Strange ReTales: Employees Behaving Badly Edition: Ducking The Competition

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I have a competitive nature, and I make no bones about it.

I like to win, and I work hard to win.

When I don’t win, I go back to the drawing board, and work on what I need to do in order to win next time.

It might be my bias but I think most good salespeople have at least a little competitive streak in them.

I say “most” because I’ve known some good salespeople who clearly weren’t competitive, but I’ll get to them in a minute.

To be honest, I’m never happiest when I’m number one.

Believe it or not, I’m always happiest when I’m number two, behind someone else.

That’s when I work the hardest, furiously beavering away until I’m number one.

The old slogan for the Avis car rental company in the 1960s was “We’re Number Two. We Try Harder.”

I said earlier that I like to win, but what I really like is the effort and struggle it takes to win. Coming from behind and taking the top spot is way more enjoyable than just having it handed to me by default.

Not everyone feels the same way.

Years ago, as a hotshot up-and-comer at a HiFi retailer I earned a transfer to a higher-volume location. I immediately started gunning for the top spot.

That’s when I was taken aside by the store manager and given a talking to. He was protecting the store’s star salesman, whose tender ego couldn’t handle losing the top spot.

I was told I should be good, but not TOO good.

Of course I thought that was nonsense. I still worked hard to outsell the prima donna.

A couple of years later, after that store manager had been fired and I had been promoted to store manager along the way one of my fellow store managers hired a new salesperson from outside the realm of electronics: he had an impeccable resume from a leather clothing retailer. He had the kind of luxury sales skills we were always looking for.

Things were going great for the first couple of months. The new guy’s sales were exemplary.

So when another resume from the same leather retailer crossed the store manager’s desk, she thought “Hey, this is great! Now I’ll have two of these guys!”

Unfortunately, her strategy was doomed.

When Former-Leather Salesman Number Two showed up for his first day at work Former-Leather Salesman Number One stormed into the store manager’s office and threw a literal temper tantrum.

It turned out that Number Two was Number One’s nemesis: He was the top dog at the leather place and Number One was always the runner up. He was apoplectic, and refused to work with him.

His tantrum was so bad that even if he hadn’t quit on the spot she would have had to fire him anyway.

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Which was no great loss, because the new guy’s sales production was nearly twice what the tantrum-throwing guy had been doing.

If you’re a top performer, you can handle a little competition.

If you’re not a top performer, learn how handle competition so that you can be a top performer.