Sales Models, Metrics, and Motions Blog

Tenured Entitlement is Your Enemy

by Gail Milton on Tue, Jan 26, 2010

The other day at the recent Boston AA-ISP meeting, I was speaking with a few Inside Sales Reps about challenges standing in the way of their success. Consistently the answer was "tenured entitlement".

I asked the Reps to describe what they meant and here's what they shared:

Tenured entitlement is when a Rep has some special status (either based on past performance, longevity with the company or a relationship with management). They are separated from the roles & responsibilities of the rest of the team and not held to the same standards.

So I dug a little deeper. How is this preventing the overall group from being successful?

From the individual Sales Reps the overwhelming answer was:
"It's not fair! I'll never be #1 on this team."

I reached out to a Sales Manager colleague to discuss the problem. Here's what they shared:
"These people are very necessary, doing their thing, making their number, but they are working in a vacuum. The market is changing and our sales tactics need to change with it. I should be able to use these people as role models, instead, they are road blocks to change and difficult to manage."

I was shocked. How could any good Sales Leader allow this atmosphere to grow and destroy the morale of their department? It was de-motivating and sucked the wind out of the sails of hungry Sales Reps.

Then it hit me, I did exactly the same thing when I was a Sales Manager! I didn't realize it, but I was guilty of allowing tenured entitlement. And I don't think I'm alone.

Does this sound familiar?

You've got this person, who has been with the company for a very long time. They know the product and process and at one time they were on top. They are reliable; they can fill any hole because they know everything works! Slowly, without formality, they acquire this "special status". They are asked to take on special projects and before you know it they aren't required to make as many calls or close as many deals.

The trouble is, this person isn't a "sales superstar". Maybe they were at one time, but now they are your "go-to person" (with a lower number and special status).

The ramifications of Tenured Entitlement

  • You start to hear the grumbling: How come we have to do this and Mr. Special doesn't?
  • New hires are de-motivated. Even if they do become #1, Mr. Special will be standing next to them as they accept their award.
  • And what about Mr. Special? He knows he's coasting and is probably bored to death! Even worse he is set apart from the rest of the team and instead of being admired, isn't liked.

So what's to be done?

Take the time to understand motivation
It's an important ingredient in sales management. We all have our natural style for motivating others. Some members of our team respond well and we know who they are.

Maybe "Mr. Special" would have risen to the occasion if I had said directly:

You are my go to guy, but the reality is, I need more productivity out of the entire team. You included. What will it take for me to motivate you to get to that level again?

Scott Herrick of Cube Rules writes:

Give work to feed their strengths and starve their weaknesses.

Managers assign stardom through the work they delegate. If you can't figure out the strength of a person and give the right work to them, of course they won't shine. Give them the right stuff and you will get the maximum effort and production from a person who wants to deliver results

Bottom line, as a leader you should expect the best from your team. No one should get to bathe in the limelight of past performance for more than 30 days!

In order to attain peak performance, you will need to take the time to understand how to motivate each individual on your team. Over time, what motivates them could change. You need to stay tuned in and notice when you are no longer being effective. Have the discussion with them and see if you can

I'd like to hear if anyone else shares my guilt? What are your thought?

(Photo credit: citizensheep)

Topics: inside sales management, inside sales motivation

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