Don’t Hang with the Hyenas
The following is from my latest book, Roar Like You Mean It! Dominate Your Market Like the King of the Jungle, which I am finishing up. As we head into the New Year, I thought I’d share this as a way of protecting yourself from certain challenges that will undermine your success in 2015. Enjoy!
Hyenas are an interesting breed of animal. While hyenas are actually skilled hunters, they tend to be scavengers typically feasting on the remains left behind by other animals. In fact, they are known for eating most anything including aluminum pots and pans. Notably the sounds they make, especially the spotted hyena, include wailing, howling and the infamous laughter. But most importantly, when they come across a lion, the lion will kill them.
Lions don’t respect hyenas. Hyenas most often rely on the kills made by others, so when a lioness has killed an animal for her cubs, the hyenas are often not far behind to steal the kill. When this happens, the lioness must start over in order to feed her cubs. Rather than continue to let the hyenas steal from their young, lions don’t put up with the aggravation and simply destroy them.
In every profession there are hyenas, but especially in the sales profession. They are most commonly found in the bullpen, talking about anything and everything except what they should be focused on. They show up late, leave early and they are most often gossiping about others rather than giving attention to their real work. Sales hyenas are a disruptive and hazardous group and must be avoided at all costs.
How to Spot the Sales Hyenas
The sales hyena, much like its animal version, is a scavenger. They are often hanging around at the office, doing a lot of busy work, waiting on leads to come in. They will often point out how busy they are, but when the month ends, they barely meet the minimal quota expectations.
Sales hyenas are usually focused on others within their own organization. If there’s a story to be told, they are the ones typically telling it. In fact, if you want to know anything that is happening in your organization, whether real or fictional, the sales hyenas are your best source of company gossip and are very eager to share.
Sales hyenas can sometimes be difficult to spot, however. They work hard to blend into the group, not wanting to be identified, but they’re there. Their busyness makes them feel a sense of belonging, but in reality, they’re staying just busy enough to get by. As soon as they sniff blood in the air, whether it’s a sales professional who happens to lose a deal or the scent of fresh gossip to hunt down, the sales hyena come howling into the open.
Every sales team has at least one sales hyena on it. It’s an unfortunate fact of life. When they arrive, they don’t start out this way, but eventually their nature bursts through and it’s almost as if they can’t help themselves. It usually happens after they have their first successful sales month or two. They get distracted by their own success and begin to hang around the office more. And this leads them to pick up the scent of gossip. They naturally gravitate to those in the office who like to share gossip and then, like the taste of fresh blood, they begin to feast on the stories.
How to Deal with Sales Hyenas
Dealing with sales hyenas is easier said than done. Because they often don’t even realize the carnage they are creating, it’s challenging to address it with them. They think they’re being helpful, warning others about individuals within the organization and providing advice about what to do and what not to do. In fact, they often see themselves as future leaders of the organization because of all the “good work” they are doing. But there are some specific steps you can and should take to minimize the impact of the sales hyena.
- Focus on your commitment to the Pride. As we discussed in Chapter Two, you have a commitment to the Pride that must be honored. Your commitment takes precedent over any internal company gossip that others might want to share with you. You have future customers who are counting on you to help them. Your company is expecting you to meet and exceed your obligation to them. And your family is counting on you to provide for them. You cannot do any of this if you find yourself in the grip of a sales hyena.
- Stay away from the sales bullpen. The bullpen is aptly named due to the bullshit that is often shared there. It’s just too easy when you get a bunch of lions in there at the same time and everyone is eager to share the story about their latest win. But when the stories die down and everyone is grabbing that last cup of coffee, this is when the sales hyena strikes. Inspired by the BS fest, the sales hyena starts the process with, “Hey, have you heard about…” This is when you know it’s time to make your exit.
- Protect sales cubs from the sales hyenas. If you are a sales cub, relatively new to sales and to your company, you are considered fresh meat to a sales hyena. It usually starts with good intentions as they are eager to provide advice about how to get your career started. They have great ideas about how to get started and what to do. And when you aren’t suspecting, they start to share stories about each and every one of the members of the sales organization as well as others in the company to be wary of. New sales professionals are easy prey for the sales hyena. It all sounds good at first. The sales hyena has very noble intentions…at first. And, in their minds, even the gossip they share is well intentioned. But it’s still gossip, some true and most severely out of touch with reality. Ask yourself, “Why does this person seem to always be in the office?” This should tell you all you really need to know. In spite of their performance, which has is usually right at quota, occasionally with a huge month thrown in the mix; they tend to do far less than they are capable of. The time they invest into sharing gossip is time not spent prospecting and building their sales pipeline. And it’s time used to distract others from their commitment. As a sales champion, you need to not only avoid the sales hyena, but you need to challenge the sales cubs to focus on growing their business. Encourage them to commit to their new role and set goals that inspire them and drive them to achieve. More importantly, continue to be a role model the sales cubs seek to emulate. When you continuously focus on your success and create results, the sales cubs will recognize the true lions within the organization and, if they are worthy, they will become a real part of the Pride.
- Let the sales hyenas starve. Sales hyenas feast on the stories shared by others, especially if the stories include mistakes or problems of others in the organization. The easiest way to starve a sales hyena is to stop being a source of the stories. As soon as you begin to recognize the sales hyena in your organization, remember the sign from the zoo: “Don’t feed the animals.” The reason for the signs at the zoo is because, in our own good intentions, we think it’s okay to help feed the animals the popcorn and sugary snacks we have in our hands. After all, one little bite surely can’t hurt can it? This is how it starts for the sales hyena. Once you start feeding him, he begins looking for handouts from others. It starts a feeding frenzy. And once they start, it’s almost impossible to get them to stop. So you need to identify this pattern and not start in the first place. As you and others stop “feeding the animals,” the sales hyena will start scavenging for information. “There must be more somewhere,” they say to themselves. But as the well of information begins to dry up, the sales hyena will either move on or begin to transform into the type of sales professional they should be. But it all starts with stopping the insanity!
- Don’t text and feed. One of the biggest challenges we have today is the ease by which information can be shared. With texting and various social media resources, the ability to share information quickly and almost anonymously is too easy. Your challenge is to recognize these tools for what they are. When the first text comes across your phone asking, “Have you heard about Tom?”, recognize the signal. It’s a cry for help. It’s your opportunity to obey the zoo signs and not feed the animals. The moment you reply, you open Pandora’s Box and shutting the lid is going to be very difficult. When you don’t respond or begin to cut off the communication as a way of shutting the lid to the box, the next text you’re going to get will sound something like, “Are you mad at me?” or “Why are you avoiding me?” Recognize these cries for help and do what needs to be done: Starve the sales hyena. In much the same way, social media platforms tend to be used in much the same way. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are ways for others to connect with you and become a voyeur into your personal life. While I don’t want to sound like I’m encouraging you to not “friend” or connect with your co-workers, I am encouraging you to recognize the signals. If you begin to sense that a sales hyena in your organization is now part of your personal life via Twitter or Facebook, take the necessary steps to block or, at a minimum, minimize the amount of information they can collect as well as share with you. Starving a sales hyena sounds harsh on the surface. I understand and empathize with you. But remember that a sales hyena will always find the information, the gossip they are seeking. There’s always a source in your organization; just don’t be one of the sources. If you do, you’ll eventually become part of the meal as well.
Sales hyenas can be a dangerous part of any sales organization. They breed distrust and disharmony within the organization. Anyone who is not part of providing food for the feeding frenzy becomes part of the frenzy themselves. It’s just part of the natural process.
The faster you can identify the sales hyena, the better. This way you can be part of the solution and take steps to neutralize the threat to your organization. In the wild, hyenas will turn on the Pride when the Pride isn’t providing carcasses for the hyena to feed on. This puts the cubs at risk. So the lion, when sensing a hyena within earshot of the Pride, will hunt down and kill the hyena to protect the Pride from disaster. In much the same way, as a sales lion in your own Pride, you must identify the internal threat and take steps to eliminate the threat.
Don’t let sales hyenas challenge the future of your Pride. They just aren’t worth it!