Work Ethic – Do You Really Have It?

I had a rep resign this week.  I’m very proud that in my many years of management, only 2 reps have ever resigned on my watch.  So, when this happens, a good leader will take the time to reflect on what went wrong.  For my company, we’re a late stage start-up…which means 2 things:

  1. Building pipeline is very tough…as start-ups lack the brand awareness within the market.
  2. Being a later stage start-up, we’ve had just enough success to saturate the territory with more reps than there is demand…making the job a bit harder.

For this particular person, I knew his resignation was inevitable.  In the words of Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday, “I can’t make you do it…”  I gave John all the tools to be successful, but somewhere along the way, he just didn’t put in enough time and effort.  However, if you were to ask John his opinion, he would tell you he worked his butt off.  As a sales leader, I often have seen the delta in perception of one’s work ethic between seller and leadership.

If you’re in this profession, you know in your heart of hearts if you’re truly putting in the time.  If your sales leader has to question your work ethic, there’s already a problem and you need to leave.  Here are some good benchmarks I have found over the years that can help you identify whether you’re putting in the hours:

  1. You are constantly doing things above and beyond the call of duty. I remember a rep of mine once used to write hand-written notes to his clients.  Christmas cards, birthdays, big events in customers’ lives…he was the guy who without fail did the little things that ultimately made a difference.  What about QBRs, sales call preparation docs, internal account strategy calls…are you doing those things and more?
  2. You make a list to accomplish each day. Hard workers rarely are able to accomplish everything on the list, but they set their goals high each day for new heights in productivity.
  3. You never make the naughty list. Interesting tidbit that this guy who just resigned was usually late on all asks I gave.  Not always an indicator of not working hard, but usually it’s one of the leading indicators.
  4. Your expense account is active. Usually there is a correlation between highest expenses submitted for approval and revenue attainment.  This is again, not always the case, but a leading indicator for sure.
  5. You are always active on public calls with fresh ideas. If you’re truly working your business, you’re constantly thinking of new ways to improve the business over all and passionate about inserting those ideas in the minds of folks who can make the change.
  6. You speak to your boss…a lot. I know when guys are loafing throughout the week…I don’t hear from them.  Active and busy sellers are constantly pulling me in to problems, bouncing ideas off me, and actively asking for assistance to further their business.
  7. You set KPIs for yourself that are often different of above what is asked. It’s not been unusual over the years to see one of my top performers talk about these individual KPIs in QBRs or during forecast calls.  I once had a rep who was never happy with his existing pipeline, even though he say within the parameters of 4/1.
  8. You are usually the one who is last to leave and first to show. I’m not talking just about office time (if you have one), but rather all events.  SKO meetings, conference calls…any events that are sponsored by your company…you’re consistently the one who’s not only there, but working OT.

There clearly isn’t any one thing that makes someone successful in our business.  However, people who out-work the next person typically tend to out-perform.  And, with so many elements of software sales that is out of your control, why not dominate the area you can control – work ethic?

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