The Money Was No Longer Enough
by Frank Lee
When I first met John, he appeared shy and reserved. This is why I was surprised to discover he was once the leading salesperson for a Texas company. He had led this company worldwide in sales, and he did it in New Zealand.
George Dudley, the pioneer of the Sales Call Reluctance Program, and I were in New Zealand on business. George had just delivered one of his spectacular speeches to a group of business executives at a breakfast meeting. They clustered around us afterward, congratulating George and asking questions. I noticed John on the fringe of the crowd. He seemed to want to talk to us but did not assert himself. He waited patiently till the crowd thinned and then came up to us, introduced himself, and asked if we would join him for coffee and a talk. George seemed relieved to be able to get away from the crowd and eagerly accepted his offer.
John ushered us out of the room to a quiet enclave in the hotel and ordered coffee. He seemed nervous but in control of himself. The story he told us sent shivers down my spine. He started out nervously, apologizing for taking our time. As his story unfolded, he became more and more intense. I could see George was caught up by his story. So was I.
This was the first time, he told us, that he understood what had happened to him. As George had described the 12 types of Sales Call Reluctances in his speech, he had seen himself in one of them and he knew, for the first time, why he had abandoned his career.
John, as I mentioned earlier, had been the top salesperson in the world for a leadership training company based in Texas. He sold more than anyone else and he did this in Auckland, New Zealand. For years, he rode the crest of the wave, collecting one award after another. The company was justifiably proud of him. They held him up as an example of what could be achieved by the rest of their salespeople. They flew him around the world to collect his numerous awards at company conventions. He won virtually every sales prize they offered. He made a great deal of money in the process. He lived the high life. He was their hero.
And then he walked. Right at the top of his sales career, he walked away from it all. His company was stunned. They tried to talk him out of leaving but without success. He shocked his friends who thought he would end up owning the company. He even stunned himself when he woke up one morning and decided he was not going to sell ever again. He did not understand his own seemingly illogical decision.
He found employment quickly as an office manager even though his income took a severe beating. This was his occupation when he met us. He had come to listen to George's speech because someone from his office had been invited and had asked him to come along as company.
Role Rejection Hit Home
When George described a call reluctance type called Role Rejection, John had become a little uneasy. He didn't like the way George seemed to be directing his discussion of this type directly at him. Then, when George talked about the QWS Syndrome (quit while succeeding), he just knew that George was talking directly to him and he was shocked. Everything George was saying on stage hit him between the eyes.
Dazed, he waited patiently to talk to us later. No wonder he had seemed shy and reserved! At last he realized what had kept him going at the top of the sales world and what finally caused him to crash and burn.
As he talked, we saw that all-too-familiar scenario unfold. We saw the revelation dawning on the salesperson and the relief to find that it had a name.
"It's strange." John told us, "Even as others were celebrating my successes, I was kind of blasé about them. I didn't feel their excitement. Toward the end, it actually hurt to get up in the morning to go and face the day. I just didn't enjoy it anymore. Actually, now that I look back, I can't remember when the last time I enjoyed it was. Then, finally, I just felt I couldn't take it any more."
"Gosh," he exclaimed. "I wish I had met you guys a few years ago!"
Quit While Succeeding (QWS)QWS affects the best performing salespeople who have deep-seated instances of Role Rejection Call Reluctance. Role Rejection Call Reluctance is one of the strangest of the 12 call reluctance types. All the others cause salespeople to avoid doing certain things and this ends up costing them money. Role Rejection often does not stop a good salesperson as long as he or she has enough motivational energy and clear goals. These salespeople can bust their way through it and continue to make sales and money. But it comes with a huge price tag. Most call reluctances rob salespeople of money. Role Rejection robs them of the pleasure they could have from making sales.
Salespeople with Role Rejection Call Reluctance are secretly ashamed of being in sales. Even though, intellectually, they have bought into the sales role, emotionally they still feel as if they are letting someone important down. Emotionally, they are a train wreck waiting to happen. When a salesperson does not have the motivational fortitude, that person's sales career is very short-lived. The emotional side wins out quickly and they find other jobs more in keeping with their own self images.
When a salesperson has strong motivational energy and clear goals, he thumps the emotional distress by forcing it to hide. Unfortunately, he doesn't kill it. These salespeople use platitudes and positive self-talk to drive their emotional distress underground. If you talk to them about their careers, they will dazzle you with their effective use of positive spin. They describe the sales profession as a noble and worthwhile place to be and will remind you that sales is really where it's all at and that everyone is a salesperson. What they don't realize is the amount of passion they put into describing a simple job is a dead giveaway as to how much Role Rejection they already have.
Secretly, they know they are pretending. They use self-help tapes and books to shore up their shaky belief in their profession. Their grim determination to succeed drives them. And they continue to succeed in sales and continue to receive the accolades of their peers and their managers. They are, after all, talented and success-driven individuals.
Then one day something extraordinary happens. Right at the pinnacles of their careers, they just simply walk away. Why? Eventually, they reach a point where the amount of money they make no longer compensates them for the emotional burden they have to carry each day. Most times, nobody close to them understands why they would give up such a lucrative career. Most times, neither do they.
Realization and UnderstandingIt was only when he heard George describe Role Rejection Call Reluctance and the QWS syndrome that John finally realized what had happened to him. He felt he had to talk to us to confirm what he now knew.
John told us that it felt as if a burden had been lifted from him. Intellectually, he had always known that he had been in a good profession. It was emotionally that he had felt beaten up. The emotions had finally won and had relegated him to an office manager position.
I don't know if he went back into sales. He said he would, but only after he fixed his call reluctance. He certainly had the character and ambition to do so. I hope he did. We need top salespeople like him to lead the way.
Are Your Top Salespeople Thinking of Leaving You?
The insurance industry is rife with role rejected salespeople. In all the studies we have done, role rejection has always shown up more frequently in the insurance industry than in other industries. Does this mean that there are a lot of conflicted salespeople in this industry? Probably. Will they all experience QWS syndrome? Probably not. It only strikes the very best salespeople. After all, you cannot "quit while succeeding" if you're not succeeding.
What does this mean? It means that there are probably a number of the best insurance salespeople who will follow John's example. If I were a sales manager in the insurance industry, I would test my top salespeople to see if I can head it off at the pass. If I found it lurking in any of my best salespeople, I would do something about it before it does something to me. It can be prevented and it can be cured. But it's almost impossible to detect without testing.
In 'The Secret Shame of Selling', I wrote about a sales manager and a salesperson with Role Rejection Call Reluctance in Washington DC. Testing had shown the salesperson to have lethal doses of Role Rejection Call Reluctance. However, in talking to the salesperson, he had fooled his manager, himself, and even me. He had appeared extremely positive and totally sold on his career. It was only when he spontaneously imploded and showed the call reluctance that we were able to help him.
We all know that being a salesperson is a worthwhile career. Some of us just don't buy into it emotionally.