You might find this title a little fragmented, but I assure you it is justified, please read on…

This week, I was moaning to a colleague about how difficult it is to find talented sales people who really love prospecting for new business. In my time I have interviewed literally hundreds of sales personnel, and when asked if they like cold calling, very few say ‘yes’. At best they might answer that ‘it is an important part of their work’. But I am lucky enough to know someone who actually enjoys cold calling and prospecting (as long as he likes the product or service he is selling). So I am even luckier to be able to have him come and work for one of my companies.

However, my colleague said that he had never met such a person and that in his experience sales people were simply greedy and lazy, only bothering to follow up the sales leads that had been fed to them for products where they could make substantial commission with the absolute minimum of effort. Of course, this is logical from the sales person’s perspective. But if you are a pioneering company, trying to break into new markets, then these kind of sales people should have no place in your organization.

But I can hear you thinking, where does the fried chicken come into the story? Well my colleague worked for a company here in Belgium where the sales team was known to be particularly lazy and the Sales Managers seemed to let them get away with it. He said that all the sales team did was to go up onto the roof of their office and catch the fried chickens flying past them. And if there were no fried chickens flying past, then sorry enough, there was no sales, nothing more could be done and no more effort was needed! When I heard this story I thought, has my normally reliable colleague completely lost his head? Has he been smoking substances that make you see life from a very different angle? The answer was in fact quite mundane: in fact in Belgium there is an expression ‘gebraden kippen in de mond vliegen’ or, in English ‘fried chickens fly directly into your mouth!’, I guess what this means is that if you want to win something, you have to go out and work for it and not to expect a fried chicken to fly directly into your mouth?

Now to the Taxes link: I have been recruiting a marketing assistant this week, and I have been working with my accountants and legal advisors to see if I can find a salary construction that is both good for her (working via incentives) and for my company. Here in Belgium if you pay someone 100Euro, you actually have to pay the state 162Euro and the poor employee gets approximately 50-55. But they also need to be paid 13.92 times per year (they get extra money in the summer and an extra months pay at the end of the year)!

The problem is, if you pay any kind of bonus, it is so heavily taxed, that it is almost not worth receiving. So back to our sales people: If they have to do something they hate (cold calling) and then have to go out and sell a product that needs lots of explaining and convincing, then there is very little financial motivation, if at the end of the sales cycle the government taxes them so much that they only receive about 20% of what their employer actually paid out!

It really is a wonder that so many Belgian’s are employed at all, because once they receive the pittance left over (which they call their Netto salary), when they actually try and spend it, the government takes another 21% from them in VAT!

Today, Belgium still has no government, and I have to say I think these last months without one seem to have gone quite well (it makes me wonder, if one is needed at all?). However, when we finally do get a new Government it would be great if it concentrated on trying to get employee and employer taxation to a level of acceptability, instead of constantly arguing among themselves about which language should be dominant and where!

I was not a fan of Margaret Thatcher, but she did at least free up the British economy by taking away the appalling level of taxation that her previous governments had been piling on employers and employees alike.

Entrepreneurship needs to be matched by creative tax incentive schemes, if our staff have done well, please let us pay them the bonus that they deserve and then let them actually receive it, without bleeding company profitability to death.

So there you have it: Poor Sales Results, Fried Chicken and Taxes!