Within an organization that relies on salespeople to go out and present their products to others, you can find most of these professionals along an axis of loyalty that terminates with a complete company Advocate at one end, and a Mercenary salesperson at the other. These poles have specific characteristics, and this article with compare a few characteristics of each.
A Mercenary will put his name at the top of the business card, because they are the business. An Advocate will have the company’s name and logo at the top. This is a crucial differentiation among them. While the Advocate sells as your company, the Mercenary sells as themselves.
An Advocate stands behind your company. All of their talks will sell up your competitive advantages, talking points, and virtues of your particular organization. They love being part of the team.
On the other hand, a Mercenary will stand behind their name, as a representative for your company, but not of your company.
Being in for themselves, a Mercenary can be very accessible. Around the clock and on the weekends, the Merc can be reached, often by multiple methods. This can manifest on Monday morning as soon as your engineers login to see an email chain of issues rolling into the station. The Mercenary will have their customer’s back first and foremost, because they stand between your company and the customer.
On the other hand is the Advocate, and they will be more likely to follow office hours and respect appropriate escalation paths. They rely on the organization of the company to do the heavy lifting while they are away. While work-life balance is important to the Advocate, they will nonetheless participate in company social events.
The Mercenary salesperson will be motivated by bonuses and other monetary incentives. They are in it for the money, after all, and they do this by building their own personal brand. Sometimes recognition like awards may be appreciated, too. To properly motivate the Mercenary set sales targets that are achievable yet robust, and give them the ability to reach those goals. Be sure to factor in their own compensation when determining margins and sales expectations.
The Advocate is more motivated by Company recognition and title changes rather than outward bonuses. Sure the Advocate will still appreciate a bonus now and again but real motivation comes through that recognition factor that they are important part of the company. To properly motivate an Advocate set contact targets that are realistic these are the people who build relationships with your customers as your company, they can also be counted upon to represent your company favorably in the event of an escalated issue such as a difficult deployment. The Advocate may not bring in as many raw sales but they are better at building long-term relationships than the Mercenary.
If dissatisfied with the overall employment a Mercenary is likely to leave and attempt to take as many of the customers that they have signed as possible, believing the customers to be theirs and not yours. It's important to have contracts signed and it may be necessary to put a non-compete agreement in place for your sales team if this has caused the loss of clients in the past.
A disgruntled Advocate is more likely to trash the company on social media. Places like Glassdoor and LinkedIn are full of statements from employees who wanted to represent the company but the company didn't represent them. Where a Mercenary can take some of your customers when it leaves, an Advocate can run down your company to potential clients when they go.
Which one do you need?
So the big question after this analysis is “which one do you need?” Do you need is the stronger sales skills of the Mercenary or the better relationship building that comes With an Advocate.
The fact is you need both, but you need to recognize who on your sales team fits in either these categories and if they fit strongly or mildly, so you can properly motivate, empower, and equip them to do the best work they can.