I have been told that most good pet stores will not sell you fish at the same time you buy a new fish tank. However, you can buy the tank at one place and then go somewhere else to buy the fish. If you take both the fish and the tank home, fill the tank, put the fish in the water immediately, it will be a good chance that the fish will be floating at the top of water the next day. So the question is, was it the fish, or was it the water to blame for the death of the fish?
What does this story have to do with sales and sales management?
In this analogy the water in the tank represents sales management and the environment created by them, and the fish represent the individual sales representatives. The reason fish were floating at the top of the water the day after they were put in was because the water/environment was not properly prepared. It wasn’t because the fish were unhealthy. It takes some time to prepare the environment/water which is why the good pet stores do not want to sell the fish at the same time as the tank.
In my many years of experience I have seen, and continue to see so many companies with extremely high turnover of sales professionals. So the question becomes who is to blame? Is it sales management, or the individual sales representatives?
In situations where we see sales managers with 100% or 200% turnover I am inclined to believe that the people whom left were not the problem. In those types of situations the common denominator is the sales manager and the environment that he or she has created. It can’t always be everybody else’s fault.
In one situation I have seen a VP of Sales hire 14 people to fill and refill 5 direct report positions in less than few short years. So was the problem the fish (14 people), or the water (the sales VP)? I think the answer is simple, but I am a little confused as to why companies struggle with the question.
Chances are most (not all) sales professionals will be successful if the company provides them with established sales territories, sales leads, decent sales collateral, along with great sales leadership. If those things don’t exist, is it really their fault that they are not successful? So is it the fish or the water?