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Managing Your ‘Unmanagable’ Sales Menagerie

Posted on August 12, 2018 under Sales Management 101.

 

Managing Your Sales Menagerie

I doubt that there is a sales manager anywhere who has not at one time or another stared out at his ‘audience’ at an early morning sales meeting and said (with apologies to Billy Joel) ‘Man, what am I doing here?”

You get no eye contact (think Southwest Airlines as you try to keep the middle seat empty), body language that is bored and apathetic at best, and in many cases you find yourself trying to have a discussion with a group of people who have suddenly forgotten how to talk.

What are you supposed to do with the reps that expect preferential treatment, never take responsibility, or always find something to whine about?  Or, what about the ones who have lost the ability to think on their own and are quick to blame you for their lack of productivity and have more excuses than Missouri has meth labs?

Remember, you need to treat all your sales people fairly, but you don’t need to treat them all the same.  More importantly, if you have never taken the time to create a ‘sales success profile’ and a ‘talent inventory’ of your team, you are doing yourself and your company a huge disservice.  You need to know what motivates them.  You need to know who needs to take their talents elsewhere.   You need to have a clear understanding of the skill sets and behavioral characteristics that enable your ‘true Hunters’ to consistently develop new business and increase margins.

Every sales team is an amalgam of personalities and styles. I’m going to share with you some of the characters I’ve met over the years; see if you recognize any of them.

Greg the Great

Greg the Great ‘knows’ that you need him more than he needs you.  He’s aggressive, assertive, is a great closer, and doesn’t need a lot of help from you.  He is a ‘pro’ and I would suggest that you be sure to set limits (and enforce them) with Greg, avoid micro-managing him, and then just let him make you look good.

Sunset  Sam

Sunset Sam was Gutenberg’s apprentice and has been in print sales since before color keys.  Sam is very comfortable with his sales volume, his income, and his station in life.  His interest in developing new business is nil.  His interest in new technology and solution selling is non-existent. There’s not a whole lot you can do with Sam, but you’ve got to make sure he is part of the team and you can’t let him become a negative influence. Recognize his long term contributions and encourage him to be the team’s ‘elder statesman.’ Replacing him should be an option (remember, upgrading the level of talent on your sales team should always be a priority), but because of the solid relationships he has developed over the years you might risk losing the business; proceed with caution, but proceed.

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Elizabeth the Excitable

Every meeting and call Elizabeth has is a ‘great’ one.  Her clients and prospects all love her, she isn’t afraid to talk to anyone, she’s enthusiastic and outgoing, and seems to have everything in common with everyone she meets. People love her, but sadly, she can’t close.  Be patient with Elizabeth, challenge her, teach her that the only good meeting is one that results in a second meeting, help her learn how to ask better questions (and become a better listener), give her public accolades when earned, and make sure you review her weekly ‘to do’ list and hold her accountable.

 

Polly Perfect

Nobody has a cleaner, more organized work space and filing system than Polly, but she uses change and lack of structure as an excuse for going into hibernation.  Polly puts in lots of hours, but she is busy, not productive.  She works hard and is a great long term planner, but flexibility is not in her DNA and new ideas and ways of doing things make her apoplectic.  She cares deeply about others but can find something wrong with almost anything.  If Polly’s on your team she will have to be taught to deal with distractions and be willing to embrace constructive criticism.  She’ll need to be carefully coached and be given an opportunity to earn small success experiences.  Building awareness and self-confidence will be paramount.

Timid Tim

It’s hard for Tim to be enthusiastic and it is next to impossible for him to ask the hard questions (“What if the client tells me ‘no’?”). Tim can find a million reasons not to prospect and is always doing research on the internet.  His desk is immaculate, is a great list maker, gets his billing done quickly, his clients are loyal (he just doesn’t have enough of them), and is quiet (and passive) to a fault.  What’s a sales manager to do?  Start with prioritizing the basics:  prospecting skills, listening skills, presentation skills, questioning skills; then help Tim with his self-talk and self-assertiveness; teach him the basics of the communication pie (physicality, tonality, language), and finally, make sure Tim knows that you see him as a part of your team.

 

Debbie Downer

“What’s the use?  My pricing just isn’t competitive.”  Debbie likes to talk about the good old days and blames everyone else for her lack of productivity.  Debbie thinks she is a hard worker but shows up late, leaves early, and loves a long lunch.  Debbie is happiest when the customers call her.  Debbie refuses to set goals (written or otherwise), can be a selfish employee, and has a short attention span.  If you commit to Debbie, know that she will require a lot of attention and patience.  You will need to help her focus and the implementation of an accountability program will be a must.

 

 

Curious Carl

There aren’t many Carl’s around; he is a rare breed because he knows that constructive curiosity builds opportunities and opportunities build sales.  He prioritizes really understanding the customer.  He knows their business and how they create value for their customers.  He understands the issues they face and the hurdles they will need to overcome.  He is a solution specialist, not someone who puts ink on paper. Curious Carl knows it is all about being interested  –  truly interested  –   in the customer.  Carl’s customers know that he is not just asking questions because some sales trainer told him that was a good thing to do.  Carl’s goal is to uncover things other sales reps would leave untouched.  Carl’s curiosity builds trust and understanding and that builds sales.  Encourage all your sales reps to be like Carl.

Lucy The Lifelong Learner

Lucy is my all-time favorite. Like Carl, she is a rare breed. If you are lucky enough to have people like her on your sales team you need to nurture them and clone them whenever possible.    She has a personal mission statement that demands that she never stop learning.  She knows that whether we are talking about learning more about your company’s products, basic selling skills, industry trends, or just trying to figure out how things work, it is very important to always be increasing your knowledge.  Lucy manages her time in such a way that there is always time to read and to learn.

Let me leave you with this reminder.  It’s my version of Alec Baldwin’s famous sales speech from GlenGarry Glen Ross:  ABC  –  Always Be Coaching

All too often, sales coaching is non-existent; it is merely an afterthought.

Don’t let that happen to your organization.

If you’re not using your coaching to support your sales team, you’re preventing them from reaching their potential both personally and professionally.

Professional athletes have coaches.  Why should Greg the Great, Sunset Sam, Elizabeth the Excitable, Polly Perfect, Timid Tim, Debbie Downer, Curious Carl, or Lucy The Lifelong Learner be any different?

 

Craig McConnell, President, PrintGrowPro/SalesGrowPro

www.printgrowpro.com

www.yolophotographystudio.com

 

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