Even the Top Producer is Replaceable
TALE OF THE SALE: Sammy Sales was the top producer at his company for years. His company was a small-to-medium size private firm that sold and installed windows for larger commercial projects. Sammy had solid relationships with the players in this market. He was so well-respected in his industry that customers consulted him before making acquisitions and major decisions. He was the face of the company. Everyone who was anyone knew Sammy as “the guy”.
Over the years, Sammy became like family to the company’s owners. With his success came a very nice income that was well-above that of most salespeople in his area. He was even edging close to the top-paid people in the company. After 15 years of this success, Sammy became vocal about his pay. He would continuously tell other employees and even customers that he was getting screwed over because of how much money he made for the business. He would even say things like, “This place would go under without me”.
Word got out about his attitude and the owner called him in. He asked Sammy why he was so unhappy. Sammy was one of the highest-paid employees, the owner said, and had been making an incredible living for many years. Sammy told the owner he knew the pay was good, but that he deserved more – and would leave if he didn’t get it.
Sammy figured that the company didn’t have a choice. He held the relationships, knew the ins and outs of the local market, and even knew details about accounts and businesses that one else understood. The owner was furious about the approach Sammy took. “What a jerk”, he thought to himself. “After 15 years, Sammy mouths off to other employees about me and the other partners instead of coming to me personally and politely”. The owner knew that the contracts and projects they had were locked-in and that it might be painful to replace Sammy. But the owner also knew he couldn’t let an employee hold him hostage – even if that employee had been his number one producer for 15 years. He even considered the fact that one or two accounts or bids might go to a competitor without Sammy.
The owner looked at Sammy and said, “I’m really sorry you need to leave the company. You will be missed around here. We had a lot of good successes and you will be a big loss, but this is my shop. I risked it all to start this company in order for you to have the opportunity to be successful. You are an important part of the puzzle, but we will be just fine without you here. Good luck to you wherever you land. I’m sure that you will be fine.” Sammy was shocked to the point of near tears. The owner had called his bluff and it was too late. Sammy pleaded, but the decision had been made.
LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS TALE OF THE SALE:
Sammy had a hard time finding a job that was even remotely close to the pay he’d been making. He also learned that just because you were “the man” in one industry doesn’t mean much for other sales opportunities. Direct competitors didn’t want to hire him because they feared he’d eventually go back to his long-time company. The competitors also did the math. Many of Sammy’s relationships were involved in long-term contracts with his previous company and it would take years for his high salary ask to pay off.
What’s the major lesson here? Don’t get so full of yourself once you obtain top-producer status. Don’t forget that even the top salesperson is replaceable and that you may have an inflated view of your own worth after all these years. If you think you deserve more from your company, go about it with a rock-solid reason and make a good case. Approach management with the right attitude and never make demands. Be the humble top producer and it will open the door to more opportunities than you can imagine.