Success Warning: Is it Your Sales Team or the Economy?

It’s a great time to be in business. As I meet and speak with CEOs and VPs around the country, I learn that many businesses are enjoying a great year in sales.  In fact, I am hearing complaints about not being able to keep up with the number of sales opportunities!

Enjoy this economy. But, also be aware that success often breeds false realities and arrogance. As my former mentor and boss used to say, “We’re doing a great job AND let’s not start believing our own press too much.”

Jim Collins’ book, “How the Mighty Fall,” discusses the price of success and arrogance. He outlines how successful companies can slowly or quickly spiral toward destruction if they are not careful. His research uncovered the five stages of decline in a company. Not surprisingly, he defines the first stage as the “Hubris Born of Success.”

Hubris — arrogance — often has two companions in the sales profession: complacency and mediocrity. In good economic times, it’s easy for all of us to start thinking we are better than we are. We believe our sales success is due only to our great personalities and skills rather than a little help from the economy. Business development efforts and selling skills become stagnant because the phone is ringing with prospects.

Roll back to 2008, which was a tough time for many industries as the Great Recession began. Many uncontrollable external factors affected sales. However, we also saw one glaring hole when working with sales teams: Many had simply forgotten how to go out and get new business with prospects or clients. Complacency had slowly crept into their daily and weekly selling behaviors.

Apply the EQ skills of reality testing and self-awareness. As a salesperson, are you still working as hard as you did in a bad economy? Sales managers, are you still working to develop your sales teams skills—even if they are exceeding quota?

Apply the advice I received from a CEO that hired me during the glory days of the dotcom boom: “I am engaging with you during the good times because I’ve been through these cycles before,” he said. “And when the economy turns, I don’t want a bunch of donut pushers or professional visitors on the street.” That wise CEO enjoyed successful sales until his retirement.

Enjoy the good times AND continue to raise your sales game. Avoid denial and hubris born of success.

Good Selling!

SalesLeadership offers an interactive 2-day Ei Selling® Boot Camp that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. We will help you work on developing your selling skills or your sales team’s selling skills. Call 303-708-1128 for more information.


Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley is the founder and president of SalesLeadership, Inc. She is a monthly columnist for Business Journals across the country, author of ‘Growing Great Sales Teams’ and co-author of ‘Motivational Selling.’ Her new book, 'Emotional Intelligence for Sales Success,' published by Amacom, a division of the American Management Association, is available in bookstores now. Colleen is the creator of Ei Selling®, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. Prior to starting SalesLeadership, Colleen was vice president of sales and marketing for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, sales increased from 8M to 90M. Varsity was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States. When Colleen is not traveling or training, she loves to hike, read and hang with her husband Jim, and friends.

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