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The Coming Extinction Of The Lone Wolf!

by David Brock on May 24th, 2010

We all know the concept of the “Lone Sales Wolf.”  That’s the person sales person that works by themselves managing the territory.  Typically, we think of them as cold calling experts, acquiring new customers, building relationships to the level needed to acquire the customer, but probably not good at building the relationships over time.  Sometimes we use the word “Hunter,” but a Lone Wolf is very different than a Hunter.  A Lone Wolf is very different from a person that sells by themselves.

Let’s remember, a Lone Wolf does not play well with others.  They are focused on their personal success and look at everything from the point of view of “What’s in it for them?”  They have no interest in anything else—their company, their team members, even their customers.  Customers are just a vehicle to produce personal income.  Personally, I’m not certain the Lone Wolf has ever had a place in professional sales, but the changes I am seeing in professional selling is rapidly driving the Lone Wolf to extinction.

In today’s world, few sales people are truly autonomous.  There are very few sales people that I can imagine can do the job by themselves.  Virtually every sales person needs tremendous support from within their own company, whether it’s other members of their team, customer service people, order management, marketing, contracts, or others.  Most sales professionals have a tremendous dependence on an internal support infrastructure to help them be successful.

In many cases, at least in my world of B2B selling, many sales people need to collaborate with partners to bring complex solutions to their customers.  It seems more and more, we cannot “go it alone.” 

More importantly, customers will drive the Lone Wolf to extinction.  While many customers may not be looking for long term relationships, they are not interested in dealing with sales people who are only interested in their personal success.  Customers are concerned about their problems and growing their businesses.  A sales person who only cares about making the deal, regardless of whether the customer really benefits, will not be successful with the “new customer.” 

Collaboration, in all its different forms, is an increasingly important part of selling.  Customers are changing the way they buy, sales professionals need to connect with customers in new and different ways.  The “new customer experience” involves many different interactions, formal and informal, with an organization.  Effective sales professionals will understand this, incorporate it into their sales strategies, and work effectively with everyone in their organization who contributes to their customers’ experiences.

Many sales people already work in some sort of team environment, managing multiple touch points and people working with their customers.  Many sales people work “by themselves,” but still need support in developing and growing customer relationships.  Sales people who cannot work collaboratively within their organizations or within their customers will not succeed.

Some might argue, Lone Wolf’s are adaptable, in order to achieve their personal objectives, they will mask their personal self-centeredness and appear to be collaborative.  It may work for a short time, but I think this is difficult to sustain–Lone Wolf’s are very transparent, it is clear to everyone what drives and motivates them.  I think over time they will become Lonely Wolves.

The Lone Wolf is fast approaching extinction.  To my mind, it’s not soon enough.

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  1. The Lone wolfs of sales do exist in many walks of marketing and sales. This is not easy to say it a right or wrong attitude or working method in short,maybe it works under some conditions,while from a long term basis the collaboration with internal colleagues and infrastructure will work better for advocating the long term deals and businesses!

    • Kevin, thanks for the comment. It may seem like I am playing with words, but a lone wolf is different than a person that sells into the territory by themselves. The latter knows they need the support of people within their organization to be effective, the former does not recognize their success is based on others in the team and is out only for him/herself. There are a lot of people that sell by themselves and do so very successfully. Lone wolves are fast becoming extinct.

      Thanks for joining the conversation. I appreciate you extending and challenging the discussion.

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