January 18, 2009

Every company wants a confident sales force. But there is a caveat. A confident sales force can be both a boon and a bane. It all depends on how the sales force is being managed. Since the line between confidence and arrogance is very thin, handling a confident sales force requires tact and a deep understanding of human psyche lest the confidence becomes hubris.

A confident sales force is generally aggressive. But at the same time, chances are high that they become complacent, particularly where they dominate the market. Complacency may not show its ugly face in good times. But in bad times as well as during changing market dynamics, this can cost a company dearly.

When confidence is a result of dominating market over a long period of time and without strong competitive pressure, it needs to be watched carefully. Any change in market dynamics, macro economic environment, or competitive pressures can result in a situation where the confidence turns into hubris and fails to understand the reality of the moment. In other words, excessive confidence in such situations results in sales force continuing to live in a world that no longer exists. As a result, despite having all the skills, expertise, and experience they fail to react to react to the changing reality and by the time they realize their arrogance, it is often too late.

This is a leadership challenge to channel the confidence of the sales force in right direction and prevent the phenomenon of confidence turning into complacency and hubris. This requires that the leader keep its sales force always on toe. This means that the leader should admire the confidence and good work of the team, but at the same time he should throw some tough challenges and assignments that keep the confidence grounded in reality and act as a wall that prevents wandering into the zone of arrogance.

Another thing a leader must do is to force the sales team to do frequent reality checks. This means overcoming the resistance of the team to probe deeper into the changing realities from different angles. Continuous hammering of reality into the minds will force a change in mindset and will ensure readiness to evaluate the changing realities in an objective and confident manner.

It is a leader's job to turn his confident sales force into an asset rather than a liability in face of changing reality.