Four Do’s And Don’ts for Managing Sales People

Whether you’ve had your team for a while or just inherited one, sales team management can be a challenge. Salespeople tend to have outward personalities and strong opinions. They also have a tendency to do things “their way” since that’s what has worked (based on their definition) in the past.

I can’t stress enough that you apply the adage, “trust but verify” here. They probably are good at their jobs or they wouldn’t be on the team in the first place. But are they sacrificing brand consistency and reputation for immediate gain and success? And are you involved enough in their work to know that what they’re doing is good for the long-term health of your company?

The great financier, Andrew Carnegie, once said, “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say, I watch what they do.” I’ve always applied this to my coaching of sales teams. It’s important that you see and hear what your team members are doing so that your company’s value proposition is being communicated effectively and in “one voice.”

Understanding the above, here are my Do’s and Don’ts for your success as a sales team manager:

Sales Manager Do’s:

  • Assess EACH person by measuring how well they listen and how well they tailor their recommendations
  • Get in the field with them regularly and watch them sell
  • Meet weekly and review the activity scorecard that you have BOTH agreed to use
  • Know their personal and professional goals

Sales Manager Don’ts:

  • Trust what they say needs fixing until you observe it yourself
  • Avoid presenting your critique of their sales process
  • Allow their numbers to decline without changing their approach
  • Forget what THEY said is important to them professionally as you craft your recommendations for improvement

How many of these are you doing…and not doing? Keep them in mind each day/week as you work through managing your sales teams. Being consistent in how you approach that responsibility will make a big difference and keep your team motivated out in the field!


What is a Healthy Debate?

One often hears the term “healthy debate” as a reference to two or more sides getting together to hash out an issue that could escalate into argumentative discourse if not dealt with upfront. Some might believe that a debate in business cannot be healthy at all since it pits people against each other. They’d rather have a “discussion.” Let’s take a look at why debating can be good for your business…if handled properly.

Debate in Business

First, let’s clarify that debating in business is different from the debates seen during political campaigns. The focus in the latter is winning at all costs. It really is about surviving as the candidate of choice.

The great John Wooden once said:

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

In business, a debate will involve strong, well-researched opinions on both sides of a decision that needs to be made. Each side presents its case and a solution is chosen. While some will feel they “won” and others might feel they “lost,” the goal of the decision-maker is to take valid points from both sides and create the solution that works best for all involved…notably, your clients!

Debate vs Discussion

Debating is not the same as having a discussion. A discussion is when people get together with a common issue that needs addressing and all parties have an open conversation about solving that issue. While some may come to the table with ideas on the subject, everyone is there to arrive at a decision based on the input from all.

In a debate, while the issue at hand may be the same, how it is worked out is different. There are “sides,” individuals or groups who have already determined what they believe to be the best course of action. They arrive to debate their points and convince others of their merits. Sounds like the basis of an argument, right? It should not be. What it really means is that people have put some significant thought into the subject already and have come to the table backed with their research, knowledge and experience to voice their input. I like that! And so should you. It signifies that people have cared enough about the subject to put some strong thinking into it and are prepared to communicate their position strongly.

Tips for a Healthy Debate

However, as their leader, you need to set the playing field of a debate so that it doesn’t escalate to all out war. Below I list 5 tips for debating that should be shared with your team the next time you see teams digging in for a fight:

#1 Have an Agenda

Make sure you have scoped out where the debate should start and where it should end. What is the end result needed from the debate? Usually, it is a decision on how to proceed. Too often teams that debate go off on excessive tangents that cloud their larger issue. Stay vigilant to the larger issue, keep track of time. Make sure a decision is reached at the end.

#2 Ask Questions to Forward the Debate

Rather than shutting an idea down too soon in order to be right, ask questions of the team. This will foster advanced discussions of the point at hand. Asking smart questions credentials you as a forward thinker and establishes you as someone who desires a clear outcome.

#3 Offer Ideas/Recommendations, Don’t Insist on Them

Too often executives insist on their ideas being accepted. Be open to hearing what the other side is saying. Yes, offer your recommendation so that it can be discussed. But then see how it sits with the others and whether it opens up new ideas. Discussion drives acceptance. Colleagues need to vet an idea in order to wrap their arms around it and accept it.

#4 Summarize, Summarize, Summarize!

The more you summarize a point the more you move the debate forward while acknowledging your teammate. Make sure they know you understood their recommendation, even if you are not convinced it is the right way to go.

#5 Present the Next Step in the Process

Never let the debate get away from you. Rather, present the next step that the team needs to take based on your recommendation. They need to “see your math,” meaning that they need to know how you came to your recommendation and why you are suggesting the next step. Even if your idea of the next step is inaccurate, by presenting it the entire team will create the correct one.

Go ahead…debate! But make sure, in the end, both sides feel like they were heard and understood. And, that a strong decision was the result, even if both sides had to give in a little. That’s a healthy debate!

Have you ever lost control of a debate? How did you get it back? Share your experience with a comment. Thanks! -sg



Acknowledging Employees Is More Than Just “Atta-boys”

On the shoulders of a recent blog post focused on caring about your employees, to really develop people you must pinpoint positive behavior and let your direct reports know you saw, respected and valued their exact behavior in that moment. Eliminate “atta-boys” from your repertoire…and replace them with heartfelt, genuine acknowledgement. Read more

Change the Person, Not the Job

words NOW (in red) and Hiring (in black)Filling open positions on your team usually boils down to this: find the right person for the job. But what about the people already ON your team. Do they meet this basic qualification? Perhaps they did at first, but the job has changed. How well do they match up now?

Too many times I see leadership change a job’s requirements to match the skills of the person doing the work. So I ask, how can you expect to achieve the team/company goals in that situation?

What Do They Think the Job Is?

As you study the business landscape, it’s essential to notice what each direct report believes their job to be. Contrast that with what you know the job needs to be NOW. Often direct reports believe they are doing what needs to be done but are basing it on old information. Is it their job to anticipate what the new requirements are?  Perhaps but, how can you be sure they make that leap correctly? That’s your responsibility.

The closer my clients look into the business behaviors their direct reports/leaders need, the more they discover that many of them have been operating at a sub-par level to the vision and direction they want their organization heading. A new job description is needed.

Let Them Know What You Know

You’re the leader. What this presumes is that you understand what needs to occur to bring the organization to a level of prosperity that your board has deemed desirable. You are more aware than your team is about how the company’s goals have changed due to market conditions, customer needs, the competitive landscape and product/service development. Make your team aware of it, too. That way, you will know they are attacking their work like green berets, armed with intelligence that allows them to adapt.

But what happens if someone doesn’t, or can’t, adapt?

Changing the Job Can Require Someone New

Many times I coach leaders who have a direct who isn’t “getting with the program.” However, instead of doing something about the person, they simply adapt the job around that person’s skill level, thereby diluting the effectiveness of the whole team.

As an example, you may have a COO whom you’ve noticed is reticent to engage and cannot ask tough questions of others while remaining objective. You need this done, otherwise it falls to you. Do you have time to do your job and his?

This skill is now a requirement of the job. A strong leader will detail what is expected to the direct and create a development plan that gives him/her the chance to succeed. However, you must create a timeline that establishes a deadline beyond which you are not willing to accept sub-par performance in this area. And, you must be ready and willing to replace that direct with someone who possess the skills needed for the new job description.

In other words, a new job description may require a new person to fill the position. Right person for the job!

Successful completion of the development plan or the hiring of someone who has the sought-after skills accomplishes three important goals:

  1. Ensuring that a position’s required skills are aligned with the experience each direct has.
  2. Demonstrating a commitment to current employees if they are willing to adapt and learn.
  3. Consistent adapting of your team’s objectives so that they always map back to the company’s goals.

The more you pinpoint the essential behaviors of your directs and coach them to develop these skills, the quicker and easier it will be to lead your organization. Directs will also be grateful that you’ve taken the time to study them, contribute to their success and raise their development bar. They will also know that the new expectations of the position require developing new skills. If they can’t/won’t develop those skills, the job will not be adapted to their skill level.

When was the last time you redeveloped your directs’ job descriptions? Do you have the right people in the right positions? Post a comment below to tell me about it. 

Teach Your Children Well

Hear Ye, Hear Ye…Don’t wait until an executive MUST be coached, shape them early and well.

As a coach, I believe everyone is a candidate for executive coaching, from associates/managers to managing directors/vice presidents to “C” suite executives. Everyone can develop and transform their behavior to fully succeed and prosper in business. But if you wait until they “need” coaching, it could be too late. The longer an organization waits the potentially longer the transformation process may take.

The Good Get Better

Noticing an associate/manager with high potential and giving them the gift of coaching demonstrably affects their behavior and, in turn, your success in business. Your direct report grows and, as an organizational leader, you’ve shaped their ability to comport themselves as you desire.

Bringing in a coach gives you the opportunity to gain a different perspective. Through the coach’s trained eyes, you will understand HOW your direct reports approach their work, what their values are and what they say their developmental gaps are that are dear to them. It’s a lot of information they might never divulge to you.

Leaders Connect

Providing leadership coaching to your directs essentially strengthens your connection with them because of the investment you’ve made in their careers. The coaching covenant speaks volumes about your values as a leader, your commitment to high potential people and a collegial environment.

Get started today.

Restructuring Saves Lives

“I think the world of Jane but she seems to be in over her head. But, I’ve got to advance her division.”

These decisions are tough for many leaders. On one hand, you know, trust and enjoy working with Jane. On the other hand, over the past six months, her area has significantly declined in ROI. It’s time to sit down with Jane and find out her level of understanding regarding her, and her team’s, lack of performance along with determining what is important to her now.

Understanding the Pressure

People change. Business changes. Pressures remain.

It is essential to create an environment of empathy and curiosity regarding Jane’s situation. Have her detail her view. You should commit to listening without bias, without a predetermined agenda. Notice how she speaks about the issues, her degree of responsibility to them and her desire to cure them. Each of these three areas can be quite telling. She may reveal an awareness of the problems and a well thought-out plan to resolve them. However, she may be confused and frustrated, not understanding what’s going on or resigned to the problem with an air of defensiveness. At least now you know what you’re working with here!

Caring by Restructuring

One solution can be restructuring Jane’s area along with restructuring her. Determine an area where you believe Jane can make a difference and that will get her confidence back. This demonstration of YOUR loyalty to her could save her for a time. Look for others who can take on some of her responsibilities and/or assist her as she gets the department back on its feet. You get to hit the “reset” button with someone you believe in, and she gets a new lease on life. She’ll also see who on the team is there to help her and who is not. Throughout this time, though, create a formalized coaching plan for her. Meet with her regularly with specific metrics of success that you both create together.

Have a situation like this on your team? Tell me about it in the comments below. Thanks!


Have a Heart: The Responsibility of Consulting/Selling

A while back, I did some consulting with a major retailer in the men’s luxury garment area. My task was to assess their sales teams throughout the US and create a development plan to increase their sales.

One of the first steps I recommended was that I peform a “secret shopper” evaluation to understand their current selling environment. It didn’t take me long to notice something peculiar. The stores were regal and inviting with elegantly presented garments. The sales people were impeccably dressed with great posture. But there was one thing missing…HEART.

I couldn’t find any.

Be Welcoming

When I shared this observation with my client, he lamented that each store was designed to feel as though you were in a person’s living room.

“Funny,” I said,” because when anyone comes into my living room, I ask how their day was, how they’re feeling, what type of beverage they’d enjoy and where they plan on vacationing this year.”

Essentially the hosting role I play is the same role they needed to play and they weren’t.

Be a Good Host

An author client of mine summed it up perfectly; once you’ve invited someone into your home or gain their attention you have a obligation to “host” them for the time they devote to you. They are giving you their time and from this action you have a responsibility to make their time productive. You accomplish this by being a gracious host. Being interested, actually very interested/curious in them is the first key to professional consulting and selling.

When you are with a client pretend they’re in your living room for a Friday evening dinner party…

Let me know how it goes…

Dismiss First Impressions

It’s been said that you only have one chance to make a first impression. You can change that for your direct reports! Read more