Never Separate a Gorilla from his Bananas

sales people

Years ago I was on a sales panel with Bill Binch from Marketo with three other panelists. The moderator asked what a sales rep should do if the organization is not investing in their success (training, technology, etc).  The other panelist answers were: “They should quit” and “dust of your resume”.  That’s when Bill said: “Wait a minute, a real sales person will tear down walls to get a deal done. If the organization isn’t giving them what they need, they will figure out a way to get it.” Boom.

I was recently working with a VP of Sales who said one of key attributes he looked for in his reps was how many times they called him in a day. He said: “Most of the calls are annoying, but I would rather tell a guy no than not have them beating us up at headquarters to help him drive more business.”

At Tippit, one of our seasoned enterprise sales people was working on a big deal. It had hair. He started working the organization hard, actually mercilessly. Feathers were ruffled. Later in a meeting, people were talking about how he was running around demanding things from the organization. One person in the room talked about how he called and emailed her 10x that day and got her at 7:00pm on her way home. He was getting push-back and he was fighting hard. That’s when one of my favorite guys Steve Lilly shook his head and said:

Never separate a gorilla from his “nanners” (bananas)

Translation: This rep won’t let anyone (internal or external) keep him away from his bananas (deal, money, quota).

He got the deal done. 4th biggest deal in company history, new product built as a result. Could he have handled it better? Yeah. Did he get his bananas? YES.

The morale of the story:

  • Young sales person – You don’t have to be an a-hole, but your job is to get yours. Make everyone say No, but make your ask. I sat in a sales meeting the other day and a young rep was waiting for a buyer decision. Waiting is the operative word…not doing anything but waiting. He needed that deal. We said: “Let’s have the CEO call their CEO.” Rep:”He’ll do that?” Sarcastic VP of Sales: “I don’t know why don’t you ask?” Dude, the experienced sales rep would ask for a private plane to bring the entire executive team onsite. They won’t get it…but we want you to ask. However, remember the cardinal rule: You have to earn credibility in the organization to be able to ask/demand. If you can’t articulate the value to the customer and what will happen if your request is fulfilled (will this get the deal done?) – you won’t get what you want/need.
  • The rest of the company — I know you hate sales people and the amount of work they dump on your desk. But…sales people still exist because getting deals done is hard and they make it happen. From the immortal words of Jack Nicholson: “You want them on that wall.” The death of the sales person is greatly exaggerated (ask recruiters in Silicon Valley).  Don’t get me wrong – I get it. Many sales reps are leaning on you because they can’t unlock value. What we have to do is trust the ones who do and support them – “If I do this, will you get the deal done?”

Now go get your bananas. For everyone else, beware – if you are in the way of his/her bananas, you may get knocked over. It’s part of the game.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • Scott Webb

    This is such a great article especially since there are so many painting this rosy picture of permission-based selling and thought leadership and other soft skills. I belive that the high performing reps will use IT ALL. Not or, but and, and, and and.

  • Top sales reps DO ruffle feathers.

  • Now that’s to the point.
    I really like your advice for the young sales people. It clearly shows what skills a sales person should have to get their job done: self-confidence, initiative, focus, and brave ideas. You can’t just sit still and wait for a call – you need to act and be around the client all the time, till you get the deal closed. As for the rest of the company, I think it’s important for them to show understanding and support whenever possible, because in the end the success of the company (i.e. their jobs) depend very much on the sales department and no company would be able to operate without them.
    Thanks!