From the outside the organisation has a great brand and and displays the trappings of success. The company is keen to hire you because you are a sales gun with proven ability to meet and exceed targets. Your past sales success gives the company confidence you could be their gun.

But its a trap!

If you have not experienced a poison chalice sales job before, you will be in for a surprise. Despite being a successful sales person your cognitive bias (self-trained to downplay rejection and overplay sales success), will cause you to join an organisation where you will have a high chance of failure.

The hiring company, although a well known brand, is dying a slow death because it is trying to solve new problems with outdated strategies. A good example is the way Kodak responded to the digital camera.

The management believe in the mythology of the “Sales Gun” as the silver bullet to solve their problems.

The sales person believes her past success will almost guarantee success.

Unfortunately both are wrong.

Signs that your prospective job may be a Poison Chalice:

  • Although a dominant player, the organisation is struggling to compete with new competitors.
  • Management believe 90% of the accountability for success is with sales staff. Also known as “one throat to choke”.
  • Higher than average turnover of sales resources.
  • The same management team that achieved early success is struggling to cope with declining revenues.

My thinking on this topic has been greatly influenced by a Meetup presentation byMark Hocknell entitled Profit By Design, which shed light on how organisations can achieve better sales success through designing a profitable customer portfolio.

Mark’s approach to organisational profitability and sales success includes:

  1. Knowing your Awesome Customer
  2. Understanding the two-way Value Exchange between Buyer and Seller
  3. Deliver value to your Customer
  4. Implement the Architecture for Customer Engagement

Continuing to fire new sales people will not solve the problem.

Management needs to look inward to determine what hard choices need to be made. Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing about Hard Things, noted: There is no silver bullet that’s going to fix that. No, we are going to have to use a lot of lead bullets

Sales Guns do still exist, and with the right support from management they can turn around failing companies.