Let’s assume that Ron was the third salesperson hired by a start-up company that is now publicly traded and has revenues of $150 million. Ron was involved in the initial large sale to an early-market buyer 8 years ago. This sale validated the company’s offering, and he received extensive support in that sales effort from the founder and other senior executives. For the past several years, Ron has averaged 225 percent of quota, largely by handling the growing requirements of three major customers. Ron’s last cold prospecting call was made several years ago, when the thin condition of his pipeline drove him to make a call.
Ron has achieved legendary status, and preferential treatment, within the company. People wonder why he has never gone into management. The answer is simple: Ron has realized that his personal strengths and his quality-of-life goals all indicate that sales is the best position for him.
Ron’s manager treads lightly and consistently grades him as a 1. Failing to do so would probably prompt a call by Ron to the CEO complaining about his manager and the review, and necessitate changing the grade on the evaluation in Human Resources’ file.
According to his annual reviews, Ron is a 1 in the areas of need development, account management, negotiating, qualification and control, and so on. Peeling back the onion, however, it turns out that he is not a 1 in the skill of business development and prospecting—in fact, he is a 4. At this stage, it is impossible to tell if the problem lies in skill (cannot) or attitude (will not). In any event, Ron’s manager is not doing him a favor by ignoring this glaring deficiency. Ron is, in effect, coasting. Smart salespeople know intuitively that they are worth what they can earn in their next sales position. If for some reason things go south with this company, Ron may face the challenge of finding and accepting a territory with a company where he does not enjoy sacred cow status and most likely will not be given the largest installed accounts to develop.