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Why I Love Lazy Sales People!

by David Brock on February 14th, 2011

I love lazy sales people!  Actually, let me clarify, I love lazy sales people who consistently achieve their goals and objectives.  Every organization has one or two of them, we know how to recognize them.  They’re the folks that never seem to be in a hurry, they seem to have time on their hands.  When management announces a new initiative, they probably whine and complain—but just the appropriate amount.  They may occasionally blow off internal meetings, they may not do all the reporting that’s asked of them, they may do the minimum to skate by.  They certainly never volunteer for that extra assignment.

But somehow, year in year out, they achieve their goals and objectives.  They may not blow away the numbers, but they always find a way to make them.  It’s a mystery, it frustrates managers–“Why can’t I get them to work hard?”, and their peers scratch their heads saying, “How do they do it?”

And that’s why I love them!  How do they do it? It’s the key question and one of the clues to sales performance management.

See lazy sales people who consistently make their goals, have distilled things to the essence.  They have a process that enables them to achieve their goals.  They’ve determined just what they need to do to achieve their goals, eliminating all the stuff that doesn’t make sense.  Sure they blow off some reports, but they know they can get away with it because management really doesn’t pay attention to the reports.  Sure they take some short cuts here and there, but they know what’s critical to getting the job done.  They know how to work with customers, not wasting their time on things that don’t matter, doing only what’s necessary to get the order. 

Lazy sales people who make their goals don’t waste time and don’t let others waste their time.  Lazy sales people give us the best clues to building efficiency and effectiveness in our sales organizations.  They focus on those things that really matter.  Somehow, when we don’t look at what they do, we have a tendency of making things too complicated.  We toss in all sorts of stuff that seems nice, that may even seem important.  High performing, very busy sales people are great sources of insight, but sometimes they just tend to muscle through things.  They may not be the most efficient, but through long hours and dedication, they do well.  We can learn a lot from these people, but I think we really can learn a lot from successful lazy sales people.

No, we don’t want to model all their behaviors, we don’t want them to be role models.  As role models, people will get the lazy part down, but not the “meet goals and objectives” part down.  The things that lazy sales people tell us is what’s really important in the job.  Not only how to execute the sales process most efficiently, but also how to respond to all the other things expected of sales people.   They focus on doing the things that matter.  As we try to simplify and get to those things that have the greatest impact on our sales results, these lazy sales people give us the best insights.  It’s provides a great starting point, but not the complete answer.

Some of you might be saying, “Dave, I hear you, but they’re lazy, they could do so much more!  We have to stop them from being lazy.”  I agree, but this is pretty easy, all you do is raise the bar–set higher goals and objectives.  They’ll always figure out a way to achieve the goals–not dramatically over perform, but just barely achieve the goals.

Some of you might say, but Dave, these people really aren’t lazy–they’re just smart.  I absolutely agree, you have to be very smart and very good to be a successful lazy sales person.  We can learn a lot from them.

Are you leveraging the lazy sales people in your organization?

Reminder:  Our Friday Office Hours at Future Selling Institute are becoming very exciting with great discussions on issues critical to sales leaders.  This Friday, February 18, 2011, at 1:00 EST,  we will be tackling the conroversial  topic of “Coaching Approaches and Communications Styles.”  Make sure you reserve your space in the discussion, “seats” are limited, so Enroll Today!

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15 Comments
  1. B2B_Exec permalink

    Basically what you’re saying is they’re paid to do a job and they do it. They’re not paid to look busy or sit in a chair. Why is this such a difficult concept for some managers?

    • Actually, Laura, they go further, they do it extremely efficiently—eliminating everything that doesn’t make a difference. Most managers don’t get this. Thanks for joining the discussion.

  2. Hi David – Great post!
    Which one would you pick the one that Lazy making the numbers or the one that is working hard, trying it with all his/her will – and barely meets the numbers?

    I realize most people are average and ordinary, the top doers make things happen and are self motivated (as Welch said ) we should get out their way and let them perform, however most people 70% are average and need help, as a manager you have to deal with this fact.

    • Juan, naturally a manager is responsible for helping everyone achieve the highest level of performance.

      The reason I like lazy sales people who make their numbers is not because they are lazy, but somehow they have found out what is most critical and have eliminated everything that is not important. Thanks for continuing to contribute.

  3. Wow David, this is clearly one of your best posts!

    I know these people!! I keep wondering to myself why I cant fire them. Why? Because each quarter and every year they always just make it. Which makes the two that I have my steady Eddy’s! Thats what I call them now. I would never get rid of my SE’s they’re the most reliable efficient people I have. They’re exactly how you describe, horrible at reporting, pathetic at team work, even worse at meetings and frankly both of them need to see the inside of a gym. On the flip side both are amazingly efficient and they’ve silently taught me something incredible!

    Stop impeding sales people with technology like extra reporting in “crystal reports” which links to your CRM system that everyone hates. Stop making them come to meetings at any other time besides Monday morning. Stop bugging them with stupid we know best because my boss told me so and marketing made this cool brochure.

    Well that might be a bit over the top but I think everyone here gets the point.

    On that note I have to go and plead with my two “Steady Eddy’s” to hand in there sales numbers immediately and if I dont walk down there and ask personally the numbers mysteriously get lost in cyberspace.

    • David, thanks for the nice compliment and for joining the discussion. “Lazy sales people” are interesting, not because they are lazy, but because they have found out what is most critical for performance. What they do/don’t do gives us some hints at simplifying the business and improving overall productivity and results.

      While we don’t want to model their behavior, they give us important clues to help improve overall productivity–your point on reports illustrates it precisely.

      Thanks for your comments, I hope to see you commenting here very frequently!

      • Thank you and yes I will try and post often. I want to make this year about learning from more experienced people like yourself. Articulating myself with posts is how I have chosen to do so. I am hoping this benefits others as additionally.

  4. George Blasingame permalink

    Lazy sales people work smart, the rest work hard – or claim to!

  5. That is just crazy! We also have a couple of those lazy sales people and they are one of my closest friends. Whatever they try to say about how they do it, i just can’t imitate their process. Something really is special in them when it comes to efficiency.

  6. Kayu permalink

    Worked in a media company once that had been successful for 30 years then for various reasons corporate-type consultants began to be brought in. One successful account manager who had been there for years got fired by these consultants (there were others but that is a different story) because he dressed the way he wanted, never attended meetings, had a “bad attitude” (meaning he stood up for himself and what he believed) and drank at lunch (often with clients) and would often smell of booze when he returned. He also always made his numbers. Always. After his departure it became evident how important it was to have an account manager who would make the effort to drink and schmooze with clients in a non-corporate, “non-professional” manner: revenue from his former clients began to dry up and the company went into bankruptcy.

    • Thanks for the interesting illustration Kayu. While I’m not sure I’d like to model his behaviors for the rest of the organization, the part that you would want to model is the ability to develop and maintain the rich relationships he was able to maintain.

      The thing about “lazy people” who make the number is they have broken part of the code–it’s that part that we want to understand, model and leverage. We don’t want to model the other pieces of their behavior.

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