In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic book The Scarlet Letter the main character, Hester Prynne is forced to wear a Scarlet A on her breast to (wrongfully) label her as an adulterer. Unfortunately sales managers do the same thing, at least in their mind, with the Scarlet Letter P. The P stands for potential.
There are many ways to frustrate your sales manager. The one that frustrates me the most is talking about someone’s potential.
Talking about someone’s potential doesn’t frustrate me when that candidate is in the interview process. In fact, I love the thrill of discussing with my team the potential of that high-potential, world-changing, rain-making recruit I just interviewed. At this point we are in the honeymoon phase. Everything about that person looks shiny, new, and full of promise. More than once I’ve literally said, “If a guy/gal like that can’t make it in our business, I give up!”
First Warning Signs
I don’t mind talking about someone’s potential during their first few days and even their first couple of weeks. We are just starting to get to know each other and often times they are still transitioning from their previous job or life change. I get it. There are still a lot of lose ends to wrap up. But when they are working….”MAN are they brilliant!” Once they can really buckle down and work full-time on this VB thing, they are going to KILL it!!!
Descent Into Anonymity
At about the three-week mark, the bloom is coming off the rose. I’m tired of discussing their potential. To be clear here, I’m not talking about someone who is doing the right things but is getting off to a slow start as it pertains to results. I will put my money on that person all day, every day. I’m talking about the person that is finding creative ways to avoid the activity necessary for success. I start to notice that they are still “wrapping things up” and getting “organized.” They seem to always have an excuse as to why they can’t make the Monday Morning Meeting, or need to skip out early from the role playing. It’s also at this point when I usually notice that instead of “sparing me their creativity” and attacking the small groups like I have told them repeatedly, they are asking questions like, “Would you be willing to cost-share an add on cable t.v.?” or “Has anyone at this company ever approached Home Depot? I was there last weekend and I got into a great discussion with the store manager. He wants me to drop off some stuff so that he can send it up the chain. Do you have time today to help me write a cover letter?” The reason I titled the subheading Descent Into Anonymity it that if they don’t get these habits turned around quickly, I won’t remember their names a year from now. They will have gotten a J.O.B. by then.
Can They Recover?
If the leadership team and I are still talking about someone’s potential past three weeks, it is because they don’t have any results for us to discuss instead. I have hired and trained over 2,000 VB agents in my career, and I can think of nothing more tragic than continuing to talk about someone’s potential more than three weeks from their start date. The fact is that once that label of unrealized potential is slapped on someone, it is hard to get it off. And even if that recruit starts to listen, and finally begins to do the activity necessary for success, the stench and stigma of the Scarlet P lingers.
There is a great video featuring Art Williams (watch it here) where he challenges the audience to, “Do It!” At one point he mentions that people come up to him with all sorts of excuses as to why they haven’t been successful yet, despite their high potential. I don’t know Art, but I’m guessing from his response to these people he is as frustrated about discussing someone’s potential as I am.
Conclusion: How do you avoid the Scarlet P? By giving your leadership team something else to talk about like:
- Your work ethic.
- How you are front-and-center at every meeting/training.
- Your daily preparation.
- Your attitude.
- Your high energy level.
- Your results.
- The fact that you are “Doing it!”
Questions: Are you guilty of not living up to your potential? If so, why? More importantly; what are you going to do to get rid of the lingering stench and stigma of the Scarlet P?!?!