward programs.
The natural tendency of most sales managers is to reward top performers. Elite salespeople often receive large bonuses, free trips and other rewards in recognition of their superior performance. While it is critical to recognize and reward extraordinary sales performance, doing so at the exclusion of a reward program for improved performance, even by the least productive, but willing performers, can devastate the morale of a sales team.
When managing a team of sales professionals, it is well advised for managers to become familiar with Constraint Theory. A simple example is an easy way to explain the theory. If you are coaching a team of Girl Scout runners, and your team is racing against four other teams of girl scouts, at what precise moment does the winning team of scouts win the race? The answer: When the last scout on the winning team crosses the finish line.
The fastest team in the race, then, is as fast as it's slowest runner. To create an even faster racing team, an inexperienced coach might be tempted to spend the majority of coaching time on the team's fleetest runners. Constraint Theory teaches that improvement occurs only when constraints are eased or eliminated. It may be true that additional coaching might help fast runners become even faster, but coaching the slowest members of the team, and gaining even moderate improvement in their performance, will result in an overall faster team performance!
Neglecting what someone once called the "mighty middle" can be disastrous for a company. Not only does the company's attrition rate increase dramatically as middle performers sense that they are being ignored, but competitors gain an opportunity to develop these experienced salespeople who, after all, had the self-confidence and motivation to seek out employers who value their potential.
Becoming familiar with Constraint Theory is important for any sales manager. Understanding the theory brings sales managers to the realization that the only thing worse than losing all your top talent is losing your "mighty middle." Working hard to improve the less talented, less productive - but willing - team members will make the most difference in the team's overall performance.
--- from the desk of a retired, successful leasing company president.