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Want to Blame Salespeople? Blame This Instead…

I have a friend with a seriously obnoxious dog. The dog’s name is Riley, and when visitors come over, he gets so “riled up” that he can’t help but run outside and greet them — even if something like a screen door is in the way.

And the greeting invariably involves jumping on the visitors. And giving them kisses whether or not they appreciate them. If he sees two people hugging, he joins in, using his forelegs like arms. And if you sit down, he will sit in your lap with his face right next to yours. If he wants to play with a toy, he will beg relentlessly for you to interact with him, squeaking the squeaky toy right next to your ear. And to top it off, he chews up any shoes he can reach.

That might not sound so terrible. In fact, if Riley were the size of lap dog, some of it might be cute.

But Riley is an enormous 100-pound Irish Doodle (a cross between an Irish setter and a poodle). His head is around shoulder height for most people. When he jumps on you, he will probably knock you down. His affection is so overwhelming that sometimes he seems like a human two-year-old living in the body of a moose.

It’s easy to get angry at Riley. But it isn’t really his fault that he acts this way. His owners have let him get away with this bad behavior because they think he is adorable. And they haven’t put adequate systems in place to reward him for good behavior.

Something similar happens in the interaction between sales ops and the sales team.

No, I don’t mean that they are enthusiastically greeting you with kisses and knocking you to the floor when you arrive at work. At least, I hope not.

I mean that it’s easy to blame the salespeople when they do something wrong. Maybe they negotiate a bad deal. Maybe they are pushing the wrong products. Maybe they are going after less profitable customers. Whatever it is, it’s really easy to point fingers at the sales team as the ones who are doing things the wrong way.

But that blame is counter-productive.

You see, just like Riley the Irish Doodle, the sales team has perverse incentives that makes them do the wrong things. They are getting some sort of rewards for their behavior or they wouldn’t be doing those things.

And that means the problem isn’t really their fault. They’re just following the system as it exists. The real root causes that you need to address are your business processes, procedures, and culture that encourage the sales team to do the wrong thing.

That can be a bitter pill to swallow — especially if you had a hand in setting up those systems. But shifting the blame to the system instead of the person is also incredibly helpful, because systems are far easier to change and fix than people are.

If you’ve been blaming the salespeople for a problem that exists at your company, I’d invite you to go through the webinar on Diagnosing Sales Problems. It will help you uncover the true root cause of the issue and introduce you to a diagnostic technique that can be helpful in many different areas.

You should also take a look at the webinar on How to Optimize Your Sales Funnel. It offers tips for fixing the sales problems that you find, and it also provides some helpful guidance on how to get the most bang for your buck when making changes to your sales systems.

Blaming salespeople is all too easy. And it makes problems seem impossible to solve. But if you place the blame where it truly belongs — on the system — then you can much more easily remedy the things that are going wrong.

And now, if you need me, I’ll be shopping for a replacement for the shoes that Riley most recently chewed up — while I was wearing them.

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