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Do Your People Get the Big Picture?

Author: Steve Waterhouse

Sales people are the front end of many businesses. For many companies, they are the most influential person in the client relationship. For this reason, if for no other, it is critical that sales people know, understand, believe and support the company’s goals and objectives. They should have internalized the company spirit so that it comes across to the customer. Continue reading to learn how this can be accomplished...


I was facilitating a two-day meeting for a client at the Irvine Marriott in Irvine, California. We were discussing ways to get the entire company to support a new and critical initiative. This initiative was so critical that the entire senior management team, CEO included, stayed off-site for both days. On Wednesday morning, I was pondering my opening remarks when I walked into the hotel men’s room. Not totally awake, I was surprised by the thin figure the sped past me wishing me a "Good morning, Sir."

I turned to see a slender man who was in a virtual frenzy of work. With the towel under his right foot he cleaned up every little drop of water that appeared on the floor around the sinks. At the same time, one hand was wiping down the counter tops and the other was checking the soap and towel supply. Suddenly, he darted out of the wash area and made a quick survey of the supplies in every stall before returning to cleaning the wash area.

Now don’t get me wrong, this man, while busier than a sales manager at forecast time, was not focused on these mundane tasks. As each person came in the door, he looked up and greeted them with a strong, "Good morning, Sir," "How are you this morning, Sir," or "Thank you for coming to the Irvine Marriott today, Sir. We appreciate your business." His name is Bobby and you owe it to yourself to meet this wonderful man. Bobby gets it! Bobby understands the company goals and objectives and knows what he can do to move them forward toward reality. He is not whining about the number of bathrooms that he has to keep spotless or about the boss who insists on it. He’s not complaining about his work conditions or the lack of support he gets. In fact, he’s thrilled to be doing his job.

The key to Bobby’s attitude comes from his understanding of the company goals and his place in them. I asked Bobby what the most important aspect of his job was. Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, "Hospitality!, I greet every person and make them feel welcome. I make them want to come back and do business with us again." Bobby sees the importance of his role and knows that the unpleasant tasks that come with it are a necessary evil. After all, if the bathroom didn’t need constant attention, he would not have the perfect place to stand and make the best sales pitch Marriott ever had!

Clients often call me to ‘motivate’ their sale teams, and I can do a great speech or training program that will pump them up. But what they really need is what we call ‘total alignment.’ It’s a process of ensuring that everyone in the company is truly functioning together, working towards a common set of goals with the same ultimate objectives and feeling supported along the way. Motivation is a part of the cure, but so are communications, prioritization, recognition, compensation and resource allocation. Bobby feels supported in his ‘hospitality’ role and he has the prestigious J.W. Marriott Excellence Award to prove it. He also has a crew of fellow Marriott workers who would do anything to help him thrill a customer and a boss that takes time stick his head in the men’s room once in a while, just to say ‘Hi, Bobby. Nice job.’

If you aren’t sure if your sales people are as enthusiastic as Bobby, if they whine and complain about the dirty little jobs that have to get done, maybe it’s time to examine how they are treated. It could be that Bobby was born with a positive attitude, but I know that at the very least, Marriott worked hard to avoid beating it out of him.

The next time you are in Irvine, California, stop into the men’s room at the Marriott (sorry ladies). It’s refreshing to see a real sale person loving their job!


Stephen Waterhouse is Principal and Founder of Waterhouse Group. They specialize in helping companies increase their sales and profits. He can be reached at 1-800-57-LEARN or

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Copyright 2000 by The Waterhouse Group. Used with permission.

Revised:  October 2000

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