In a recent game in my men’s recreational hockey league we had a new player come out who worked with one of our guys. Much touted as a “guy who had played the game” we looked forward to welcoming him as someone who could make something happen on the ice. He was a decent enough sort  who could certainly talk the talk and the first thing we noticed was that he had the image – better equipment than most of us. As the game went on he seemed to be curiously absent from most plays. The puck would get near him or one of us would pass to him and unless it came right to him he wouldn’t seem to try too hard. If he did get it nothing much would happen and we began to notice that he would complain about the unfair pay of the other team, or the poor refereeing when he couldn’t score. After a while one of our guys commented “Is this guy a player?” to which one of our more experienced guys replied, “No, he’s an actor.” The post-game atmosphere in the dressing room was a bit different for him and he never returned saying he had found a game closer to home.

You cannot win the game if you are not in the game

It occurred to me that some sales people are actors and not really players – they show up, sometimes with great fanfare, but nothing ever really happens. These are people who for whatever reason are functioning far below their potential. There can be many reasons for this – fear, lack of confidence, old-fashioned laziness – they never really engage with their customers or the business. They never really get in the game.

Being authentic is more important than being perfect.

If he had said he was rusty, or nervous because he had not played for a while – or admitted he was just not that good a player but then went out there and tried his best – nobody would have had a problem with that. But he had presented himself as something more than what he was – the pretense of competence is a trap that fools nobody. People we interact with – our peers, managers, and especially customers – want us to be authentic, not perfect. And effort is respected – even when you don’t win.

Characteristics of a Sales Actor:

  1. No personal responsibility – there are always circumstances beyond their control that cause them to not make their goals, or it is always someone else’s fault.
  2. A focus on their own image instead of customer service and results in the real world.
  3. They can talk the talk but not walk the walk.
  4. They get other people to do the work.
  5. They may be liked but not really respected.
  6. They avoid conflict.