Common goals bring us closer together whereas individual goals drive division.
This post isn’t about sales people, but they illustrate the point nicely. I have encountered salesmen who understand that sales in service of the company is a very difficult and delicate balance to strike. I want to use the other kind of sales people to illustrate my point. The kind that sells just to close the deal. The kind that doesn’t look beyond the next bonus. The kind that only has the quarterly or yearly quota as goal. The kind that doesn’t look to the rest of the company to see whether they can keep up or worse, the kind that sells solutions to customers without really investigating their needs. Each type hurts the company in their own way.
In my current company, last year, sales sold 40% more solutions than the year before. The development department could barely keep up the pace and it lead to a lot of late nights and weekend work. The organisation was not prepared for such a surge in work.
This isn’t the first time I have seen the sales department get ahead of themselves. In previous companies I worked with clients that needed a very different solution than what was sold to them. In the end, I left most of them with a solution that would solve their problem for the most part. If somebody with technical knowledge was present during the sales process, I’m sure I could have helped those companies a lot better.
On one occasion, I have been on a consultancy interview where skills were added to my resume. When that possible client started talking about those skills, I had to stop them and explain the situation. That didn’t go down well with the client because he thought he was talking with somebody that had experience with the technology he requested. Unfortunately, I never found out who had altered my CV, but I did tell everybody that I would not play that game.
What I believe is at the core of the problem is the bonuses sales people still get on each contract sold or when certain goals are met. If single people or teams within an organisation are rewarded, then this will create an unhealthy atmosphere of competition where teams will only look inward and try to accomplish only their task without looking at the rest of the company. If the production department can’t keep up with what sales has sold, then it will most likely be the production department that will get scolded. Why isn’t the sales team held responsible for selling more than what they knew the production department could produce.
I’m advocating to get rid of that system. Give sales people a normal pay and a bonus when the company wide goal is met. Profit sharing is a normal practice in companies who reward their employees when a certain profit margin is accomplished. This removes the individual reward when a single person or team inside a company is successful and promotes a more equal reward system. Either we accomplish something together or we fail together.
This will help reduce inefficiencies. If production can’t keep up with sales, then sales can reduce the number of products or projects sold. The reverse is also true. A production department that can easily maintain it’s quota won’t be compelled to report this. Thus denying the sales department to sell more. With profit sharing, all departments have an incentive to report actual, competitive numbers to drive growth. Because if there is greater profit, everybody wins.
This way, all departments have to work together to a common goal, rather than individual goals. Collaboration is what brings us together and makes us better.