Learning From Lazy Sales People


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Often, when I get involved with a new client, I seek out their “laziest” sales people. You know the one’s I’m talking about. There’s always someone that hides away. He keeps a low profile, probably stays out of the office, never volunteers to do things, but always seems to make the number.

Perhaps he’s just barely making it, but he’s making it (which is significant when data show that fewer than 50% of sales people are making the number).

These people stand out in an odd way. In organizations where there is a frenzy of activity, managers asking for more calls, sales people struggling for meeting after meeting, people spending their time morning to evening chasing something—what they are chasing isn’t really clear, but they certainly look busy.

The “lazy” sales person–who always makes his numbers has reduced selling to its essence. They understand the minimum set of things that need to be done to get the order. They’ve actually gotten a well defined process, understanding the things that have the greatest impact in helping the customer make a buying decision. They don’t try for meeting after meeting with customers, they accomplish what they need to do with the fewest possible meetings. They don’t do all the internal stuff, they do just what they have to do–they are minimalists (and usually delinquent) when it comes to reporting or CRM compliance. They’re slouched in the back of the room during meetings, and the first out the door when the meeting is over (where they go is a mystery). There is no excess, no wasted motion, no wasted time—in what they do or wasted time with the customer.

Too often, we confuse activity for accomplishment (Andy Paul has a great post on this: Don’t Confuse Activity With Selling). We measure our success by how full our calendars are. We feel as thou we are accomplishing things when we run from meeting to call to meeting. We look at quantity of activity rather than the quality of the activity.

The “lazy” sales people aren’t decieved by this. They don’t seem to break a sweat. Manager come to them saying, “We need to get some more deals to make our quarter, can you help out?” They roll their eyes, look really annoyed, usually there is a huge sigh because they are being disturbed, and they reply, “I don’t really know how, I’m doing everything I can, but I’ll try.” Somehow they make it—and it remains a mystery to most of us.

We can learn a lot from “lazy” sales people. Understanding what they do helps us understand what’s most important. We can focus our work efforts on what’s critical to moving the sale forward, not what makes us look busy.

We do have to be a little careful. Sometimes these “lazy” sales people take some short cuts. The customer may not “totally understand” things (they may be making a leap of faith based on trust). The sales person may forget some important things–both in communicating to the customer or in what they are doing internally. The PO’s may be in error, the contracts may not be signed—there may be some details that have been forgotten or omitted. But those are easy to find.

We should try to understand what makes “lazy” sales people successful, how they consistently make the number with the minimum effort, but we shouldn’t seek to emulate their behavior. The ideal is to learn from them so that we can Sell More!

One of the down sides to “lazy” sales people is they “just make the number.” As sales professionals, we should be driven to blow the number away, to constantly over achieve our goals, outperform the objectives that have been established. But the “lazy” sales people give us great insight in how to get there most efficiently.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave, great post.

    Professional golfers don’t look like they’re swinging hard, but they hit their drives a mile. Duffers look like they are swinging hard, but it’s uncoordinated and the golf club rarely impacts the ball in the middle of the face.

    So it is with the top professionals. They don’t waste time doing things that don’t matter. Sometimes it looks “lazy” — just like Ernie Els’ swing. But it produces great results!

    We can all learn from those that make it look easy.

  2. Great comment Bob, you’ve actually articulated it so much better than I have. It’s not the “laziness,” it’s the professional who has practiced and refined their approach to make it look effortless that’s the real secret!

    Thanks for straightening me out!

  3. Dave: Sales is one of the few professions in which people can be unabashedly proud of gaining the maximum output from the minimum input. If Tom achieved his quota working half the time Jim did to make the same revenue, Tom’s a pretty smart guy, and focused, too. Unlike other professions, Jim doesn’t earn accolades from burning the midnight oil or missing his daughter’s school play in pursuit of his goal.

    I like Bob’s comparison to golf. I’ve experienced the same thing in the lap pool. It always seems the swimmers who blow past me in the adjoining lanes are putting out half the effort I am. But they’re not lazy, they just have great form.


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