There is an effect we have noticed when recruiting salespeople from larger companies that seems to be consistent across markets.  Some salespeople, maybe many, lose their edge when it comes to prospecting when they land a large customer.  I see this effect happening in larger companies, for some reason, more than smaller companies.

I bring this up because I read an employment ad for a large company that we used to work with in a previous life.  This company has an unbelievably strong customer service orientation.  I mean that in a negative way.  Their “hunter” salespeople believe they can service their way to a sale.  This approach is reinforced by a team of customer service people assigned to every account.

Recently, this company has seen it’s long-standing market share evaporate under pressure from an aggressive, sales-oriented competitor.  The competitor is taking this company out in their strongest regions.

The main thrust behind the competitor’s success is the sales team’s inability to close new customers in a competitive situation.  This company has a well-established name that has allowed it to hide the gross inadequacies that have solidified within their sales department.  In essence, the long-tenured sales team’s skills have been dulled by success.

I’ve seen this phenomenon in other large companies also.  I don’t have any market research to prove this effect – my thesis is purely anecdotal.  The salespeople become complacent with their existing customers and compensation and ratchet down the prospecting.  Once an aggressive competitor emerges, the salespeople are almost helpless to react.

Be wary when talking to sales candidates from these companies.  Ask them about recent customers they have closed and look for complacency in their business development.

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