Debunking the Myth of the One-Man Wolf Pack

Quick—what image pops into your head when you think of the word salespeople? Chances are you get something more like salesperson, and then multiply it. This is a problem.

The popular concept of a salesperson is very much a single person exerting individual effort. While their activities benefit the organization as a whole, they operate alone and compete for commissions. To succeed, you must be a solo hunter. A lone wolf.

Bollocks to that. In nature, a lone wolf is usually a dead wolf. Wolves are pack hunters; they share the effort of chasing their prey until it’s exhausted and on unfavorable ground, then they team up for the kill. A single wolf is a nearly full-time scavenger under ideal conditions, and isn’t likely to survive without a pack. Two or three wolves working together can bring down an animal much larger than the two of them combined, and wolves typically run with much larger numbers than that.

It’s no different in the modern sales environment (except for the exhaustion and the killing; most companies frown on that sort of thing). The salesperson who tries to go it alone, rather than learn from the wolves and rely on the support of the pack, is hurting the organization as well as himself or herself in the long run.

[pullquote]In nature, a lone wolf is usually a dead wolf. Make sure your sales team is working together to make the sale. Tweet this![/pullquote]

In some ways, the job of sales has gotten easier since the Internet came along. Potential customers educate themselves on the pros and cons of your product or service, and might know them better than you do. While this removes a lot of the repetitive and less rewarding parts of the job, it also adds a new challenge: breaking through prospects’ preconceived notions.

The art of the sale really comes into play when the seller helps the prospect realize that the product on offer is the right fit. A self-educated customer might have taken you out of the running before you even know you’ve been considered, and it might be due to a mistake on their part or some confusing language in your online documentation. But some marketing automation tools can reveal those customers, then hand them over to the sales team to start a more personal sales process.

Notice how I said sales team, not salesperson. While it’s still a good idea to have one person as the primary contact, there’s no reason for that person to operate alone. Whether it’s sharing ideas on how to tackle particular problems, tagging in when the primary isn’t available, or providing some other kind of aid and support, a true team approach makes more money for the company by applying maximum effort to every prospect. It also makes more money for the salespeople, because compensation management tools can handle even the most complex commission equations. You do the work, you get the credit.

Think about the famous Alec Baldwin scene from Glengarry Glen Ross. You know the one. He was only in one scene, and if you sell for a living, you know that scene better than you know your parents. Baldwin’s character was challenging those three salesmen with a competition, where the third-place finisher would be fired. What would have happened if they pooled their resources and managed a three-way tie? And what if they worked like that all the time?

You can choose the competitive, high pressure environment, or you can choose the collaborative, mutually supportive environment. It all depends on what kind of wolf you are: the smart pack member or the starving loner.

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