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Stop Playing Corporate Nice Guy and Start Being Productively Selfish with Your Time

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by Mike on August 2, 2012

There’s a lot of talk about “niceness” today.  Employees are often judged on whether they play nicely with others or what kind of team member they are. Listen, I’m all about culture, and I love being part of a team – a winning team. But everyday I see supposed sales killers choosing to play good corporate ambassador instead of focusing on their primary task – hunting down new business!

The HR folks and the corporate culture police hate when I go down this path. But intellectual honesty forces me to.  Evidence shows that the top-producing sales hunter is rarely voted the most pleasant, selfless member of the sales team. In my experience, it’s the opposite. The top dogs tend to be selfish – productively selfish – with their time. High achieving salespeople typically have no problem cutting off a long-winded, time-wasting associate:  “Sorry, gotta run.” And when they find the copy machine jammed, don’t expect the top-producers to open the cabinet and attempt to follow the maze of directions to unjam it. More likely they’ll kick the machine and yell for someone to “Get the damn copier fixed – I’ve a got a major proposal to get out!”

Maybe you’re smiling as you read this. Or possibly you think I’m a jerk and simply giving license for high achievers to act like babies and spoiled brats. I’m not condoning bad behavior or encouraging sales stars to be prima donnas. Just reporting what I see. The guy on the sales team who is always volunteering to be on the company Halloween Party committee or offering to help everyone sync their new smartphones with the company email tends to be near the bottom, not the top, when it comes to acquiring new pieces of business.

Questions to consider:

  • Are you more concerned about being a good corporate citizen or delivering your sales numbers?
  • Is the best part of your calendar devoted to your highest payoff activities? Or does prospecting for new business get the scraps and leftover time slots, if any?
  • If you’re not top-producer now, what can you learn by watching how the #1 guy/gal on your sales team spends his/her time?

There are too many salespeople tasked with acquiring new business who’d rather sit in a committee meeting or clean the restrooms than prospect for new accounts. And that’s a problem.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Terson August 2, 2012 at 10:51 pm

This is blogging at its finest, Mike. Really, I just loved this one! I think back and recall how I allowed nothing to get in the way of achieving the numbers I HAD to have; CONSISTENTLY had to have. What it is, is a killer-instinct mindset. You either have it or you don’t. And in sales, if you don’t have it, you’re in the wrong business; better to go become a teacher or social worker. It’s not that the guy with the kill-instinct mindset is smarter or more talented than his less-driven counterpart; he just wants it more, HAS to have it, and isn’t going to allow anything to get in the way of achieving it–period.


Mike August 2, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Good evening Bob,
You are generous with your words – thanks my friend. I really like the way you put that. “HAD to” makes a big difference. Internal drive and hunger go a long, long way. Unfortunately, many in sales today have lived and sold mostly during great economic times, so the concept of having to proactively create business is foreign. And for a lot of folks, they simply recoil at the thought of pursuing prospects and they’d rather play good corporate citizen.
Best to you in Chicago,


Brad Patterson August 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm

The title says it all and I’m not going to beg to differ. Fun post to read Mike and as it’s my first time stopping by the blog, I thought I’d leave a quick note.

Your post reminds me of one of the big differences between the folks in sales and those in marketing— both enchant their client with a story, but the salesman does so with more proximity and push, and can’t always afford to be “nice” be it internally (as you’ve demonstrated) or even externally with clients— good salesman know how to push past that line of niceness and put on just enough pressure.

Looking forward to more posts, Mike.

Cheers, Brad


Frank Iryami August 7, 2012 at 11:20 am

Great blog post Mike. 30 minutes a day of ‘niceness’, can cause a loss of 10 hours per month, or 15 days a year. Gotta go!


Mike August 7, 2012 at 11:22 am

I love it! Thanks for the props Frank. Go!


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