The Sales Chromosome and the Wildcat

14 Oct

Every few months I’ll get the question, “Hey Avi, aren’t great sales people just built differently?” This is typically asked in a session where I am discussing coaching, feedback or motivation. The individual is basically asking why we need to coach, provide feedback or motivate employees, either they have it or they don’t, right? The simple answer is yes, top sales people, engineers or managers do have similar characteristics. The top sales people and any given company have remarkably similar skills that make them great. So why don’t we just look for those individuals when hiring? Why don’t we just let people go if we find that they don’t have that skill or competency set? Why do we bother trying to find individuals of varying backgrounds to fill roles that we should easily be able to fill with our cookie cutter model?

The other night I was watching the Jets/Dolphins game. The Jets, who have been a great defensive team so far this season, struggled whenever the Dolphins went into their Wildcat set. The Dolphins therefore ran the Wildcat 16 times for 110 yards. The Jets defense is designed to get after the quarterback, it’s built for sacks. They didn’t record one sack the entire night, because the Dolphins didn’t even give them the opportunity. The Dolphins could have done what most other teams do, run your basic combination of passes and runs with your quarterback on the field for every play, but they would have lost. They would not have beaten the Jets by just passing and running the ball, the Jets defense would have eaten them up. They beat the Jets because they had plays where there were 4 running backs on the field and no quarterback in sight.

What happens when you have too many employees who have the exact same make up? Complacency, limitations, ceilings. You are only as good as they are and can pretty much predict how far you will get. So what sets you apart? Doing something that no one else is doing, toeing the line and breaking the mold. You’ll never know what else you could have built if you don’t hire an engineer who is just a little different than everyone else. You’ll never know the potential your sales team has if you don’t hire a few sales people who are atypical. So the next time someone asks you why you don’t just hire out of the mold, ask them if they are comfortable with the limitations that come with it. Ask them if they want the opportunity to win some of the time or do they want to have a chance to win every time, even against the better team.

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