Sales Managers -- Focus the Conversation

Sales managers sometimes enjoy easier, friendlier relationships with certain sales reps in their group. They look forward to one-on-one meetings with them. The problem? By the time you discuss an exciting National Hockey League match-up or her daughter’s latest hockey game, time is up. It happens to the best of managers. You just have more in common with some reps.

Part of a manager’s job involves getting to know their reps on an appropriate personal level. But when business meetings get frequently sidetracked, you aren’t doing the right thing by yourself, the company, or the salesperson. Turning the situation around can be awkward.

The solution? Focus the conversation immediately. Don’t get diverted. As soon as they step into your office (be standing up rather than sitting down) or you have them on the phone for their regular meeting, use a friendly tone and say, “How are you this morning? Janice, you and I sometimes get off topic about hockey. We’ve got 30 minutes and we need to talk about your long range forecast. Let’s start with that. Can we leave hockey until the end today?”

In this way, you own your part in this problem and you don’t confuse them by foregoing the usual hockey chat altogether.

Make certain to leave a little time at the end of the discussion and say something like, “This was a good meeting. I better understand your thought process on the long range forecast. We’ve got two minutes before my meeting with Ted. How was your daughter’s game this weekend?”

You could also say, “You and I are working together on Wednesday, visiting your accounts in Smithfield. Would you mind if we saved our hockey chat until then? I want to hear how your daughter’s team did this past weekend.”

During this meeting, set an agenda for the next one. Tell them, “Next Monday, I want to talk about increasing the number of accounts on your long range forecast.”

After several meetings, if Janice doesn’t get the hint and tries to monopolize a business oriented conversation with hockey, then a more direct conversation becomes necessary. Both you and Janice enjoy hockey. That’s fine. It creates comraderie and makes working together more fun. Don’t change that completely. Talk about hockey after business discussions. Limit the duration. As the manager, you job involves re-directing and re-focusing the conversation.