Reactive Salespeople, Pro-Active Salespeople And Vilfredo Pareto

Jonathan Farrington

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In 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that twenty percent of the people owned eighty percent of the wealth. In the late 1940s, Dr. Joseph M. Juran inaccurately attributed the 80/20 Rule to Pareto, calling it Pareto's Principle. While it may be misnamed, Pareto's Principle or Pareto's Law as it is sometimes called, can be a very effective tool to help us manage efficiently but it can also be applied to virtually every facet of our lives

A New Management Theory:

There is a management theory that proposes to interpret Pareto's Principle in such a way as to produce what is called Top Gun Management. Those advocating this theory suggest that since 20 percent of salespeople produce 80 percent of a company’s results, sales managers should focus their limited time on managing only that 20 percent, the so-called “superstars”. In my opinion the theory is seriously flawed, because it overlooks the fact that 80 percent of our time should be spent doing what is really important and that includes developing all of our people. Helping the good to become better is much more important than helping the great become terrific.

When we work to develop our subordinates, we should be concentrating on converting what I term, the “reactive mindset” because we can certainly apply Pareto’s Principle to reactive versus pro-active. Or, to describe these two mindsets in a different way: The “running towards” mindset and the “running away” mindset. Let me provide you with an example:

The “Running Away” Personality:

The “running away” salesperson is awoken by his alarm clock and he immediately hits the “snooze” button. Ten minutes later, the buzzer goes off again. “Just ten more minutes” he says to himself, “I won’t go for a run today” and he again activates his friend, Mr Snooze. This happens three more times and each time he determines that he will skip a vital activity in order to enjoy a few more minutes slumber – he has already decided to skip breakfast and he will shave in the car on the way to the office. Finally, a full hour after his first alarm call, he leaps out of bed, the image of his boss standing outside his office door, purple with rage at his continual poor time keeping, is just too horrible to contemplate and it acts as his spur.

So what actually happened here? Well, if we apply Pareto’s Principle, we identify that approximately 80% of the world’s population fall into the “running away” category including professional salespeople. That is to say that they do things not because they planned to do them or that they want to do them but rather that they fear the consequences of not doing them. They drift through life, as I have said often enough before, like “rudderless boats” completely at the mercy of the currents. They never go beyond the first few stages of Maslow’s “Hierarchy Of Needs” and certainly “self-fulfilment” is completely out of reach for them because they either lack the courage, or the commitment required, or quite simply they lack the energy. After all, it is nice and cosy in the comfort zone isn’t it?

As someone famously once said: “Some people make things happen whilst others just stand and watch what happens” My take on that is: “A few people make things happen, others just watch what happens, but the vast majority wonder what the heck happened!” (But “heck” is not the word I usually use!”) The “running away” mindset falls into the last category.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin, let’s see how a “running towards” personality handles their relationship with their alarm clock.

The “Running Towards” Personality:

To begin with, our “running towards” salesperson has invested some of their time the previous evening preparing for the next day: The suit has been pressed, shoes cleaned, notes prepared for those important meetings, in fact all of the next day’s objectives have been thoroughly rehearsed mentally and planned for.

When the alarm clock goes off, our “running towards” typically awakes refreshed and completes their final preparations for the day. They have plenty of time for exercising, for bathing, and to eat a proper breakfast with their family – they are in control. They arrive at the office before most of their colleagues, (80% of whom arrive at 8.55 am – just in time, because they fear the consequences of being late!) so that they can respond to e-mails and attend to essential administrative tasks which would otherwise take up valuable “business time”. Life for these people appears effortless, relatively stress free, because they have made it that way, they are busy working at self-fulfilment as they have no need to worry about shelter, security and the like.

These people are”Winners”

The “Winners In Life”

“Winners in life constantly think in terms of I can, I will and I am. Losers on the other hand concentrate their waking thoughts on what they should have done or what they don’t do” - Dennis Waitley

Can we all become “Winners”? Yes, of course we can. We cannot have everything we want in life but we can have anything that we really want, because if we want it badly enough we will find the means to bring about its happening – this is called “fulfilled expectation”

Unfortunately, most people when asked don’t really know what they want from life. Some talk vaguely about success without being able to articulate precisely what success means for them. I have heard many interpretations of the word but the one I still like the best comes from Earl Nightingale: “Success is the achievement of a worthwhile goal or set of goals”

Therein lies the secret – in order to be successful, to become a “Winner in life” we must have goals.

This extract from “Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland” accurately illustrates my point.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, ” said the Cheshire Cat

“I don’t much care where” said Alice

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, ” said the Cat

“– So long as I get somewhere, ” Alice added as an explanation

“Oh, you’re sure to do that” said the Cat “If you only walk long enough. ”

Lewis Carroll

In Summary:

Each of us has the choice, we can choose to be successful – however we measure success - or we can choose not to be. But if we really do want a more fulfilling and satisfying life – more happiness, greater security, improved health, the means to help others, then we have to accept full responsibility for ensuring we have a rudder on our boat and work to the maxim: “If it’s to be, it’s up to me”

Copyright © 2007 Jonathan Farrington. All rights reserved

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