Dealing With the Egos

One of the primary challenges your are going to face when managing people, especially salespeople, is the wide range of egos.  Everyone has one.  You have one as well.  Admit it.  It  can work for you or against you.

When it comes to egos, I like to define my job as part manager, part psychologist.  Every personality and ego is different.  One is a Type-A extrovert who demands a lot of attention.  Another is a quiet, go-with-the-flow individual who just keeps his nose to the grind stone.

The biggest challenge with individual egos comes when the rubber meets the road.  When their performance is less than minimal expectations and they are put on a performance improvement plan, you instantly go from being their hero to being the reason for their poor performance.  Everything is now “your fault.”

Even great performers let their ego get too big and that, perhaps, is the bigger challenge.  A year ago, one of my most consistent and strongest performers seemed to feel he had “arrived.”  You know the type.  Their “stuff” doesn’t stink and they can’t get into trouble for cutting a special deal without approval because they’re too valuable.

Eventually this rep started ignoring expectations of the company and started missing set meetings with me.  Yes, he was performing at a high level, but seriously….  When he refused to participate in a coaching session that I was doing with all of my reps and then proceeded to tell me that “there isn’t anything you can tell me or show me that I don’t already know,” that I knew we had hit the bottom.

What do you do in this case?  You can let it poison the well or you take quick steps to cut it off where it sits.  The hystrionics caused by the dismissal were huge, but it also sent a message — he was out of line and that behavior was unacceptable.

I hated it.  If he can get hs head on straight, he can be one of the greats in sales, but that’s just it.  You can be extremely talented and be the “greatest gift to mankind,” but if your ego is out of control, you’ll find yourself in a very tough spot.

To grow your team and maintain consistency, manage the egos.  Put your psychologist coat on and play the role.  Your reps will thank you for it.

The Numbers Don’t Lie – They May Mislead, Though

Over the years, I’ve learned to be a number geek of sorts.  No, I wasn’t the one who loved math in high school.  In fact, I forced my way through Algebra I because it was a requirement to graduate.  In college, I believe the only reason I received a C- in Statistics is because the instructor felt pity on me and also knew a D would mean I would be back in her class.

Nevertheless, when I made the connection of numbers to money, I became a raving fan.  I have learned the art of analyzing data to find the hidden growth secrets in sales.  I’ve learned what it will take, with almost precise precision, to achieve certain sales numbers.

One of my favorites is a tool that analyzes critical rep data.  I take the raw numbers — both final outcomes as well as high value activities — and identify what a rep needs to focus on to make their financial goals happen.  When used effectively, it creates a clear roadmap that, if the rep follows it, will lead to consistent over-achievement and high income.

But I’ve also learned that the numbers can be misleading.  When you look at trends, you need to look at the short term as well as the long term trends.  While a rep may be hitting it out of the park, the most recent short term statistics may be yelling, “Look out below!”  If a rep has become addicted to their success at the expense of the ingredients that make up the success, they will be doomed for near term failure.

As managers, we can’t afford short term failures.  Yes, reps can have some up and down results, but our objective is to help guide them to make these occurences far and few between.

Be sure to inspect the numbers, but pull back the curtain.  Ask yourself, “What are the numbers hiding?”  “Are the numbers misleading me?”  Carefully monitoring yourself to make sure you don’t get sucked into glowing results rather than the ingredients, especially in the near term, is a recipe for disaster.

Generating Substantial Growth…Consistently

In 2013, my first full year with my present company, I found myself with the unenviable task of leading a team that had under-performed the year before.  That’s putting it mildly.  They started strong, but, due to a wide variety of the most common of challenges, the team fell apart in the second half of the year and fell woefully below expectations.  It was a team missing critical parts and grasping for air when it came to key fundamentals.  Things needed to change.

At the end of the fiscal year, this team of former under-performers achieved outstanding success.  The numbers speak volumes:

  • 211% year-over year revenue growth
  • Increased managed services revenue by over 4000%
  • over 200% year-over-year growth in profitability

In addition, two thirds of the team over-achieved the highest goals set for them and earned the top tier level of President’s Club which was an all-inclusive eight day, seven night trip to Jamaica.

Great stuff!  Thrilling and exhausting all at the same time!

Oh, wait….it’s 2014.  A new year.  What about consistent success and continual growth?  Is it possible?

As we head into the latter part of the second quarter and into the last half of the year, it is indeed possible.  There are key elements that lead to high level, consistent success.

In the blog posts to follow this, I will examine and illustrate what it takes to create sustainable sales success.  It can be done!

Making It In Spite Of It All

Tomorrow night, my youngest of five graduates from Norman High School.  At 18 and impressed with his own presence, there was a time I didn’t think he’d make it.  And yet, here he is.

While I won’t go into the whole backstory, I will simply share that two years ago he faced his demons .  Drugs,alcohol and teenage rebellion had led him to a dark spot, one which I feared he might not return from.  Encarcarated by my wishes in the Childrens Recovery Center in Norman, not once, but three times, he was looking at a dark future.

It wasn’t until a scout from Oklahoma State’s track and field program approached him last spring and challenged him.  He gave him hope.  A glimmer but hope nonetheless.  And hope was all it took.

The kid who had determined he didn’t have much of a future, let alone that he’d ever make it to college, started doing his classwork and trained like it was his final day.  And when the “Welcome to the Cowboy Family” card came, so, too, did the celebration.

He faced great obstacles, albeit obstacles of his own choosing.  But he persevered.  Hope showed him the way.

Marcus Aurelius writes, “Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.  Because we can accomodate and adaptt.  The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting…The impediment to action advances action.  What stands in the way becomes the way.”

My son graduates tomorrow and heads to OSU a changed young man, not because of any special favors or great assistance, but rather because he latched on to hope, faced his obstacles and adapted.  This is a lesson that goes with him for the rest of his life.

Godspeed, Christian!

Book Review: The Dan Sullivan Question

ImageIf one question, asked consistently, could change the direction of your sales force or even your own personal sales efforts, would you take advantage of it?  Would you use it?

In Dan Sullivan’s latest book, The Dan Sullivan Question:  Ask It and Transform Anyone’s Future, he introduces the reader to a very powerful question that will truly transform the nature of conversations you have in sales.

Too often we get wrapped up in the standard fare of conversing with prospects and fail to really get to know what’s at the heart and soul of their desires and goals.  As a result, we fail to truly differentiate ourselves and become one of the masses knocking on the door — just more noise.

Shift your thinking and become a real value to your prospect.  Get to know their business inside and out.  Work with them to truly understand what drives them and what their focus is.  And, in doing so, you’ll become a real value, a trusted adviser to your prospect.

Oh, the question…what’s the question?  Sorry; you will have to buy the book.  Click here to check it out.

Full disclosure — I get nothing for this review but the satisfaction that you may also find it valuable to you and your success.

What Kind of Sales Leader are You?

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Are you guilty of being the “Super Sales Manager?”

It’s confession time for sales managers everywhere.

When your reps are struggling or, better yet, when the team is short of your goal for the month, do you step into the closest phone booth, strip off your suit, and fly in to rescue the damsel or dude in distress?

Every time you step in and take over a call, you run the risk of becoming (or continuing the trend) the Super Sales Manager.

Your reps need you.  That’s without question.  It will vary in terms of need and involvement from deal to deal, rep to rep, but ultimately they need you.  What they don’t need is for you to swoop in and save the day.  When you do that, what are they learning?  How skillful are they becoming?  Are you nurturing the seeds of sales greatness in your reps?

The key to ultimate, long-term and lasting sales success is to coach your reps to greatness.  Rather than “save the day” on each call, wait until the call is complete and you’re back in the rep’s car.  Revisit the call and ask:

  • How did the call go?
  • What went well?
  • Where are you areas improvement?

Use the time, either right then or back at the office, to discuss best practices and coach the rep on their gaps in performance.  Just as you can teach someone to fish and they’ll “eat for a lifetime,” you can also teach a rep to sell more effectively and they will then sell for a lifetime!

By the way, if you coach BEFORE the call, the call actually might go better.  For example, do you ask, “What is the purpose of this call?” and “What do you want the customer to agree to at the conclusion of this call?”  Two great questions to see if the rep is properly prepared and see what pre-call coaching needs to take place.

Coach your reps — don’t save the day!  And ultimately you’ll save their career.