Lecture Less, Help More

Busy company leaders often lecture, pressure, or intimidate salespeople as a way to get them to achieve quota. They say things like, "I'm baffled by the fact that we don't do more business with software companies.  There are a million of them just in this area. You'll face consequences if you don't bring in a couple of those companies this year.  I'm very serious about this."

For 2014, set a goal to become more of a helping / coaching manager than a lecturing / intimidating manager.  Partner with the sales representatives as you ask them to improve their performance in a given area. Work with them to accomplish sales goals.

As an example, let's look at an exchange between president (manager) and salesperson regarding cold calling:

Lecturing / Intimidating

"You've got to cold call.  You lost accounts in your territory last year and had no new business to replace that sales revenue.  I want to see a lot of new business this year and I mean it.  I can't afford to keep you on the team if you can't open new accounts."

Helping / Coaching

"This last year, you lost 10 customers in your territory - one large, three medium-sized and six smaller accounts.  Unfortunately, with little prospecting activity, you had no new business to replace those clients. This situation is serious. Companies lose market share and go into decline when salespeople don't bring in new accounts."

Ask Questions

  • How do you go about cold calling currently?
  • What percentage of your time is spent cold calling?
  • How do you determine who to call?
  • What about cold calling makes you feel uncomfortable?
  • How can I help you?

Lay Out a Plan

"It seems like you did very little prospecting this year.  I think Barbara does the best job of cold calling at our company.  I've spoken to her about this and I'd like you to work with her for at least two days this month. Sit with her and listen to her calls. Accompany her when she meets with or makes a presentation to a new prospect.  Ask her about what you observe. In addition, please research books on cold calling.  Pick out a few that look good to you."

Remain Involved

"Let's meet again in two weeks.  By that time you'll have worked with Barbara at least once and have a list of cold calling books for us to discuss.  When we talk, I'd like the two of us to work together to assemble a list of prospects as well as set cold calling and new business revenue goals for 2014."

Rep's Reaction

Presidents and owners worry that reps won't take them seriously if they don't make a speech, yell, shake their fist, coerce or browbeat them.  Remember, the reps have grown accustomed to the dramatics.  By handling the discussion as more of a mentor / coach, you demonstrate how serious you are.  You do that through asking questions, listening, making suggestions, giving your time and showing support. 

When you use this new style, reps pay more not less attention. Rest assured, the salesperson gets the message. To stay with the organization they must prospect for and close new business - end of story.

When leaders manager by "getting tough" then waiting to see if the rep improves their performance, they tend to let reps remain with the company longer.  Ironically, most leaders discover when they've invested some time in a rep and things don't work out, they find it easier to put them on warning and eventually terminate them.

Going Forward

If this rep works hard and starts bringing in new business, you might want to send them to an advanced training course on prospecting.  You could set up a special contest that rewards their cold calling efforts.  Many possibilities exist, provided they put in the effort.  Meet with them regularly and hold them accountable to their goals. Compliment them on improvements they make.

You have a right to expect certain things from a rep (increasing business within existing accounts, opening up new vertical markets, selling the entire product line, and yes - opening new accounts).  Think about the salesperson you're most upset or disappointed with. Before you give up (or blow up) ask questions, offer assistance - be on their side.  See how it works out. 

My Blog

Earlier this year, I launched a blog to complement the longer articles I write in Sales Management Tips.  Check it out from the blog link on my website.

The Accidental Sales Manager Guide to Hiring

Available on my website, "The Accidental Sales Manager Guide to Hiring" summarizes the pre-hire process recommended in "The Accidental Sales Manager."