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THE Leadership Japan Series by Dale Carnegie Training Tokyo Japan

Dec 16, 2020

The ad on social media said, “we are looking for sales A players”.  I know the guy who put out the ad and he had recently moved to a new company, a new entrant into Japan and they were aggressively going after market share here.  I was thinking I would love to be able to recruit A players for sales as well, but I can’t.  The simple reason is that A players in Japan are seriously expensive.  If you are a big company, with deep pockets in a highly profitable sector, then this is a no brainer.  Why would you bother with B or C players, if you can afford A players?  What do you do though, when you are running a small to medium sized company in a tough market, with thin margins and lots of competitors?


Being a leader, able to recruit the best talent, isn’t the same requirement as being at the sharp end of the stick, where you have to create something out of nothing on a daily basis.  We have to take D players and turn them into C players and take C players and turn them into B players. Maybe we can even create the odd A player, given enough time and consistency. In theory, this sounds all very plausible and straightforward.  Good so far, but how do you bring your talent alchemy to the forefront?


Leaders are pretty busy, so who develops these D, C and B people?  It stands to reason that the sales section heads or sales department heads are not sales A players either, so their sales role modelling is a limiting factor.  The leader has to be highly selective where they put their time and effort.  Pumping a lot of work into someone, to see them walk out the door is heartbreaking, mind numbing, costly and depressing stuff. 


Adjusting expectations is a big factor in leadership.  Trying to thread a camel through the eye of a needle takes time.  So we cannot expect new people to be producing results any time soon.  Having a really good record of salespeople results is a start.  Over time, you can build up averages, so that you can know what is a reasonable expectation, for a certain point in time.  I have a spreadsheet that tracks all the salespeople from ground zero.  This way I am comparing salesperson against salesperson, quarter by quarter.  I know what a first year average revenue result is and so forth, year by year.


Knowing this is a big help, because I don’t load up new people with too much pressure.  In fact, it gives me the ability to encourage them.  I can tell them that I am not expecting them to hit the moon straight out the gate. The first year is a giant learning curve and I want them to do their best and that will be fine.  By taking away the pressure, they can fit into the team, absorb the culture and begin their training.  A players are expensive, so bosses want results immediately, to justify the big bucks they are paying them.  Fair enough, but the rest of us need to tread a different path of patience and encouragement, to gradually mould the new people into performers.


The other thing we need to do is inject ourselves into the mix and work on developing talent.  We cannot leave it all to our direct reports.  Even though we are super busy, we need to have some regular personal interaction with the new team members and need to keep close tabs on how they are going.  We need to create the time to coach them.  We cannot be there all of the time, but we have to select precise interventions to help them keep moving forward.  Maybe we can do thirty minutes early mornings, a couple of times a week, to work with them as a group. 


We also have to scale for their ability to absorb pressure.  Some are robust and others are more delicate flowers.  We need to adjust our time expectations for how long it will take to get everyone up to speed to handle the pressure to perform.  A players are already forged in the furnace of high performance, so they are application ready.  The balance of getting cash in the door every month to pay the bills and being patient with people, is a high wire act that leaders have to learnt to walk. It is easy to get this wrong and fall to your demise and see the business go backwards or even down.  There is no road map here either, because every case is different, every group of individuals is different.  You have to play the cards you can afford and not spend any time wishing to be dealt a better hand.


The country may be going to hell in a basket, but salespeople are in high demand. When hiring salespeople people, I am constantly astonished at the prices other companies will pay for a warm body.  Very challenged E players, with no experience, are getting offers that make you want to cry.  That is the market.  We are all going to be constantly faced with this struggle of how to develop people we can afford, in an already overheated hiring market, that will just get worse.  The demographics are not on the leader’s side here, as the lack of young people coming into sales drives up the price.  This will become the sales era of the C player, with intermittent light showers of B players.  Get ready for it folks.