Field Guide to the Sales Prevention Police

Last Updated Jun 25, 2007 9:02 AM EDT

There are exactly two categories of employees inside every business: the ones that sell (or help sell) and the ones who prevent selling from taking place. Most companies are infested with the latter -- aka the "sales prevention police." Here are the five most toxic members:

The Overstuffed CEO - He thinks that the purpose of the company is to make him wealthy beyond all reason. He's got a golden parachute so he really doesn't care whether sales actually take place. It's all about the bloat in his compensation package. He prevents sales because customers read the business press and know that he's overpaid. They rightly figure that any company that's willing to pay a functionary (because that's what a CEO is) such an insane amount of money must be either crooked or unbelievably stupid.

The Marketing Maven - She thinks that marketing "drives" sales. She buys pricey market research that simply tells clueless top management exactly what they already believe. She spends millions of dollars on product videos and brochures full of the kind of relentless biz-blab that makes most customers roll their eyes. She says things like (and this is a quote from real life): "if you explain our strategy to the customer three or four times, they'll finally agree that it's a good idea." She thinks she knows everything about sales but has never sold anything other than a glass of lemonade.

The Sales Dictator - He thinks that managing a sales team means controlling everything that they say and do. He builds sales scripts that sound like they were written by Robbie the Robot and throws a fit if the sales team doesn't use them. He installs a CRM system that demands an hour of data entry a day, just so he can make daily changes his "top management" slide deck. He goes on sales calls, screws up the deal, and then blames the sales rep. He thinks that screaming for half an hour is "coaching" and "constructive criticism."

The Bilious Beancounter - She thinks that it's possible to cover a territory half a continent large without spending any money on travel. She demands receipts for amounts of money that you wouldn't bend over to pick up on the street. She sends out a corporate-wide memo complaining about how many paper clips everyoney is using, despite the fact that a paper clip cost less than the 2 seconds of time that it would take to save it. (Note: I have personally seen this idiotic memo, twice, in two different companies.)

The Bonehead Brainiac - He thinks that products sell themselves and that sales pros are therefore parasites. He believes in his technology so strongly and is so proud of his technical achievement that he can't conceive of the notion that a customer might want some kind of cost-benefit before buying a new widget. And you can't tell him what customers are really looking for, because he thinks that customers are basically potato-heads who don't know what they really want.

Did I miss any?

Next post: what to do about them.