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(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)
(Cinders McLeod/The Globe and Mail)

Nine To Five

My company’s product is inferior. How can I sell it? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

Perhaps all salespeople go through withdrawal at some point with what they are selling, or how they are supposed to be selling it. My company’s software is inferior to the competition, and it is brutal out there in our market. Dealing with rejection is part of a salesperson’s day-to-day life, but when everyone on our team knows that our product doesn’t add the best value, it is even more difficult to lie to a customer about why they should buy from us. And yes, lying is what we have all had to do to remain employed in this economy.

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Worse, management seems to think that nothing is wrong and that our sales team is simply making excuses or not trying hard enough. Our suggestions have gone unheard or only partially implemented. What should I do?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Doug Nathanson

Chief human resources officer, Canadian Tire, Toronto

In a perfect world, everyone would be endlessly passionate about what they do, would rush to work enthusiastically every morning and would enjoy all aspects of their job. Obviously, that isn’t realistic and there are parts of every job that we truly like doing and others that we do not always relish. This is true for everyone, no matter the industry or the level of responsibility.

However, your situation appears to be different. There is a significant difference between not being fond of some of your responsibilities and feeling like you need to be dishonest to perform your job. Although sales roles will always require a degree of hype, you are clearly conscious of, and not comfortable with, crossing the line into deceitful practices.

My advice is to make sure you have done everything you can to have your feedback heard by the key decision makers – and don’t be afraid to go up the chain as necessary. Clearly articulate your concerns in a constructive, not personal, fashion and be specific about the dollars-and-cents business rationale behind your suggestions and why you believe changes are needed for the company to succeed.

If voicing your opinion does not work, consider these words from Roy Disney: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Only you can take stock of how comfortable you are with your current role; and whether any changes are likely to be implemented. If not, you need to make a very tough decision and move on to something that better suits you.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather Faire

Human resources executive, Atlanta

Research has shown that fully engaged employees drive better results. Believing in the business and having pride in what they do and who they do it for are key factors that influence employee engagement.

We all experience points when we question our choices, including our career choices. Whether it’s about the type of job, the company, or the product; whether self-inflicted or forced by circumstances beyond your control, finding yourself at this kind of crossroads is not unusual.

The question to ask yourself is “Can I change the business situation so that I can ‘believe’ again?” or is it time to move on to something different?

You may be thinking, “If management will not listen to me, I will go somewhere where they will.” Yet you say the staff suggestions have been “partially implemented.” So somebody is listening, right?

Can you find out what it was that management felt could be implemented and why? Can you apply what you learn and try to provide feedback or ideas in a fresh or novel way?

Many ideas are rejected several times before they get accepted, so you might simply need to dial up your patience and tenacity meter.

You have to decide what motivates you more: the challenge and satisfaction of making a difference where others could not, or the idea of starting fresh somewhere else.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers. Check out past columns here.

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