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    How Important Are Personal Rights in the Sales Profession?

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    I recently read a rant on LinkedIn about rights versus responsibility. The author was complaining that we’ve gone too far in the workplace toward emphasizing personal rights, and forgotten that people have responsibilities as well.

    I thought about it, and I don’t agree with everything the author said, but I do agree that a functioning society, and a functioning company, require both rights and responsibilities. Individuals within a company have a right to fair compensation, fair treatment, and to have a life outside of work.

    But they also have a responsibility to contribute to the team, to do the work they’ve been paid to do, and to align with the mission of the organization they’ve joined. When these things get out of balance, it leads to poor life and work results.

    You see this quite a lot in the sales profession, where individual salespeople, sales managers, and even companies get caught up in what salespeople have a right to, and forget that they also have responsibilities. Here’s how I see rights versus responsibilities in the sales profession.

    Salespeople Have a Responsibility to Contribute to the Team

    Some people get into the sales profession because they want to make a lot of money, and they don’t see much beyond that. They become wrapped up in their right to work the way they want to, when they want to, and how they want to.

    This can mean that they hoard their contact lists, withhold information from others, and insist on behaving however pleases them. They may refuse to follow standard process, fail to enter information into the CRM, and treat their teammates like the enemy instead of allies. Many companies put up with this behavior from “superstar” salespeople who bring in a lot of sales, because they think that the money outweighs the toxic behavior.

    Leadership needs to to foster an environment in which rights and responsibilities are in balance.

    In reality, even when the salesperson is individually “successful,” this way of behaving is harmful to them, to their customers, and to the company. By hoarding information and contacts, salespeople lose the opportunity to collaborate with teammates, strategize approaches, and work with the customer in a coordinated fashion. Additionally, salespeople lose the opportunity to share best practices and learn from each other to improve overall performance. They also forgo the opportunity for effective coaching.

    This attitude of hoarding and avoiding accountability reflects an imbalance between rights and responsibilities. Salespeople have a right to fair compensation and to respect and rewards for their hard work and high performance. But they also have a responsibility to align with the company’s WAY of selling and doing business, as well as to collaborate with their teammates to improve the overall performance of the team.

    Sales Managers Have a Responsibility to Put the Team First

    Another problem we often see in rights vs responsibilities is when superstar salespeople get promoted to sales manager… and never learn to focus anywhere other than their own performance.

    Companies who promote this way assume that if a salesperson knows how to sell, that means they can teach and manage others to sell. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The mindset of the manager matters every bit as much as the skills. Sales managers must learn to rise above “I must be the hero” to “I’m responsible for team success.”

    A sales manager has a responsibility beyond simply being a “team player” to be a team leader. And team leadership means putting the team above the individual. They must learn to stop prioritizing their own pipeline and focus on helping their teams get better. They must learn to coach and to prioritize coaching.

    When a sales manager shifts focus to team success, and when salespeople shift focus from hoarding to sharing, then truly spectacular outcomes can be achieved. Salespeople start sharing information and collaborating on sales, managers start coaching to the strengths of individuals, and processes get built and best practices shared across the organization to continually improve the overall performance of the team.

    Sales Organizations Have a Responsibility to Support the Full Team, Not Just the Superstars

    In the end, it is the job of the organization’s leadership to foster an environment in which rights and responsibilities are in balance. To provide support for all team members in terms of fair compensation, fair treatment, and reasonable access to resources, as well as life outside of work.

    But they also have a responsibility to hold individuals accountable to the team’s culture, mission, and values. Organizations that allow “superstars” to behave badly, hoard information, or violate team values are fostering an environment where no one can succeed.

    Organizations have a responsibility to support all of their team members through effective strategies and processes, best practice sharing, supportive frameworks and systems, and solid coaching.

    What do you think? Are rights and responsibilities balanced within your sales organization? How important is it?

    George Brontén
    Published May 10, 2023
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn