How Human Are You? Prioritizing People Over Profits
By John Waid
At work do you care more about profits or people? In sales, are you and the company more interested in making quota than taking care of the customer?
If you’re being honest, business today is about profits over people and quotas over customers. So what is missing in people that keeps them from striking a balance to make companies and sales more human? Have we lost our humanity? If so, how do we regain it?
The intense pressure in companies for short-term gains leads to a focus on profits over people. That focus on profits leads to selecting people who will generate them. Managers generate profits in the short term so they’re placed in leadership positions. These results-oriented managers squeeze the people to generate profits, which can lead to the dehumanization of organizations.
It’s estimated that 95% of businesses would experience huge advantages by injecting some humanity into their operations. Take for example a company that was doing really well with its employees and profits and decided it needed to undergo a higher rate of growth. The top decision-makers installed a tyrannical micro manager to lead the business with a finance person as second in charge. The decisions the company made started to change. They started to cut benefits like Christmas parties and incentive trips, and began to see people as numbers in a spreadsheet instead of creators of value. This led to the best people leaving, and instead of viewing this as a warning sign, they saw it as a great gift as they could replace these people with others who were younger and cheaper. People became expendable.
What has this change for the sake of growth caused? The company is now half the size it was in profits, earnings, and people, with previously valued employees departing in droves. This company went from great to mediocre by bleeding out the humanity. The lesson learned should be that if you remove the humanity out of a company, the humanity will leave, literally; and by the way, so will the profits.
Here are a few practical ways to bring the humanity and profits into balance.
1. Live the people-first mentality. Understand that no matter what business you are in, you are really in the people business. Focus on employees first, customers second, and profits third for more profits.
2. Focus on the values and behaviors (culture) of your people and hire and fire for it. Select people for attitude, and train for aptitude. Become a culture-driven company.
3. Remember that business success is all about people and how they behave. Provide a transcendent purpose (other than money) and let this and your culture drive you. Your employees will serve your customers, and your customers will buy more.
How human are salespeople?
There is a classic joke that goes like this: “How can you tell when a salesperson is lying? His/her lips are moving.” Salespeople have gained one of the most inhuman reputations out there. The barrage of unsolicited phone calls these days continues to erode the reputation of the sales profession. One of the Nobel Prize winners of 2018 in Economics did not answer the phone call from the Nobel Committee that called to congratulate him because he thought it was a sales call and did not want to answer it.
To some, salespeople are viewed as not just inhuman, but subhuman. To make this worse, most of the sales training that salespeople receive is based on processes that make the whole thing feel “robotic.” So where has the trust and humanity gone? Squeezing salespeople with sky-high quotas that force them to do everything under the sun (including even unethical things) further erodes their reputation. Wouldn’t it be nice for the entire sales industry to undergo a transformation based on humanity and for customers to once more see sales associates as friends not foes?
In order for this to occur, salespeople should be trained based on values and behaviors (a sales culture) that makes them pay attention to being human beings first and of helping people to buy (not sell) second. Stop the sales process trainings that further erase the humanity out of an already highly dehumanized profession. On top of that, you should train the sales managers to also coach and lead their culture-driven sales force. The leaders of a sales force at a large company decided it would be a good idea to yell and scream at their salespeople to meet objectives that were set way too high. The lack of humanity in the managers led to the best people leaving the company. The politics also started to get out of control as less-qualified people were promoted to fill the spaces of the excellent salespeople who had left. Today, this company is suffering from a profit and morale problem that will not be solved until they retrain or fire the inhuman managers, bring back the humanity, and focus on people first and profits second.
Here are some tips for sales forces to become more human and also produce more growth and profits.
1. Sales managers (who are already good at holding people accountable) should also focus on leading and coaching. Focus on creating a sales culture vs. just sales processes and strategies that do not necessarily create best-practice habits. Become a culture-driven sales force to instill best-practice habits in your salespeople.
2. Focus on coaching your salespeople and encouraging them with specific praise, and dramatically minimize the urge to just talk quotas. Focus on efforts to get better results. The more you praise efforts and results, the less you will have to reprimand.
3. Salespeople are humans. Treat them that way and emphasize that they treat their customers that way. Customers want to buy from salespeople they like and who care about them. Respect, trust, support, fun, and other values should be emphasized and practiced.
So how human are you?
Be honest and see if you too have lost humanity and need to bring life back in to balance your business and sales force. Become more conscious that you are human for a reason and remember that this very humanity is at the core of what makes your company and sales force great. Start focusing on culture as much as you do on strategy, structure, and processes for better results with people and profits.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker, and author of the book “Reinventing Ralph.” With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales, and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer, and subject-matter expert, John holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit www.corporatecultureconsulting.com.