I’m So Good, I’m Bad

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Now, as I ponder Michael Jackson’s, “I’m Bad” video, I’m not thinking about New York gang leaders. Feel free to listen to one of the best song/dance videos ever. While listening, ask yourself if it reminds you of anyone or any type of person you’ve known in the business world.

You can go here for the lyrics to I’m Bad, by Michael Jackson.

Who did you think of?

How about some of the best sales guys you’ve ever had! The best of the best are so good that if not corrected, they’re bad!

It can happen where you have over-confident people in your organization who are overly motivated by money to make sales. If you have a pay structure where a significant or all of a person’s income is based on sales, many employees quit sooner rather than later. But of the ones that stay, some will become strong salespeople, good salespeople. But the best of the best can become overconfident, cocky and even dangerous to the welfare of the company. Sometimes truly good people with seemingly strong ethics will reach this point if they have outside financial troubles.

These are the guys who sell termite remediation when there are no termites.
These are the guys who plant insects in people’s homes or at their doorsteps.
These are the guys who sell cleanouts in a spotless attic.
These are the guys who sell fancy systems for staying pest free when simple fixes are in order.

Sometimes the owners are in cahoots, not only supporting, but also training and encouraging the salesforce in this direction.

Any corporate sales ethics here?

Often, these guys are so good that they toy with the ethics of good business owners. These things are happening in your industry, the pest control industry and every other place where salesmen are strong to the point of overconfidence.

It's very important to watch for a stage where the salesman (or woman) becomes so overconfident that the sales come even as they become lazy. The "pretty boy" no longer thinks there is a job to do, just a con to sell. After running 5 leases with a local leasing company, I now clearly see how it's done in other industries. Often the sales person will cozy up to a homeowner or business person and gain an unimaginable level of trust, only to come down like a hammer with the big con.

Like the card shark who starts out at the table by losing, they underplay their skills, acting the nice guy. Only later you see the ulterior motive. Once I lost a large sale because, as I am sure, the customer thought she detected the con. You have to first understand that I was trained as a social worker. I am a naturally "warm, fuzzy" kind of guy. In this instance, I was selling a rodent cleanout for $14,000 for an old, dilapidated house that had been in the possession of a senile woman who had passed away. Her daughter, a psychologist from New York came back to California to settle the estate, which required cleaning out the house. After the one hour inspection and two hours communicating with the daughter and spouse who were at odds with each other on the treatment, I finally had agreement. The couple was clearly emotionally stressed. So AFTER I closed the sale, I gave the customer an emotionally supportive hug. What could I do? I'm a hugger. I hug pretty much everyone I know. But in this case, it was so over-the-top that the daughter felt she had come face to face with a con. The house really needed the work. Our pricing reflected a total attic cleanout, old insulation out, new insulation in, yard cleanup, trapping throughout the house and exclusion, plus lots of communications, pulling technicians away from other work, no sub-contractors, risk of employees coming down sick or injured (as has happened in these jobs).

I realized shortly after the sale fell through that although the sale was clean as per my values, that even I was capable of going over the top with appeals based on trust that has not yet been fully earned – and more importantly, must be reinforced with every action.

In the course of developing a great sales force, you will come across sales people that are so good, they're bad salespeople. They will test your ethics because every business likes to make money. Whether you are a mom and pop operation or the Terminix' of the world (substitute Ford, GM, Toyota if you will), no matter what your corporate culture or values, cash flow is the lifeblood of the business enterprise. These bad guys can seem to be the lifeblood of your company and can if not stopped take over the entire mode of operation and eventually end up in charge.

You need to be willing to look seriously at the behavior of your top sales people and qualify those sales. You need to get into the field and examine what is being sold. The opposite problem comes from simply incompetent salespeople who have no concept of cost and under-price everything. But this is not what I am talking about here or want you to conclude. I am talking about good people, good pest control people who know their jobs but shortcut their ethics to meet their goals.

There are many ethical questions every day out in the field and only you can determine fair value for fair price and profit. Should this get out of hand, you will find customers leaving, reneging on contracts, filing complaints and lawsuits. Sooner or later you will need to bite the bullet and turn back revenue improperly earned. Don't wait so long that the evidence is gone. Get your body out into the field where the action happens, "real-time." Don't fall in love with your sales people. Reward them, thank them and run quality checks not just on the final results but to detect if the work was ever justified to begin with.

Don't let these bad boys subvert your organization and your business ethics. Don't compromise for the almighty dollar.

Quality workmanship is a lasting gift of company goodwill. This must start with quality, ethical sales.

(Please, if you where intrigued by or liked this post, share your thoughts here and virally with your friends and associates).

3 Responses to I’m So Good, I’m Bad

  1. R says:

    Ill gotten sales are much like the legal concept of evidence, that is of course the fruit of the poison tree. I’ve found that more often then not, poorly sold accounts come back to bite you in a number of ways.
    The staff of sales people need a balence where great preformance can intersect with quality work. Yes, confidence, cockyness, pride, all of these all well documented that if unchecked they become liabilities. But a healthy amount becomes the drive win where others will fall. This podcast I listened to during a recent workday discussed this, the simple act of telling yourself you are better than the next guy has measurable effect (http://www.radiolab.org/2008/mar/10/).
    But you can never survive on poison fruit for long. Customers need to be brought into the company with tidy paperwork and well informed by their techs. In the pursuit of sales, quality is not something we can overlook. We may end up paying a bit more in time and effort up front but a long term relationship with customers who are appriciative of what we do for them is a fruit you can live on.

  2. keith says:

    There are the BAD and the GOOD and in the BIG picture I think those companies are the ones that prosper and gain new for life customers. You are always going to get the salesmen that think they are perfect but they will quickly see that they are not and those sales will bite them sooner or later – Karma. Great information

  3. Gerry says:

    Keith, thank you so much for sharing. You are right – karma follows you. It’s important not to be discouraged by those salespeople who ding your reputation. Just identify them as early as possible, dissipline or get rid of them, learn from the experience and train for excellence, so that the company overcomes the issue and can move forward.

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