Salespeople like stories, yes? Here is a fun little parable about the 3 fruit pickers, and it goes something like this. There once was an orchard filled with beautiful ripe fruits. Apples, pears, peaches, cherries and nectarines. Anyone was welcome to come and pick as much as they liked from this orchard, so a manager came and brought his 3 best fruit pickers. He sent them into the orchard and simply told them that he wanted as many fruits as possible and to bring back the fruits at the end of the day. Take as many baskets as you like.
The first picker returned from the field early and showed the manager the two baskets she had filled, of which she was quite pleased. The manager asked why she had returned so soon when there was more fruit to be picked. ‘I brought you nice baskets full of fruit, are you not pleased?’ The manager showed her that there were other trees to pick from. ‘That’s enough fruit as far as I am concerned’, said the fruit picker, ‘why should I pick more if I am happy with two baskets full? You didn’t expect to pick more than I needed, did you?’
The second picker returned from the field to the manager and showed him the one basket of fruit he had harvested. The manager asked why he only filled one basket. ‘I picked all the lowest ones I could reach on each tree, are you not pleased?’ The manager pointed to the fruits higher up in the tree. They were bigger and more desirable. ‘But I really don’t want to jump or climb that high,’ said the fruit picker, ‘it’s too hard. You didn’t really expect me to risk falling, did you?’
The third picker came back with only half of his basket filled. He tried to hide his shame when the manager asked why he didn’t even fill one basket. ‘There were too many others picking the really good fruits from the trees. I was afraid that the competing pickers would hurt me if I took fruit they thought belonged to them. I just gathered a few I could find on the ground.’ The manager told him to ignore the competing pickers and to return to the field. ‘It is too hard and I am too afraid of them’ said the picker, ‘Isn’t half of a basket enough? Did you really expect me to compete with other fruit pickers?’
What’s the moral of the story? Salespeople are motivated differently than managers. Without structure, goals and direction, salespeople will always succumb to their own biases and desires. They will fill their baskets in a way that suits them best (working the compensation plan), they will go for the low hanging fruit (allowing great opportunities to pass them by) and avoid situations with too many competitors (allowing the competition to have the best sales). Don’t let your sales team leave fruits in the orchard. There are plenty of fruits for you to have when you challenge them to reach higher, push past the competition and gather more.