Often, I read and hear, “Sales people are inherently lazy…..” Perhaps, I’m looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but I believe most sales people want to do the right things. The problem is, too often, they just don’t know what the right things are.

It’s hard to be lazy and be successful in selling, after all, selling is one of the toughest professions in business. Sales people face more “no’s” than “yes’s” everyday. They have to constantly focus on finding new deals, developing new relationships, working on current deals, coordinating resources both within their own companies and with their partners and customers.

I don’t think the majority of sales people are lazy. But I think there are things management let’s happen that create the perception of laziness. A few of these things are:

  1. Having the wrong people in the job in the first place. People who shouldn’t be sales people, who shouldn’t be sales people with a particular company tend struggle. They often don’t have the abilities to do the things that drive success. As a result they may be perceived as lazy and/or incompetent. This isn’t a sales person problem, it’s a sales management problem for hiring the wrong people in the first place.
  2. Not teaching/coaching people on what the right things are. If the sales people don’t know the best ways to prospect, if they don’t know the sweet spot, if they don’t know how to qualify, if they don’t know how to put together and execute strong deal strategies, if they don’t know how to understand what customers value and create differentiated value, if they don’t know how to help the customer move through their buying process to making a decision, they can be perceived as lazy. They are doing the things they know, not necessarily what drives the highest success. It’s management’s responsibility to provide the training, systems, processes, and tools to help sales people not only understand the right things to do, but to execute. It’s management’s responsibility to continue to coach people, making sure they understand the right things to do.
  3. Letting them take shortcuts or do things that are ineffective. Smart people will tend to look for short cuts. They have a natural tendency to look for the easy way to do things. In some sense, this is a great characteristic. If the shortcuts or the “easy” methods produce the outcomes we want, they can become best practice. But it’s when these things don’t produce the desired outcomes that cause them to be problems. We see it every day, people not following the sales process, not preparing adequately for the call, not taking the time to understand the customer problem. It’s management’s responsibility to watch for these things, to make sure they don’t become bad or unproductive habits, to correct them through coaching.
  4. Not clearly defining performance expectations and holding people accountable for meeting performance expectations. This is related to the previous point. Too many sales people don’t have clearly defined performance expectations and the appropriate metrics/goals. As a result, they don’t have a framework in which to evaluate what whether they are doing the right things. Again, it’s incumbent for management to define these expectations, coach people in how they can more effectively meet those expectations.
  5. Having unrealistic or too many expectations, or having a program du jour approach to selling. Too many organizations operate in a real or “psuedo” crisis mode. There are constant shifts in priorities. The things that were important yesterday are not longer important today, those that are important today will not be important tomorrow. People get confused, they don’t know what they should be doing because it’s constantly changing. Faced with this, people tend to hunker down, usually continuing to do what they have done, consequently appearing lazy because they aren’t responding to management’s whim.
  6. Having no understanding of why they are doing what they are being asked to do. We hire sales people who are supposedly smart, action oriented, and want to achieve. As self directed people, they need to understand the context and the why of what they are doing. They need to know how to connect the dots between what they are being asked to do and how it helps them achieve their goals. For example, “Why are you asking me to make 50 prospecting calls a day?” “Why are you asking me to spend my time on these tools?” They have to know how what they do contributes to the team’s goals, and the overall organizational goals. Sales people are no different than anyone else, they want to “belong” and if they don’t know how what they do helps the organization, they don’t understand why they should do it. As a result, they may not do the things they should be doing and appear lazy.

I’ll stop here, but there are many other examples of where sales people can be perceived as lazy.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some lazy sales people. But it’s less their issue than it is a management issue.

“Laziness” occurs in an organization because management lets it happen, or unwittingly cause it to happen. Engaged, motivated sales people who understand the right things to do, why they are the right things; who have the systems, tools, processes, programs, training, and ongoing coaching will never be lazy.

Laziness is not a sales person issue, it’s a management issue. Lazy sales organization exist because of bad management. The way you fix lazy sales organization is by fixing management.