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Stop Complaining and Start Making a Difference

If you go out and look for them, it’s easy to find all the things that your company does wrong. You can also easily discover every little thing that your company might be able to do better to improve. It’s wrong to complain to your peers (and anyone else who will listen) about why your company isn’t as great as you wish it were (despite the obvious incongruence of you telling your dream clients something altogether different).

Negativity and complaining destroy organizations and do nothing to improve your sales results. If you believe that there are serious problems that need to be addressed, you are obligated to do more than complain.

Only Up, Never Down

It is never right to complain to your peer group or anyone outside of your department. The only direction you should share your complaints is up. Negativity is the only form of cancer that spreads by contact, and you must not be the carrier; it’s a recipe for failure.

Your concerns need to flow up stream towards the top. If your concerns are real, you are obligated to share them with your manager. You need to make your manager aware of the problems, aware of the costs of the continued problems, and what you believe can and must be done about them.

This is all part of selling inside your own organization.

How to Complain

No one wants to hear you complain, except maybe the incurably miserable. Nor do they want to hear you bitch and moan about why your company isn’t what you think it should be. It’s not helpful, and it’s not professional. If you are an employee, if you work for the company, it’s your duty to try to improve things.

First, you have to identify what you believe is wrong. Second, you have to identify why it is a problem and what it is costing your company. And finally, you have to share your proposal as to what might be changed and how it would improve things. If you recognize a problem, you have to help identify the solution.

Doesn’t that sound remarkably like what we in sales do both for and with our clients?

It sounds like this: “I have noticed that our clients are reporting that we haven’t been communicating with them about their orders as frequently as they would like us to. I asked some of them to share their thoughts with me, and they said our lack of follow up makes it difficult for them to do their jobs. They said that they need us to improve it. We really can’t afford to lose these clients, and customer intimacy and follow up are real differentiators for us—ones that we can’t afford to lose. I did some investigating, and the biggest issue is communication early in the morning. We could eliminate this problem if we shifted a couple people’s hours forward to take those calls. Could we schedule a meeting with the department head to propose changes?”

It’s that, or it’s something less than that: “We suck. We’re not calling our clients back like we need to. Someone needs fired. I can’t sell if they don’t do their jobs. I am not going to sell anything until someone fixes this.” Yeah, that’ll really get things done, now won’t it?

This kind of statement lacks what makes the first version effective. It doesn’t really describe the problem. It doesn’t explain why it’s a problem and what it costs, and it offers nothing as a solution except the salesperson’s lame and empty threat to stop selling.

It does nothing to help make a difference, and the maker of the statement isn’t taken serious. They simply look like a complainer, a whiner.

No one was hired to complain. You were hired to make a difference for your company and your clients. You make a difference when you help solve problems, not when you make them worse by commiserating with others and spreading negativity.

Questions

What is your duty to your company when you notice an area that needs to be improved?

What normally becomes of people who complain and take no action?

What are the best and most effective ways to surface the areas that need to be improved with your management? How about with the manager of another function?

How important to your sales results is your ability to make a difference within your own company?

How do you make the internal proposals and sell you improvement ideas inside your own organization?


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Comments

comments

  • Brooklyn1122

    Anthony

    Great – a straightforward but powerful point about organization change. As to the question about how to suggest change – I think it is is usually pretty tough – a couple of thoughts.

    Timing matters – some times companies are going thru shifts that make other changes more likely to be heard.

    I suspect the type of organization matters – say government vs. small private owner vs standard large company.

    You matter – in most organizations there is sort of an “own the right” going on – if you just been on the job a week perhaps holding your fire for a bit might be wise.

    Be selective – make suggestions where you have established some credibility

    Start out by making suggestions that can not be translated beck to your person gain – looks a little self serving.

  • Brooklyn1122

    Anthony

    Great – a straightforward but powerful point about organization change. As to the question about how to suggest change – I think it is is usually pretty tough – a couple of thoughts.

    Timing matters – some times companies are going thru shifts that make other changes more likely to be heard.

    I suspect the type of organization matters – say government vs. small private owner vs standard large company.

    You matter – in most organizations there is sort of an “own the right” going on – if you just been on the job a week perhaps holding your fire for a bit might be wise.

    Be selective – make suggestions where you have established some credibility

    Start out by making suggestions that can not be translated beck to your person gain – looks a little self serving.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      All of your points are correct, but I especially love “you matter.” If you have been on the job for a week, it may be premature to suspect you know enough to start building the change initiative. That said, no reason not to start learning and building the relationships you will need so that when you have the credibility, you also have the support. 

      A

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    The photo ALONE is worth visiting this great post!

  • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

    The photo ALONE is worth visiting this great post!

  • http://www.azmomofmanyhats.blogspot.com Azmomofmanyhats

    It is so hard to listen to those that are in a continual state of negativity in the workplace.  In every negative experience, there is the potential for ingenuity, innovative thinking, and problem solving.  Taking it upward in an appropriate way, and offering your creative input on how the issue might be solved – even if it isn’t accepted, gets you thinking out our your box and figuring out how to be a part of the solution – not the a weight on the problem.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      Such a great point, AZMom! The problems, challenges, and issues provide us with the ability to leverage our great human attribute of resourcefulness and make a difference. We can use our ingenuity, our innovative thinking, and our problem solving skills. Better to direct your efforts and energies there, no doubt!

  • Tedcoine

    Anthony, I find there are two reasons for complaining to peers rather than up. The first, as you describe so well, is lack of character/professionalism. The second is when there is no mechanism for participation: when upper management makes it abundantly clear that they’ll make all decisions, and suggestions from down the pyramid are unwelcome.

    In this latter case – which is very prevalent in 20th-Century workplaces – employees won’t be shut up; especially not in this age of social media.

    I agree wholeheartedly that complaining does not add to sales performance. But people will bring their whole brains to work regardless of management’s preferences. Leaders beware.

    • http://www.thesalesblog.com S. Anthony Iannarino

      I agree completely, Ted. 

      But we in sales have a special duty. We practice the skills of opening up people who are closed to change, to the idea that things can be improved. We help build consensus where there is none, and we do so across all kinds of functions and despite political resistance. We also help capture and share a vision a better future, and then we sell that vision, often upstream. 

      We are perhaps better equipped to turn those efforts inwards towards our own companies. That said, there is nothing on this list that can’t be taught and encouraged. 

      I heard Jack Welch once talk about a conversation he had with an employee on a plant floor. They were doing a workout session where people could present ideas to management, some of which had to responded to and agreed to on the spot. The employee said (and I am paraphrasing): “All this time you paid us for our backs. You could have had our brains for free.” 

      Leaders beware, indeed!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, Ted!

      A

      • http://twitter.com/tedcoine Ted Coine

        Love it! Very well said (by that GE employee, and by you).

  • Andrea P. Howe

    Thanks for the reminder that we are ALWAYS selling–to our customers, our bosses, our friends, our significant others. The format you suggest for raising issues productively works equally well in all those cases. The two biggest ways I get stuck are enjoying wallowing in the complaint (woe is me!) and wanting to be right. Per Tedcoine’s comment, character and professionalism require me to rise above–which I eventually *usually* do LOL. PS also love the graphic–great way to start a week! :)