Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 7, 2015

5 Critical Steps to Regain Your Team’s Respect

Filed under: business,management,Sales Management,team development — Paul McCord @ 1:03 pm
Tags: ,

Everyday there are tens of thousands of sales leaders trying to manage a sales team that has lost respect for them—and many, possibly most, don’t even realize that they’ve lost control of their team.

Are you faced with any of these issues?

1. Team members are seldom on time and come and go as they please.  Are your sellers straggling into the office and scheduled meetings because of a lax office atmosphere—or because they simply have no respect for you and your ability to control them?

2. Your interactions with team members are usually monologues.  Are team members listening to you intently and respectfully and giving their opinion freely—or are they simply waiting for you to shut up so you’ll go away and they can go back to ignoring you?

3. Your team members try to talk over you.  Are they excited and want to get their ideas out—or do they think you have nothing worth listening to and don’t respect your opinion?

4. Your requests are ignored or assignments are completed in a half-hearted fashion.  Are they so busy with selling and taking care of their customers that they just didn’t have time to get to the assignment—or do they think the assignment was a joke not worth their time and effort, and besides, you’re not going to do anything about it anyway?

It’s easy for managers to ignore the above symptoms of disrespect.  In fact, it is far easier and a lot more comfortable to ignore them than to address them.

But if you’re in a position where you have a team that does not respect you, either you or they are short timers.  A manager—and the company they work for—cannot last long once they’ve lost the respect of their team.

But once the team’s respect has been lost, is it possible to regain it?

I’ve spoken to many management experts who have argued that once lost, respect is impossible to regain and the only solution is new management.

And for the most part I agree.  However, I have seen several situations where management redemption did occur.  In virtually every case, the manager took the following five steps:

  1. Personal acknowledgement.  The manager recognized the loss of respect and committed themselves to aggressively addressing and correcting the issue.
  2. Confessing to the team.  The manager confessed to each member of the team (either in a group meeting or during individual meetings with team members) that they had lost their commitment and had failed the team and have recommitted themselves to serving the team without reservation.
  3. Establishing new ground rulesand adhering to them.  The manager sets out a new set of rules that govern both the team’s and the manager’s actions along with the consequences for breaking those rules.  Discipline is not only needed, it must be demonstrated.  Consequently, it is necessary that the team know what is expected from them and from the manager and that both have objective rules and guidelines that all parties are aware of and can measure one another by.
  4. Encourage discussion–and dissent.  It is imperative that an open dialogue between the manager and the team members be created and it is the manager’s obligation to set the tone and get the ball rolling.  If the manager can’t break through the ice and begin a real conversation with the team, no amount of confession and fair rules will do any good.
  5. Treat team members with respect.  Very often the team begins losing respect for their manager not simply because they view the manager as weak, but because they feel that he or she isn’t treating them with respect.  A manager cannot expect respect from the team if they aren’t showing the team members respect.  Respect, more than any other aspect of relationships, is a two-way street.  Part of earning respect is showing respect and the manager must begin the process by making sure the team members know they are respected.

The above five step process isn’t an overnight fix.  In fact, regaining respect takes time—a lot of time, weeks and months worth of time.

Yes, once the team has lost respect for their manager the most expeditious solution is replacing the manger.  But that isn’t the only solution.  If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve lost your team’s respect—or if you have a manager that for whatever reason you cannot replace and they’ve lost their team’s respect, apply the steps above and you will, given time, repair the damage and once again have the team’s respect.

October 9, 2012

Are You Dumbing Down Your SMART Goals?

If you’ve been in the working world for any length of time at all you probably have been introduced to the concept of SMART goals.

For those who haven’t been introduced to them: SMART is simply an acronym for the five characteristics of goals that have been well thought out and are realistic.

Here are the SMART goal characteristics:

Specific

Measurable

Achievable

Relevant

Timely

Many times when consulting with companies or individual sales leaders I find that in an effort to develop strategic goals they totally miss the mark either through unbridled optimism or a sense of desperation that causes them to overreach the possible.  In essence they dumb down their SMART goals by creating goals that cannot be achieved or that have very little relevance to their current needs.

My experience has consistently been that the error in developing SMART goals tends be in the areas of being Achievable and Relevant.  In most instances the developers of the errant goals have been successful in creating specific, measurable and timely goals.  Few seem to have a problem understanding what specific or measurable means and they certainly understand the need to put a specific timeline on the goal.

But creating achievable and/or relevant goals is where they most often get off track.

To create an achievable goal one has to have a firm grasp on the resources available and what can realistically be achieved with those resources.  I often find goals that have little or no basis in the reality of the company’s history, personnel, and resources.  Rather than creating a realistic goal, one has been created based on nothing but a hope that somehow the sales gods will shine upon them and the goal will somehow be met.  Every goal is created within a framework of history and with certain available resources.  Any goal that does not take those factors into consideration is flirting with disaster.

Others create unrealistic goals because they feel pressure to pull off a miracle.  Whether the pressure is coming from above or from an impending financial crisis, many goals are created for no other reason than to either pacify or deceive; and many times the intent is to deceive oneself into believing things aren’t as bad as they really are.

Another group will intentionally create unattainable goals with the belief that the team needs something to shoot for, something to really stretch them.  The concept is fine—we all need to be stretched; the problem lies in the result of creating unattainable goals.  Rather than stretching the team, creating unrealistic, unattainable goals sucks morale and kills enthusiasm.   Creating goals that stretch is not only good but is requisite.  You want to make your team have to really reach to meet the goal.  But you don’t want them to be put into an impossible situation where no matter how hard they try there is no possibility of success.

Equally destructive is creating goals that have no relevance to the team’s needs.  Whether the goals are created because the goal is a hot button of one of the goal creators or a failed understanding of what the needs of the team are and how the goal fails to address those needs, creating goals that aren’t focused on meeting the needs of the team drains resources, time, and energy from those goals that are relevant. 

The hardest part of creating quality goals is taking a hardnosed, realistic look at the goals under consideration and analyzing them in terms of the needs of the team, the available resources, and the history of the team and its individual members. 

Hoping that somehow your average team members are all going to become superstars or your personal hot button goal that has no impact on the real needs of the team isn’t going to drain resources is not only silly but is self-destructive.  You may be able to fool yourself and maybe even your team for a short time, but eventually reality will prevail.

Your strategic goals can either set your company and team on the right track or be a root cause of failure and wasted time, money, and energy.  Fortunately we have complete control over the goals we create; all we have to do is have the discipline to keep from dumbing them down.

September 15, 2012

Numbers Don’t Lie? Oh Yes They Do

How many times have you heard that one that numbers don’t lie?  Probably like me you’ve heard it thousands and thousands of times. 

And we in business, especially sales, love numbers.  We track everything that could possibly be tracked with a number—the number of calls made, the number of times someone answers a call, the number of appointments set, the number of contracts signed, the number of pencils used, the number of no’s we get, the number of contacts made before we get a yes, the average commission earned, the ratio of calls to appointments, and the list goes on and on and on.

We live our life by numbers.  We rival baseball in how fanatical we are about numbers.

We swear by our numbers. 

We live and die by our numbers.

Our numbers tell us when we’re doing something wrong and when we’re doing something right.  They tell us whether to be happy or sad.  They tell us if we can bitch slap Joe in the next cubical this month or whether he is going to be slapping us.  They tell us how much swagger to put in our step, whether we need to pick up the pace or if we can take a weekend off, whether we should answer that call from our boss or ignore it.

We also do some really stupid things because of our numbers.

I’ve had sellers get all giddy because their close ratio is super high or because their average contract has skyrocketed.

I’ve had sellers totally transform their way of doing business because they’ve busted through to a new level.

I’ve had sales leaders beef up personnel because their teams have finally got it and the sales are flowing through the door.

Some of the situations above were perfectly justified.  In fact, in some of the cases the seller or sales leader had waited too long to make the proper adjustments.

But in way too many cases the sellers and sales leaders have overreacted and ended up doing great damage to themselves and their company.

In all of the above cases decisions were made based on hard, cold, concrete numbers.

So how come some make wise decisions based on numbers while others make disastrous ones?

In my experience there are three major reasons why the numbers don’t tell the real story:

  1. Emphasizing the Wrong Numbers.  Most companies and a great many sellers and sales leaders keep track of a large amount of data such various ratios, numbers, averages, and such.  At any given time some of this data is positive and some negative in terms of our performance. With so much data it can be easy to get lost in the forest of “stuff.”  It is even easier to drift toward the positive numbers and downplay or even ignore the negative data.  If perchance the positive numbers are the truly significant ones and you act on them, you stand an excellent chance of growing your business. On the other hand, if the negative numbers are the significant data and you brush them aside to concentrate on the positive numbers, you stand a very great chance of pursuing numbers that will damage your business.I had a client whose data indicated that their average sale for the past two quarters was over twice their pervious average.  But the data also indicated that the profits from those sales had declined substantially due to increased sales and delivery costs.  Which number got them excited?  Bigger contracts.  Which numbers did they assume were aberrations?  Increased costs and decreased profits.  What did they do?  They concentrated on going after larger contracts and consequently suffered a major hit to their bottom line.Using a very critical eye when analyzing what is happening in your business—whether the analysis is of a large business with tens or hundreds of millions at stake or your own sales business where your personal income is on the line—is critical.  We all like to see those positive results from our hard work and hate to confront the negative.  But the only way to grow our business is to look at the business as it really is which often means correcting or eliminating the negative is of more immediate importance than expanding the positive.
  2. Taking Too Short a Time Span as the “New Normal.”  Each of our businesses changes over time.  We all reach new plateaus or crater to new depths.  We all have winning streaks as well as slumps.  Our numbers ebb back and forth while over time remaining consistent or possibly increasing or declining. That constant near term change creates a long-term pattern. Although the near term ups and downs are important, it is the long term pattern that is most vital to telling us what is really going on in our business.  Unfortunately too often we get caught up in the short term change and convince ourselves that it marks a sea change in our business when in fact we’re simply on a short term roll or in a short term slump.  This isn’t to say to ignore short term trends, but rather that they must analyzed in the context of our long term history.If you’re a sports fan you’re more than a little familiar with short term rolls and slumps.  You live and die each season based on the streaks your team or a particular player is on.  Those streaks are one of the reasons they play a complete season and why players are paid based on a history of production and not based on short term bursts.   Hot and cold streaks come and go but over the long term their real win/loss or batting or passing record emerges and reveals their strengths and weaknesses.It is easy to get suckered into believing that what has happened over the past few weeks or months is the new reality.  It may be.  More than likely it isn’t.  Numbers have a way of being consistent and working themselves out over a long period of time.  Those short bursts and potholes get washed out over the long term.New plateau or momentary spike?  Only time will tell—but far too many businesses and sellers turn on a dime when they should be holding steady based on what’s happening today in relation to what their long term history has been.
  3. Ignoring Reality and Making the Numbers Conform to Their Pie in the Sky Hope:  In a sense, you can make numbers say anything you want them to say.  Good can be bad and bad good if you know how to spin them.  And many a manager and seller are good at spinning to make their numbers conform to their own fantasiesA few years ago I was speaking to a group of Realtors about building their businesses through referrals and how to become a referral based seller.  One lady raised her hand and proudly proclaimed that her business was already referral based because over the past year almost 90% of her business came from referrals from clients.  I and the rest of the group were duly impressed—until I asked her how many new clients she had acquired during that time.  Nine was her answer.  Hell, with nine new clients over the course a year she wasn’t a referral based seller, she wasn’t even in business.  But she had convinced herself that she was going great guns in the referral area.Too many find it all too easy to take a number they like and force it into a story that makes them feel good.  The sad part is they so often believe their own BS and must then suffer the consequences.

The truth is numbers don’t lie, we do.  We lie to ourselves; we cherry pick the number we like and ignore the one we don’t; we react to the immediate without regard to history. 

So I apologize to numbers that I so callously accused of lying.  They’re innocently just doing their job; we’re the guilty party taking them out of context and forcing them to represent something they don’t.

The moral of the story is simple—let numbers do their job.  Let them marinate for a period before trying to declare them to be shining a light on a completely new path; let them say what they’re trying to say instead of what you want to hear; and by all means, don’t force them at gun point to be an accomplice to a personal crime of self deception.

Now, go in peace and sin no more and your numbers will faithfully lead you in the right direction.

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August 29, 2012

7 Signs There is a Cancer Growing in Your Sales Team

Is your sales team healthy?

Are they performing to the level you want them?

Is there a cancer growing within your team that you’re not aware of?

Do you have underlying issues within your team that is destroying productivity, creating turnover, and maybe even driving away existing clients?

Here are 7 signs that indicate you may have serious problems within your team:

1. Meetings start late because team members wander in when they want.  Is this a sign of a lack of discipline within the team or a sign that the team members don’t care?

2. Meetings are manager monologues because team members only speak when forced.  Are team members afraid to voice their opinions?  Are they disassociated and don’t care?  Do they feel that their views won’t be seriously considered?  If any of these are the root cause, you’ve got serious problems to deal with.

3. Your team experiences a significant decrease in sales in a stable or growing market.  A sudden and significant decline in sales in a stable or growing market demands immediate action—but not the shouting, the threats, and the demands for sales which are the actions most managers take.  Instead of ratcheting up the pressure, take a step back and dig for the root cause—which may very well be within management, not the team members.

4. Cliques and rivalries within the team become more intense.  Small cliques and rivalries occur naturally in every group.  Although we might wish these things didn’t happen, it’s natural for some people to be drawn together while others are drawn into close relationships with other people.  Some individuals prefer to go it alone.  It’s also common for some individuals or groups to develop good natured rivalries with each other.   But when serious issues arise within the team, the cliques become more isolated and the rivalries become more intense, the backstabbing and blaming tends to be more open, and a feeling of hostility pervades the office.

5. Conversations are short and business oriented only.  When your team members are “too busy” to speak with you other than when necessary but production isn’t increasing, you have issues to deal with.  Unless you are seeing real growth in production to accompany the too busy to talk claims, your team members are telling you they have such serious issues with you that they simply refuse to interact with you unless absolutely necessary.

6. Team members show little or no respect for company rules and regulations.  As with #1 above, you may simply have chosen not to instill discipline in your team (you’re just asking for big problems down the road but many managers believe they’re making the workplace “fun” and “creative” by running a lunatic asylum).  More likely, you have a team in rebellion and that no longer cares what management thinks.

7. You need an ice pick to chisel your way through the pack ice to get to your office.  Hard as it may be to believe, some managers don’t even recognize they have serious issues even when the ice in the office is so thick they can’t break through it no matter what.  If your office is coated in permafrost you have a dysfunctional sales team.

Problems don’t arise in the sales team from nowhere.  There is always a root cause—often more than a single cause.  From a dissatisfied, disruptive, corrosive salesperson to new restrictive office rules and regulations to changes in compensation to a dictatorial manager, there is always a catalyst.  But once the disease catches hold, time becomes its ally, making it increasingly more difficult to eradicate the longer it festers.

I’ve worked with sales leaders who have ignored the above signs.  Others have argued that these were nothing more than idiosyncrasies within their team.  In virtually every case they have eventually had to deal with a seriously dysfunctional sales team.

What about your team?  Are any of these signs beginning to appear?  If so, before you do anything, make a close examination searching for root causes.  But whatever you do, don’t ignore them as they become more destructive the longer and deeper they work their way into the heart of the sales team.

 

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August 22, 2012

Guest Article: “The Five Golden Rules of Boosting Sales Rep Productivity,” by Nancy Nardin

Five Golden Rules for Boosting Sales Rep Productivity
by Nancy Nardin

Sales software tools can transform the means and methods by which a sales rep’s productivity is not only measured, but calibrated. However, sales leaders should not be quick to take hold of the misguided notion that tools alone will provide all the right answers. A paradigm shift in thinking, and a modification in behavior, must also be considered.

The focal point of this article is not to examine or suggest possible changes that reps must make. My purpose is to zero-in on the changes that sales leaders must make to ensure that productivity gains from tools are not negated by pursuing issues that are off-target. If you want to ignite your sales rep productivity, and subsequently drive it right off the charts, consider these five golden rules.

1. Don’t misuse their valuable time, or yours

Every minute you spend “following up” with, or giving directives to your reps, equates to time they won’t have to talk to a prospect or to execute on their sales objectives (let alone close deals). Carefully analyze the reasons ‘why’ you check in with reps, and the critical ‘nature’ of its purpose. Perhaps you’re anxious to hear how a deal is progressing, or to get a general reading on what’s happening in the field. Those are indeed legitimate intentions. As an alternative to ‘checking in’ with reps, why not use a reporting tool such as Front Row Solutions that provides a rapid and effortless technique for reps to periodically update the system with their activity and progress throughout the day? The question you should be asking is this; “Can you get the vital information you require without doing so at the expense of a rep’s productivity or tasking focus?”

2. Only request what is truly important

Just like everyone else, when managers lock onto an idea or inspiration, they naturally want to act on it without delay. This often means picking up the phone, and asking a rep to provide the desired information. Though the request may be important in general terms, in reality the interruption means the rep must now redirect their time and focus. If it’s truly an important request, take a moment to think it through within a framework of efficiency. Determine whether the idea can be integrated into a current initiative, or whether someone else be delegated to perform or initiate the task. Is it really necessary for them to divide their current focus or objective that very minute (or ever), to briefly re-align themselves with your spur-of-the-moment idea or insight.

3. Evaluate what you want versus what your reps need

There is one question I hated to deal with when I was selling: “How’s it going?” Another version of the same pointless question is “What’s going on?” If you thought about it critically, where would you begin if you were a rep and were asked not only to endure but respond to those ambiguous questions? The truly important pieces of information are; is the rep’s forecast on track, are there any red flags, or will deals come in as predicted. What a rep needs is to focus time executing on the processes that will bring a deal to a close. Consider using a tool like Cloud9 Analytics that allows you direct and invaluable insight into the pipeline, as well as enhanced predictive performance analysis.

4. Conduct an audit for performance assessment

What are the primary obstacles to improving or streamlining productivity levels? The shoot-from-the-hip response is undoubtedly, that reps just need to kick it up a few notches. That’s because we generally evaluate performance and motivation from the standard thresholds of ‘attitude’, or ‘commitment’, or the degree of ‘hunger’ a rep happens to exhibit. My suggestion is to take it up a notch on their behalf. Have a neutral party spend a few days with several reps to observe and audit their day-to-day performance and activity. The idea is not to focus on incorrect behavior, but to investigate and ultimately reveal those particular tasks that can be streamlined. This includes evaluating the time required for a rep to create a complex proposal, or respond to an RFP. Do performance obstacles arise because the rep must search for the appropriate marketing content, must write or re-write content, or spend inordinate amounts of time formatting or enhancing the document in a captivating manner?

5. Eliminate the productivity-killers

Once the audit is complete and available for review, analyze the productivity-killers to formulate your plan of attack. First eliminate or improve on the processes that are the easiest and quickest to resolve. Then, attack those elements that needlessly rack-up the most time and keep your reps from interacting with prospects. If responding to proposals and RFPs devours too much valuable time, consider a tool such as Qvidian’s Proposal Automation, which streamlines the proposal-generating process to nearly half the time – on average – resulting in more professional, and highly effective proposals. If your reps are wasting valuable time researching for the right contact for prospecting purposes, you should definitely consider a tool like iSell by OneSource.

Take-aways

Consider these five golden rules of sales rep productivity, and free your reps from the time-killing obstacles that you may be guilty of imposing on them, without even realizing it. Eliminate roadblocks that stand in the way of optimum sales performance. You’ll not only lead your team to quota faster, but you’ll enjoy a much smoother ride in the process.

Nancy Nardin is a nationally recognized thought leader on sales and marketing productivity tools. Her firm, Smart Selling Tools – of which she is the founder and President – is dedicated to helping marketers and sellers apply process and technology to drive revenue.  Get more from Nancy at Smart Selling Tools Blog.

August 1, 2012

Is Your Sales Team Training and Development Being Sabotaged from Within?

Filed under: management,sales,Sales Management,sales training — Paul McCord @ 11:43 am
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Yesterday the CEO of a mid-size financial services company complained that no matter how carefully they designed their sales process and the accompanying training, they have been unsuccessful in establishing a consistent, long-term implementation of the process throughout the company.

Yesterday certainly wasn’t the first time I’ve heard this lament—and it certainly won’t be the last.

There are a number of possible reasons for sales training failure from treating sales training as an event instead of an ongoing behavior change process, to salespeople who view attending sales training sessions as torture, to the company’s failure to provide follow-up coaching for the sales team.  All of these are real issues that can negate any potential success you might experience from your investment in sales training.

But there is another cause of training failure that isn’t addressed as often but can be more destructive to your company’s training efforts than any other single factor—your sales managers.

Are your sales managers reassuring their charges that, “yes, you have to go to the training, but don’t worry; just go and when you get back, sell the way you’ve always sold?” 

Maybe they don’t believe in the training you’re giving and are intentionally training their team in different processes and tactics? 

Maybe they are meeting their quota and are fearful that a change of process will hurt rather than help.

Maybe they simply don’t like change and prefer to do things the way they’ve always done them.

Maybe, heaven forbid, they just don’t care.

If you fail to get full buy-in from your sales management team to the specific training and process you are presenting, you will not have comprehensive and universal implementation of the training. 

Your frontline sales managers who work with their team members have more influence on how your salespeople sell than anyone else—more than senior executives, more than middle sales management, more than the training department, more than HR, more than the expensive sales trainers you hire.

If they don’t believe, the salespeople won’t believe.  If they don’t reinforce the messages, the strategies, and the tactics, those occasional training sessions will be nothing more than expensive exercises in futility.

How do you get all of your sales managers on the same page?

Before you ever put a salesperson in a training workshop or seminar, each and every manager must have gone through the management version of the training.  Each manager must understand what the company’s comprehensive, unified sales process is and how the particular training that is scheduled fits in the big picture; what short and long-term results are to be expected; what their job is in reinforcing and coaching the training; and what criteria will be used to determine the success or failure of the training.

Most of all, each manager must believe in the process and strategy.  .

Whether the training is presented by an in-house trainer or by a professional trainer brought in from outside, each segment of training should consist of a management segment designed to gain manager buy-in and to give them the tools and knowledge they will need to coach sellers once they are back at the office and a segment for salespeople that is attended by their managers.

And although the initial cost of training in terms of both time and money will increase, the long-term result will be reduced waste of training dollars and increased sales.  That wished for unified sales process will begin to become a reality because the biggest determent to success has been turned into the biggest promoter of success.

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March 26, 2012

Four Common Destructive Sales Management Styles

I’ve had the privilege of working with many new managers whose company hired me to help them transition from seller to manager or to work with existing managers to become more effective.  One of the recurring issues I’ve discovered is a misunderstanding of what a sales manager is.

Whether I’m working with a newly promoted seller into a frontline sales management position or an established sales leader, I often find someone with a warped and destructive idea of what a sales manager’s work is. 

Generally I find these misguided managers have adopted one of these four destructive management styles :

The Clone Coach:  A common tendency of great salespeople when promoted to manager is to believe that if they could just train all of their salespeople to be mini-me’s of themselves then everything will be great—the salespeople will be happy, they’ll make their numbers, management will be thrilled, customers will be loyal forever, and the new manager will be promoted again in no time.  Thus, the new manager sets out to coach every seller on his or her team to do exactly what they did to be successful without regard to the individual salesperson’s experience level, knowledge, personality, or skills. 

Typically the harder the manager tries to “coach” each of their salespeople to mimic the way they sold, the more frustrated each seller becomes and the more resistant to being “coached.”

Although the manager may succeed in creating one or two clones, they will alienate the majority of their team and eventually there will be a breakdown of trust and cooperation.

The Super Seller:  The Super Seller is the star salesperson who when promoted to manager tells his or her salespeople to forget about selling, “you get the prospects, I’ll sell ‘em” is the crux of their management style.  They haven’t the slightest interest in seeing their salespeople grow as sellers; their only interest is making THEIR numbers because it’s all about them.

Salespeople languish and eventually wither and die under a Super Seller for they not only have no chance to grow, if they do decide to exercise selling skills they are typically scolded for the perceived sin of costing the manager potential scalps on his or her lodge pole.

Although the manager may appear successful to upper management if judged only by the numbers, she is judged a complete failure and is resented by her team which typically suffers large turnover and discontent.

The Disciplinarian:  Less prevalent that the two previous management styles but equally dangerous is the manager who comes in with the attitude of “I’m going to whip these lazy good for nothings into shape if it kills me.”  Most typically it does kill—both the team members and the manager.

The Disciplinarian usually has a chip on their shoulder and disrespect for those they “manage.”  This manager views himself as being not only a superior seller to his team members but also more dedicated to the company and his job than they are. 

Sales teams under the thumb of the Disciplinarian suffer from morale issues that eventually result in high turnover and often outright rebellion. 

The Pal:  The Pal manager has most often been promoted from within the team and is friends with the majority of team members.  The Pal’s transition from peer to manager changes virtually nothing in the team’s relationships as the salespeople have a difficult time making the transition to viewing their old friend as their manager and the new manager has a difficult time now having to hold her former team peers accountable for their actions.

Instead of making the transition from peer to manager, the new manager makes a transition from peer to Super Friend, becoming the advocate extraordinaire for her team mates, protecting them and covering for them no matter what.  The Pal is committed to her friends and is most concerned about how they feel about her rather than managing them. 

Unfortunately for most managers who take on the role of The Pal, the lack of discipline and accountability results in the team members taking gross advantage of them—to the point that often their tenure as manager is very short lived.  . 

The common denominator that binds all four of these management styles together is a focus by the manager on themselves and their wants and needs.

Certainly managing entails coaching, and disciplining when necessary, as well as helping close a sale here and there; and needless to say making the numbers is important.  But managing involves far more than these few traits and it becomes destructive when the manager becomes completely focused on their own needs and their perceived success rather than their team’s growth and performance.

One of the keys to being a successful sales manager is having a solid understanding of human nature and in particular understanding what makes each team member tick.  More than anything else, sales management is about leadership, not about control or being the big shot or even just making the numbers.

Manager, if you see yourself locked into any of these management styles, by all means seek out a quality coach or find a quality management training company and start the process of becoming a strong manager.

Seller, if you find that you are working for one of the above managers, consider your situation carefully and make a conscious decision as to whether you want to continue in such a situation where your growth as a salesperson may be stymied and you may live in a constant state of frustration.

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February 20, 2012

Guest Article: Meet Them Where They Are, by Diane Helbig

Meet Them Where They Are
by Diane Helbig

Salespeole are as individual as snowflakes. The way they communicate, sell, and build relationships is equally unique. If you want to lead them, you have to meet them where they are.

Here’s what often happens in sales departments all over the world. The sales manager picks a goal, picks a process, and shares it with the sales team. It’s a ‘do this’ mentality. This process is usually one that served the sales manager well when she was a sales person. She believes that since it worked for her, it’ll work for everyone.

Sales managers also believe that it’s their job to direct their staff; it’s their job to structure the way their salespeople behave. They create the plan and then expect the salespeople to follow it. They decide when to do ride-alongs, when the salespeople should be in the office, and when they should be out in the field. They decide how the sales people should sell, what they should say, who they should say it to, and where they should go. And, they are wrong.

A good sales manager knows that she’ll be successful when her salespeople are successful. It’s not about what worked for her; it’s about what works for the sales staff – individually. Respecting their unique capabilities and needs will help her help them.

A good sales manager knows her salespeople. She’s taken the time to get to know them and how they operate. She’s talked with them about how they plan to succeed, and what they need to make that happen. Then the sales manager works with the salesperson to help them craft a plan that is unique to them. Together they develop a reporting system that makes sense.

It’s the sales manager’s job to work with her sales people in a way that is best for them, not her. This individualized attention will ensure that their needs are being met and that they have the tools they need to succeed. Since no two people are the same, it stands to reason that no two people will need the same plan and assistance to reach their goals.

Creating a one-size fits all type of sales program only works for the sales manager. It makes it easier on the sales manager because they have to expend less effort. Unfortunately, it isn’t going to get them the results that they want.

When you want to be successful and you want your staff to be successful, you’ll work with them to create strategies that work for each sales person. You’ll take the time to give each sales person what he or she needs to succeed. They will rise to the occasion because you are empowering them to create their own success. There’s nothing worse than being forced to work someone else’s program. Don’t force your staff to work yours.

 Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. As a certified, professional coach and president of Seize This Day Coaching, Diane helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably. She evaluates, encourages, and guides her clients

February 13, 2012

Guest Article: Breathless Business, by Dan Waldschmidt

BREATHLESS BUSINESS
by Dan Waldschmidt

We’ve become a generation of “good enough” business leaders.

We’ve traded a relentless focus on being extraordinary for the justification that we are following the rules. That we are doing what we’ve been told we should be doing — college degree, MBA, and 5 year subscription to Smart Business magazine.

Nothing too risky.

Nothing unexplained.

In place of wonderment, we’ve adopted process, policy, and politics. There are rules for everything. And when that doesn’t work we can always blame the “nine-to-fivers” for not doing enough.

If something goes wrong then we unwire the entire business process and start strategizing around the uncertainty that we just experienced.

But maybe this whole drive for understanding the process is why we find it so tough to stay motivated. To stay focused on our mission. To take the road less traveled.

We’ve lost our sense of breathlessness. Our curiosity for achieving the impossible.

If we can’t predict it, project it, and plan for it, then we aren’t interested.

But the magic behind success is what happens in spite of our anticipations — what emerges from chaos and confusion.

Maya Angelou made the poetic observation that: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Breathless business.

Leadership needs an overhaul — we need breathlessness.

  • Our customers crave it.
  • Our employees thrive in it.
  • Our ambitions demand it.

It’s the missing ingredient in our struggle for finding success.

We’ve tried everything else. We’ve tried to manage chaos; attempted to manufacture passion from school plans. We even have a bevy of tools to help us automate empathy.

And none of it has worked.  None of it is working.

Customer loyalty is at an all time low.  Employee retention continues to exasperate progress.  Selfish sales and marketing processes dampen client engagement.

We’re missing guts.

We’re missing the guts to be amazing — choosing survival over the extraordinary.

It’s time to start being amazing.  Being predictable and eliminating uncertainty is what is holding you back.

Be breathless.

Speaker, writer, strategist, Dan Waldschmidt is at war with conventional business strategy.  His Edgy Conversations© have turned hundreds of companies into rock-star businesses and the Wall Street Journal calls his blog one of the” Top 7 sales blogs” anywhere in the world.  He’s on a mission to empower millions of high-performers all over the globe.  For more information about Waldschmidt Partners Intl, go to http://www.EdgyConversations.com or call at 202-630-6730.

December 23, 2011

Lessons in Group Dynamics from Lola

Mr. B.J.

I’ve always been fascinated with how new members of groups try to find a way to fit in with the existing group members.  I’ve spent years observing—and participating at times as a new and other times as an established member of the group—how the new folks try to fit in as well as how the existing members try to either find a place for or keep out someone new.

Over the past several months I’ve had the pleasure of watching this group dynamic play out in my own home—and most interestingly the subject of the attempt to fit in is Lola, our newest dog.  Lola has taught me a great deal about what works and what doesn’t work when trying to fit into new surroundings and with a well established group.

Ms. Chloe

Some Background Prior to Lola’s arrival, our household consisted of Debbie, my wife, Mr. B.J., a six year old miniature Dachshund, Ms. Chloe, a seven year old miniature Yorkie, and myself.  As we acquired both dogs as puppies when they were only about 8 weeks old, our little family unit has been together undisturbed for six years.

Some readers may remember how B.J. and Chloe would work the neighborhood looking for treat handouts from our neighbors.  Since we have moved to a new home that is located only a block away from a very busy five lane street, B.J. and Chloe no longer have the freedom to canvas the neighborhood and are confined to our house and the backyard.  Although they have adopted well to being restricted to just our property, with the more limited room to roam, Mr. B.J. has become more protective of his turf.

Lola

B.J. and Chloe are extremely close.  Since B.J. joined the family as an 8 week old puppy, he and Chloe have only been apart from one another on a very few occasions.  When they are apart from one another it is obvious that they miss each other—at times to the point of refusing to eat or do anything until they are reunited with the other.

Along Comes Lola Last April Debbie and I decided to go to Nashville on vacation.  Since there were some places in Memphis and Dallas Debbie wanted to visit also, we decided to drive instead of fly.

We were staying in the loft of an old 19th century barn that had been converted into a one bedroom apartment.  The barn was on a 10 or so acre property where the large main house had been turned into a bed and breakfast.  The property abutted a larger property whose barn was on the fence separating the two properties.

When we arrived we discovered that the owners of the bed and breakfast had rescued a beautiful 5 year old Golden Retriever named Lola from her unfortunate circumstances next door.  The owners of the other property had acquired Lola as a puppy 5 years earlier for their son.  It turned out that the son didn’t like nor want the dog, so instead of finding a more suitable home for her, the folks simply put Lola in a fenced in area next to their barn.  There she stayed—without access to the barn—for five years, being fed and visited only on occasion.  She endured hot, humid summers and freezing cold winters outside with no cover, no companionship, and nothing to comfort her.

When the owners of the bed and breakfast realized the situation, they asked Lola’s owners if they could take her.  They rescued her and gave her a home in their barn.  They gave her plenty of food, took her to the vet where they discovered she had heart worms which they began treating, and gave her daily attention.  But they knew they couldn’t keep her; they had to find a good home for her.

And then Debbie and I showed up.  It took Debbie about 30 seconds to realize that since we drove and could, therefore, take her home with us, Lola had a new home.

During the week that we were there we spent a good amount of time with Lola.  She proved to be a great, sweet dog despite her 5 years of solitary confinement out in the elements.

Lola Comes Home On our trip back home our attention turned to concern about how Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe would react to Lola.  Would they accept her after they realized that she was staying and not just visiting?  Since Lola hadn’t been around other dogs how would she react?  Were we about to introduce total chaos to our stable and well established household?

We arrived home late in the afternoon.  Debbie stayed in the car with Lola while I went into the house and had my reunion with the dogs.  We then switched and I stayed with Lola while Debbie went in and greeted the dogs.  Both dogs were excited to see us as we knew they would be . . .

then their little world was turned upside down.

Lola came into the backyard.

As expected, Mr. B.J. became very defensive of his territory.

Chloe was curious—but apprehensive.

Lola was excited to come face to face other dogs.

B.J. growled and yelled.  His antics didn’t seem to faze Lola.

Lola immediately decided that Chloe was her new BFF and tried to smother her with attention which Chloe didn’t like.

As we were afraid would happen, Lola got off on the wrong foot.

Rejection Starting that evening and for the next several weeks Lola tried her best to fit in with B.J. and Chloe.

When they played, she tried to join in.  She was summarily rejected.

At breakfast and dinner she tried to share their food.  She was quickly put in her place.

She tried to use their pillows and blankets and was told in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t allowed.

Her only companionship was Debbie and I, but she never gave up trying to break into the B.J./Chloe clique.

Submission Within a couple of weeks she decided the best route to acceptance was submission.  She took her behavior cues from B.J. and Chloe—and those cues were basically, “stay away.”

She would meekly approach one and they would either snap at her or turn and walk away.

She would try to lie on the floor next to one and would get a paw in the face for her trouble; she would then head off to find a place by herself.

When one of the dogs would bark at her, she’d roll over and whimper.  One would think that Mr. B.J. was the one who weighted 90 lbs. and Lola was the one who weighted 13 lbs.

Lola Stands Her Ground Slowly Lola tired of the treatment she was receiving from B.J. and Chloe and began to assert herself.

Instead of meekly approaching them, she began to confidently insert herself into their play.

At breakfast and dinner when B.J. growled, she growled back.

When she wanted to lay on one of their mats or curl up with one of their blankets and they objected, she ignored their threats.

When B.J. barred his teeth, she barred hers.  They never fought for she discovered that in truth Mr. B.J. is a classic bully—he’ll yell, scream and threaten, but when stood up to, he goes turtle and begins to cry.

Acceptance As Lola began to assert herself and demand to have her place in the home, Mr. B.J. and Ms. Chloe began to accept her as a part of the family.

The more Lola claimed her rightful place, the more respect and acceptance she received.

Lola has been with us for 9 months.  She still isn’t as close to B.J. and Chloe as B.J. and Chloe are to one another—and, of course, she never will be.  But she finally demanded and received her place in the home.

B.J. isn’t as patient with her as he is with Chloe.  Chloe still refuses to be Lola’s BFF.

Lola still is learning how to relate to other dogs.  She tries hard but is still clumsy and often tries too hard.

But a great deal of progress has been made.

Lessons Learned So what does this dog story mean to humans?

I’ve seen this same situation worked out in sales forces when a new salesperson joins an established group of sellers.

The same dynamics take place.  The established group tries to ostracize the newcomer either out of fear or jealousy while the newcomer tries to figure out how to fit into the group.

Most of the time the newcomer tries to win acceptance through acquiesce—hoping that by meekness and being as unobtrusive as possible the group will find a place for them.  Most often they experience the same result that Lola experienced—they remain an outcast.

A good number of these newcomers will eventually tire of outcast treatment and begin to assert themselves at which time the group seems to begin the acceptance process.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many newcomers simply accept their outcast status.  They never learn how to assert themselves and demand acceptance.  A great many good sellers will end up leaving the company because they don’t feel that they fit in.

Managers: understand how important it is that you help your new sellers fit into the existing group.  Find one of the leaders of the group and seek to get their help in bringing new sellers into the group.  Make sure you keep an eye on how new sellers fit in and encourage them to assert themselves and to insist on taking their rightful place within the group.

Sellers: ultimately it is your responsibility to work your way into the group that you are joining.  Understand that there will likely be some resistance to accepting you.  Likewise, understand that if you allow yourself to be dominated and pushed aside, that very likely will happen.  You must stand up and demand to be let in—yet at the same time you certainly cannot come across as egotistical or a jerk.

Many managers ignore the problem their new sellers face when joining an established sales team.  How the new seller fits in will have a significant impact on both their sales efforts and their longevity with the company.

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