The Undiagnosed Ailment of Many Sales Leaders.
Many people leading sales organizations have their heads inserted into a dark place (that I am sure you can picture). This is a dramatic, (potentially entertaining) image…and I say this with emphasis. I say it with a gallon of frustration! We are pointing out an ailment that is common, disturbing … but treatable!
Leading sales people. Man, what a tough (and exciting!) job. It’s important, it’s challenging, and it can be fun, if done well. But, many do NOT do it very well. Hence the image of someone’s head up their rear end.
Let me speak specifically and directly to those readers
who have Sales Leaders reporting TO them.
The “Sales Management” role (having people who CARRY A NUMBER report to you) really goes beyond the typical image of “a job”. You don’t just shut it off at the end of the day, and neither do your people. The ones you lead listen to, evaluate, and respond (in one way or another) to how you speak, carry yourself, and show up in general. Having your head hidden in your rear end is unhealthy. So, let’s get healthy.
Look at what some people have posted about how you lead, manage, run meetings. These comments fuel NPS scores. When was the last time you had yours handy? Go read the reviews on Glassdoor. These could damage your company’s profitability, your professional reputation, and … the brand that your company works so hard to create (and promote)! People who work for you are busy venting online, and in person over drinks, on the elevator… via CHAT...
These platforms and forums are a fact of life in the era of Social Media, so instead of keeping your eyes squirreled away in a dark place, open them up NOW - look at how your professional reputation might be affected by anonymous, negative commentary. This might cost you market share. It certainly narrows your window for acquisition of talent. It could even cost you your job. The bold (and unforgiving) statement I began with is based on MANY conversations - recent, and not-so-recent, where stories have been shared with me about Sales Leaders who just. Don’t. Get it.
Why do I believe that many sales leaders don’t get it? Well, because I have SEEN it!
Here are the indicators that a Sales Leaders’ head is hiding in a dark and lonely place:
They take credit for what a salesperson does, or wins
They assume that Top Producers are so happy that they do not need lots of attention
They become lazy in their recruiting efforts
They find it inconvenient to recognize someone who goes above and beyond
If you read the list above and thought: “I don’t have that problem.” then no need to read on. IF, however, you have sales leaders reporting to you who might not be the most equipped, skilled and consistently inspiring managers… then read on. Make sure your Managers, Directors, or Regional VP’s are not making these mistakes.
Let’s walk through the list:
Taking credit for what a salesperson does (or wins, or closes) sounds heinous, and unimaginable! Yet it is done, more often than NOT as an OMISSION versus a COMMISSION. (by Commission, we mean the conscious decision to do something out of malice is made, and acted upon.)
Does anyone get out of bed in the morning and think: “I think it would be quite interesting to screw one of my folks over, and see what happens?” I really doubt it! BUT (just one “T” here…) when someone in Sales Leadership (from Sales Manager, up the chain of command to Chief Revenue Officer) walks around gathering success stories, wins, and deals - and does not make it clear to the team, and to the Executives in their org WHO has contributed to the performance being enjoyed… that is a sin of OMISSION.
A sin of COmission is more difficult to explain away. We make choices, we take actions… and sometimes the Sales Leaders in our group feel the pressure of producing (something we will delve more deeply into later in this article) that they become blind to potential.
When we become accustomed to a Top Producer … producing, we become complacent as a leader, and this is when we run into trouble. We CAN take their presence and performance for granted. Often, we are given lengthy lists of what we must do “All The Time”... the reality is; we can only maintain one thought at a time. The speed with which our mind jumps from one thought to the next, has yet to be clocked or timed with accuracy. Top Producers will want to be Top Of Mind; that person that we think about MOST throughout the day, week, or quarter. It is anathema (to them) that anything ELSE would even enter your thoughts! They are the Big Kahuna! They bring in the biggest deals, and they produce most consistently. Why would anything else POSSIBLY be on your mind? While this is a dramatic overstatement (sort of…) it gives you a window into the thinking of Top Producers. They want all the attention (Whether public or private) that you can provide. They are not really interested in the reports you are responsible for, how much time you spend calculating commissions and bonuses, or what time is invested in recruiting and interviewing new candidates to join the team. Your personal life (as if you HAVE one!) is really not on their radar. Even your interactions with YOUR boss are odd distractions, things they would prefer not to have to think (or hear) about. These, to Top producers, are Distractions. Their focus is profound. This is what makes them who they are! The manager has a reliable sense that at least a portion of the Quota will be attained, thanks to the existence, presence, and production of this unique individual. If you are nodding your head, then it is my additional intent to get you to snap out of thinking that you know what this person is about, what they want, or how connected to your org they are. Top Producers are on the radar of your competition… if only to distract them from producing for you for a short period... competitors (not high integrity ones, but SOME) will look to take your person off the field of play whenever they can. Believing that your Top Producer(s) is (are) happy, content, and evangelically loyal is … naive. Your Top Producers fit into the “A” category of the Three Tiered Team (outlined in my Audio Book: “The Ultimate Sales Managers’ Guide”) With “A” players, “B” Players and “C” Players, your team is always in flux, your recruiting efforts are always turned on (and active!), and your ability to spend time with your Top Producers cannot be interfered with. The selling day (especially these days) knows no bounds. Motivated and inspired Sales People are emailing, researching, looking at social media, scrolling through their CRM, or any other host of activities at all hours. You must be focused on the fact that Prime Selling Time is when your people need you to be MOST available. I will repeat that, as it is CRITICAL, that you are AVAILABLE!. Being distracted and knee - deep in reporting when your top people are looking to close a deal is a CONSISTENT mistake that sales leaders make. Clear, powerful, well - crafted language whose intent is to serve and assist can make all the difference in the world for your attainment of Team Quota. This is one of three things that must be top of mind for you. (Spend 6 minutes with my video on “The Sales Management Triangle”)
So far in this piece, I have mentioned Recruiting more than three times. Don’t allow yourself to become lazy. While we cannot “always” be recruiting, we can adopt a 24 - hour Recruiting mentality and awareness. Wherever we interact with humans, we should be on the lookout for candidates. You never know where a future Team Member might come from. You know what attributes you want in your Ideal Sales Rep. How many people have you had conversations or interactions with in the past two weeks who may carry or demonstrate those? Recruiting is a sales gig. This dictates that the moment you close a deal with someone, you need to replace that prospect in your database with at least THREE more prospects! There is no end to our work. (Early in my professional career I worked as a recruiter, selling the intangible and unknowable substance called “potential”. I learned to identify this early in interviews; both out of necessity, and out of a growing ability to make assessments.) Assessments are not judgements. They also can be thrown off because… Salespeople are the best interviewers on earth! They would LOVE to appear on a TV show, being interviewed about how smart, determined and … humble they are. (That is a tongue in cheek statement, BTW.) Future Great Reps (whether Top Performing “A” level sales reps, or reliable and wonderful “B” level reps… are all around us. They can show up at any time.) Your job … be open and aware, always listening, always assessing. Recruiting can take time, as well. The fact that you do not have a seat, opening or role TODAY does not mean that someone will not alert you next week that they are moving, leaving, or have become impatient with the fact that they have not been promoted. Sales people have myriad reasons for leaving a role. Many times… it is because they never really wanted to be in sales in the first place. As you think about attempting to save or salvage an employee… step back and make sure that you do not counter their new offer with more money. This is not the only reason that people leave. There are 5 key motivations that drive Sales People. See my video “The 5 Means of Motivation.”
When we lose sight of recognizing someone’s contribution, it is often due to stress, distractions, stress, performance expectations, stress, or the new offering from a competitor. Sometimes, though… it is stress. This is stressful work. It is not for everyone. I believe that The Ultimate Sales Manager is part Machiavelli, Part Coach, Part Cheerleader, Part Psychologist, Part Servant, and…the best listener in the room - no matter WHO is there - and no matter what room. Listening is a skill, a tool, and a gift to the person to whom you are listening.
I have never, not once, ever in my life,
learned something NEW...
while I was busy talking.
Recognition is so simple. All it takes is a moment of selflessness. We are under pressure all the time (see the “stress” sentence above). With that in mind, let’s remind ourselves that we CHOSE this role. We consciously put on the full armor required to go to “selling battle” daily… and that we are way out in front of the battles our people must face. This means that a one minute recap of the great work someone did last week, or the problem they solved on their own time or without any hope of being compensated… needs to be brought out into the open and shared, on a Monday morning. The energy the person you recognize receives from a simple recognition can fuel them for the balance of the day. Recognition is healthy for the others on the team, as well, because they may want to be recognized at some point in the future… which prompts them to go above and beyond. It’s a fascinating and reliable system.
Be smart. Be aware. Be present with your people. DO NOT make the mistakes that average or below average Sales Leaders make. Reach higher. GO deeper.
I am confident that there are much more attractive places for your head to be…. than up your ass.