Sales Leadership and Not Being “That Guy”


My sales performance is awesome. I'm "that guy." You want to buy from me. Admit it. I’m not really sure when or where I first heard the Internet meme of “that guy.”

“Hey, don’t be ‘that guy,’ okay?”

“You’re acting like ‘that guy’ right now, dude.”

At some point, everyone on the planet has met “that guy”—and on at least one occasion we’ve probably been “that guy.”

(Before continuing, I realize that the phrase “that guy” could be construed as being sexist. In truth, “that guy” and “that girl” can be interchangeable in most situations, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to stick with just “that guy,” because A. it’s easier than saying “that guy/girl” all the time, and B. let’s face it, the syndrome of “that guy” is waaaay more common than “that girl.” Men are just normally bigger jerks than women, end of story. So, if any women out there are “that girl,” my apologies for not including you here. Feel free to add your voice to the comments expressing your displeasure.)

“That guy” is the person at every party you’ve ever been to who’s just a little too drunk, a little too obnoxious, a little too needy for attention, but is too self-absorbed to realize it.

“That guy” is the person in front of you in line at the supermarket who takes 27 items to the 20-items-or-less checkout, waits until the last possible second to pull out their wallet, realizes that they don’t have their credit card and are 3 bucks short in cash—yet after all this expect the cashier to just “let it slide this once.”

And maybe it’s the narcissism, the hubris, the general ability to have confidence when it’s not really warranted, but sales has attracted its share of “that guy” sales reps over the years.

We’ve all met them. The ones where “What’s in it for me?” isn’t so much an attitude as it is a way of life. The ones that cherry pick all the best leads, only make three halfhearted call attempts before giving up, then wander down the hall to whine to the VP of marketing / sales about how “All of marketing’s leads are crap.”

“That guy” closes a sale with an impossible-to-meet time frame, then washes their hands of it when the implementation team comes screaming.

“That guy’s” sales performance is on the average reasonably good, but inconsistent. He’ll do enough work (and get lucky enough) to get to the top of the charts once every other quarter, but most of the time is mired in mediocrity. They’re never good enough promote to management, not bad enough to fire.

“That guy” walks the walk just enough to be able to point out to everyone just how much he’s “walking the walk.”

Why is trust-based selling so difficult to achieve these days? Why do we keep hearing the mantra of “The customer is in charge now,” but progress barely creeps along? Why do the same best-selling sales books stay on best seller lists?

Because people rarely change. Because “that guy” syndrome is difficult to break.

And the biggest danger of all? When “that guy” syndrome completely overtakes an organization, and becomes “that company.”

You know. “That company,” the one that’s always late paying invoices, but has an endless stream of excuses why. The one that finds every possible loophole in warranty and service level agreements. The one that’s always over-promising but under-delivering, yet management wonders why the marketing spend has to go up every year just to stay on even ground.

As so many industry pundits and branding leaders have said, the problem with “that company” syndrome is that it’s a vicious cycle to break. One decision leads to another, suddenly finances are tight and pipelines are squeezed, so what happens? One more compromise down the slippery slope.

Ultimately, “that guy” syndrome usually ends in one of two ways. Either someone calls them on it, and they shape up, or they totally implode. In companies and sales organizations, it’s no different. There’s no secret formula for changing “that guy” syndrome other than self-awareness, and commitment to a truly customer-centered culture.

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