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Is your sales manager killing sales or making a killing?

Sales managers who are eternally frustrated with their sales teams may need to look inwards for answers. GRETCHEN GORDON says doing so will improve performance throughout the entire business.

Does an incessant barrage of questions overwhelm you from your sales staff, are you frustrated because they aren’t doing things correctly or just sick of hounding them about their obligations? There’s a remedy for each of these pervasive sales management ills and it’s been within reach all along. Start by defining what kind of sales manager you are.

The avoider disorder

If you have an avoider disorder, you tend to avoid conflict. In a sticky situation, your desire to get away may leave your employees playing ‘Where’s Waldo?’

The problem: You’ve let one or more salespeople slide on administrative obligations and you’re avoiding having a conversation about it with them. You may have justified this by saying you’re too busy or by convincing yourself that the employee isn’t that bad – yes, they slack off but they’re still producing at a relatively acceptable level, right?

Meanwhile, you feel like you have to nag them about turning in even the smallest piece of paperwork, updating their pipeline, entering their notes into the CRM and pretty much everything else.

It may seem benign but when you avoid having difficult conversations with your staff, you undermine your own authority. This often stems from what the experts refer to as a ‘need for approval’ weakness. In layman’s terms, it means our desire for people to like us is greater than our desire to get them to perform at their highest potential. Giving in to this weakness short-changes both youand your sales team because you aren’t taking action to end sub-par behaviour and you are enabling the salesperson to under-perform.

The cure: Tackle your problem head on. Sit down with your salesperson and help them make a fresh start. Tell them that what has been happening is undermining the sales process and there are going to be some new expectations to help them be their most effective. Clearly and specifically, establish those expectations. These may include completing reports, self-generating leads, calling numbers etc.

Next, set consequences for not living up to expectations – perhaps they don’t get first pick of the new leads or perhaps their expenses aren’t reimbursed until everything is done. Finally, and this is the hardest, remove emotions and enforce the consequences.

The sightless leader

The sightless leader is blind to what makes a salesperson tick and what motivates them. Without getting to know them and understanding what drives them, it is impossible to tap into a salesperson’s motivation and help them reach their goals. Assuming that all salespeople are similarly motivated is short-sighted.

The problem: You may have been promoted to sales manager after being a superstar salesperson. Back then you were highly self-motivated and driven by commissions. Now that you’re manager, you are befuddled by salespeople who aren’t motivated by money. You end up frustrated with salespeople because they don’t do what you did when you were a salesperson.

You don’t see why they wouldn’t be self-motivated to work towards closing more business and earning more commission. You’re tired of harassing them to take the most basic, obvious steps.

The cure: Open your eyes – it’s not true that all salespeople are money-motivated. It’s also incorrect to think all salespeople will perform as you did. To be successful as a sales manager, you have to learn how to tap into each individual salesperson’s motivations.

The guru complex

Sales managers with the guru complex might have it because they enjoy the attention and like to feel important. Do you love it when salespeople are coming to you for answers? Each question strokes your ego, doesn’t it?

The problem: If you are telling and not asking, you aren’t coaching. If you expect your salespeople to employ consultative selling methods and become experts at asking questions, you need to model it for them. Spoon-feeding them all of the answers stunts their growth. It’s better for salespeople when you empower them to answer their own questions and nurture their independence.

The cure: Get off your soapbox. Change the conversation. Pose the questions back to them and help them get comfortable with finding their own answers. It will free up your time, make you a better coach and make them much more capable salespeople. For example, instead of solving their problems, ask them, “What could you have done differently? What are you going to do differently next time? What do you think you should do now? What advice would you give if you were me?”

In conclusion, sales managers who apply the same level of analysis to their own performance as they do to the performance of staff will identify shortcomings and improve behaviour right through the business.   

Gretchen Gordon

Contributor • Braveheart Sales Performance

Gretchen Gordon owns Braveheart Sales Performance, a company helping clients to improve sales. Learn more:

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