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I’m Negative Because My Team Is Failing! Now What?

Two days ago I wrote that negativity about your company is really an excuse, a diversion from the negative person’s own poor sales results. That’s my experience. It’s also my friend Mike Weinberg’s experience.

Yesterday I wrote about how you can help make improvements within your own company without being negative and without being a complainer.

And some time before that I wrote a post about some things you should consider before you quit your job. That post was also about making sure that you work on the one thing that you have reasonable control over: you.

Today, the mailbag brings this from Anonymous:

What if you’re negative because the company you work for has caused you to lose confidence in them because they can’t perform for the customer after you brought them in? I’m more than making my goal numbers, but I feel I either have to lie to the customer to get them to buy from us (not an option) or not really even try, because I can’t honestly say we can do better than our competition. Am I an exception to this rule? I don’t want to be a whiner, but I’m so frustrated…

Anonymous: Here are some ideas you might consider.

Dealing with Your Loss of Confidence

You cannot sell if you don’t believe. You have to believe in what you sell, and you have to believe your company is going to deliver what you sell. Your team has to keep your promises. This is why you feel that you will be lying to your customer if they buy from you. You don’t want to make promises that you know are going to be broken. We in sales deal in trust.

Your fear of your team’s failure to deliver is also why you are sandbagging your sales efforts. By not bringing your company the business, you don’t have to worry about the failure to deliver.

Anonymous, you can be a force for light.

From reading your email, I am not sure what you have or haven’t tried from my list from yesterday, but let’s explore a couple ideas.

Have you done everything you can to help understand why your team is failing? Have you taken your teammates to lunch to get a deeper understanding of the challenges and problems they are experiencing? Have you spent time in the trenches so that you can understand how you might help them?

Sometimes there are issues that can be resolved by asking your clients to change some of their business practices. They can help you make it easier for your team and still get them the results that they need. Have you explored how your clients make it harder for your team to serve them? Have you met with your clients to ask them to make changes that will make it easier and more efficient for you to serve them?

Have you included your team on sales calls early in the sales process to understand your client’s needs? Have you asked for their input into the solution that you sell the client so that you can gain their buy-in and so they can bring their resourcefulness to bear on the challenges? Do you know for certain that your handoff isn’t part of the problem?

Have you done everything you might to bring your team’s failures to the attention of your leadership team? Did you bring your leadership team ideas as to how to make the improvements necessary to deliver for your clients? Have you asked them how you can help them help you to make changes?

Are you certain your team cannot do better than your competitor just because they aren’t right now? Could you build a crack team of willing change agents to address the issues you are experiencing and brainstorm ways to leapfrog your competition?

You Are Not an Exception, But You Could Be Exceptional

Anonymous, your frustration isn’t anything that the rest of us in sales haven’t felt at some time (and if you are in sales and you haven’t felt this frustration, just wait. I assure you that your time is coming).

You aren’t an exception. But you could be exceptional. You can work with your company to help them improve and catch up with your success in sales. You can be the positive force and take a leadership role in making the necessary improvements. No one makes you a leader; you just take the role. You can use all of the attributes and skills that allow you succeed in winning clients and turn them inward to use them to sell your company.

I don’t pretend that this is easy. It isn’t. But you can choose to feel frustration, or you can choose to chip away at making things better.

Your success is directly proportional to how much you can take, and how much of a difference you can make. Be a force for light.

You don’t really need more questions than the ones embedded in this post, do you?

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  • Barbara R Saunders

    It seems to me you’ve deflected the question. Are you really suggesting that NO company is so dysfunctional as to not be able to deliver anything worth promising to customers? 

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I don’t believe I have deflected, Barbara. My work here is about removing the shackles and chains in which we bind ourselves. 

      No company is so dysfunctional that it can’t be improved through better leadership, and by doing so, perform better for their clients. 

  • Brett

    What I’m trying to do is to make sure I make and keep certain commitments to my own sales process and activities. If problems arise either with my production or with some service situation with a different member of my team, I might have a better idea where the glitch is. If it’s me, I can amend my process or activities to fix it. If it’s down the line, I’ll have a better platform with the individual or with leadership to discuss changes. I’m sure there are dysfunctional organizations out there–so dysfunctional that a move is necessary, but I think the great majority of the time it’s a ‘me’ problem, not a ‘them’ thing. Even if it is a ‘them’ thing, I don’t have to pile on and whine. I can treat my little corner of the org as the most positive contribution to the whole.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Right on, Brett! Make your little corner exceptional! 

  • Kees

    I don’t know of course if you showed the whole content of the mail you got or not but as I read it, this is a salesman that is not frustrated with his team of sales. He is frustrated that the company cannot deliver as promised. Something like a bad product, wrong specs, production errors, delivery problems etc.

    If this is really the case, than you cannot seriously expect this poor guy to start and change Production, Shipping, Marketing or maybe even the Board and become a leader overnight.

    If we are talking about a small company, with short lines of communication, maybe you can engaged somebody enough to do what you suggest. Maybe.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Hey Kees, 

      I did show all the relevant parts of the email. He is frustrated that his company can’t deliver, but didn’t give any indication as to what kind of problems they were having doing so. 

      I can–and do–seriously expect the salesperson to do what is necessary to sell within his own company and make the changes necessary to get his clients a result. And I am certain his clients expect the same from him (lest he no longer desires to have them as clients). 

      Some of the most difficult sales we make are the sales we make within our own organizations, but that is what is necessary to succeed in sales and to succeed for your clients now. I would it were otherwise, but it isn’t. 

      I stand by my general principle that what I do is about empowering people. I believe people can make a difference when they are empowered to do so. They sometimes need to be reminded of this, and I am happy to provide the gentle nudge (or something more when necessary). 

      Besides, I can’t imagine what other advice I would give this salesperson. Would I tell him to be more negative? More frustrated? Would I suggest he quit (only to discover that there next employer has its own set of problems and challenges)? 

      He’s making his number. He has some leverage, and he can be a force for a positive change. I can’t make the other side of this argument. Surely there is a time to quit because the culture is broken, but I didn’t take that from this email. 


  • Mary Legakis

    Anthony, I really like where you’ve gone with this. Frustration is most often the cause of trying to control people, feelings and outcomes. It is most often a sub-conscious conditioning that we have which has manifested itself in our personality.

    When we take a moment to reflect, we realize the only controllables are the actions we choose to take. If one sales person feels he can’t lead and be exceptional internally, then he certainly won’t be able to pull of the same feats externally. Time for that person to find an organization where the challenges are ones he prefers to undertake.

    Which takes us to greater point here. If you are looking for a spot without challenges, look again. They don’t exist. The only choice you have to make is in choosing which fights you want to fight, and which ones you want to leave for others to fight. Wherever you end up, there will be challenges, and people thrive most in environments where the challenges are the ones they are willing to take on. Until you answer that question, you have no place in complaining or playing the victim. The choice is always in your own hands.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I would hit the “like” button here on Disqus, Mary, but it isn’t strong enough to express my feelings about your thoughtful comment. I am so glad your comment is going to live here on this post to help others with this sometimes incredibly difficult issue. 

      It took me months of Aikido to realize that only way I could change others on the dojo mat was to change myself. It’s a killer metaphor, and an idea you capture perfectly here with “the only controllables are the actions we choose to take.” 

      I’ll bet you are one damn fine executive coach!