Chapter 9:
While not everyone is interested in management as their eventual destiny
in the sales world, it can even be valuable to an employee who strives to do well
to understand what their boss grapples with and what they look for out of you.
Knowing those attributes and the weight on your supervisor’s shoulders can go a
long way in molding your approach to making them satisfied with your
performance and effort.
We have visited the fact that just because you may have gotten the title
of manager, it is far from easy to be great. It is simple to say you play baseball,
but can you play in the major leagues? It is effortless to hit a golf ball but can
you join the Tour? The same analogies can be applied in management. In any
position, there are people who are successful and there are others who are not.
The ones who are not make you appreciate those who are.
Good salespeople do not always make good managers. They often
possess more potential because they have already most likely mastered the game
they were playing. However, that is only part of the battle. We visited what it
takes to get the promotion. Now we are going to talk about how you master the
art of management.
Like sports, those who understand the game and played it well can often
find success coaching because (1) they know what they are talking about and (2)
they can relate to the players and build trust with them. That is the key
component: gaining respect. However, on the same token outlined above, there
are a lot of great athletes who find no success on the coaching end. It is a
crapshoot because being great requires being a leader and team player.
Do not forget this: respect is not friendship. Gordon Gekko was not far
off when he said, “If you want a friend, buy a dog.” Getting subordinates to like
you and thinking that is the key is a one-dimensional blunder that befalls many
managers in the early-going. Yes, I did it at first. I’m glad I did, because I
learned through that experience that it is not about making friends or gaining
popularity. Managers afraid of losing their perceived popularity make a lot of
foolish choices and errors in judgment. Sometimes, inaction when action is
necessary can be one of the worst such mistakes. Thus, they are not effective
because their people take advantage of them when they catch a whiff of their
So you have earned your promotion and now have people working for
you. Congratulations. Managing people is about looking out for their best
interests and always staying faithful to one fundamental principle: without their
presence, there is no reason for yours. Never overlook that essential part of the
dynamic. If you remember that and revere them the way you want them to for
you, it is the cornerstone of a successful career in managing. I have seen far too
many people forget that concept to their detriment. I never forgot it, and I have
found success in management beyond my wildest dreams.
That is not to say I have not tried many ways at achieving the respect
required for success. You will not see eye to eye with the people you oversee,
and vice versa, but this is where effective communication comes into play. Just
because two people have a difference of opinion does not mean they will always
fail to see each other’s side. It does not mean they will fail in communicating to
one another what is important to them or be unable to compromise. Meeting
each other halfway and identifying common ground and purpose are important
parts of the manager-subordinate relationship.
Care about the right things. Care about what your people need in order
to achieve your collective goals. Care about earning their respect. Care about
working hard to make their jobs meaningful and your team goals accessible.
Managers who fail are often unable to cope through the difficult times or they
choose to ignore the problems of their group. They occasionally choose to
discount the “little issues”, thinking they will go away. They don’t; they only
fester into bigger ones. When it comes to supervising others, just like being a
salesperson promoting a good or service, elimination of obstacles and objections
still comes into play regularly.
Morale in a sales environment is a huge driving force to the ultimate line
between success and failure. The manager will always be looked to, right or
wrong, for the answers and solutions to problems that spring up. The troubles
of a nation cannot be pinned on one individual, yet they always seem to fall on
the shoulders of the leader.
Even if you do not know the answer, know where to go for resolution.
It may be your boss, peer or a network you liaise with, but your job is to tackle
and respond to the questions and concerns you are presented with. If you drop
the ball a couple of times, you will be written off and as far as respect goes, good
luck getting any semblance of it from your subordinates.
So much of being a successful manager correlates to all other
relationships on the sales hierarchy food chain. That chain starts with the
customer-rep dynamic. The rep reports to the manager, who reports to a senior
manager, and so on up the chain. This is important because you must identify
within that relationship the same steps in satisfying your subordinates as those
subordinates have in satisfying the customer.
Identification of strengths, needs and weaknesses (or areas of
opportunity, as you will call them) is what being a supervisor is all about; you will
spend your time perfecting processes based on these things. Instead of factfinding
and overcoming objections, you are asking your team members what they
require from you, finding out what they need or want help in, determining their
areas for necessary improvement based on conversations, observations and
documentation and putting it all together to recommend a course of action. Just
like selling a customer something, you have to “sell” your subordinate on why
they should do things your way. You have to sell them on why they must change
their way of doing things. You must convince them that their success hinges on
an imperative tweak to the way they do business. See the connection?
Morale plays into this because you must constantly have your fingers on
the pulse of your team. What do they need to be motivated? What fears and
issues exist that stymie results? Your ability in determining these issues and
eliminating them will determine your success. However, I am sure you can very
quickly see how much easier that is when your frame of influence is one person:
the customer on the other end of the phone line. When it is a team of 10, 20, 40
people, the game changes and your approach has to change with it.
Morale on a sales floor will always have peaks and valleys and that will
directly impact the approval rating of a management team. Eliminate excuses,
maintain a steady hand in managing the processes and wade through them. That
is what effective managers do. A manager does not win with threats or by
goading someone into a task; a manager wins by lighting the way through the
woods to the clearing of success.
One of the biggest disconnects between managers and their employees is
the lack of realism; if a manager fails to show his or her team that a goal is
realistic and how it can be achieved, chaos ensues. The team members will take
their own sporadic approaches to tasks and become nothing more than a bunch
of individuals. The effective manager can corral all of these personalities and
pack a powerful punch with their combined talents. An ineffective manager will
have a zoo on their hands.
For, management, like everything else, is sales. Based on what you have
learned about your team member through conversation and what you know of
their hopes and dreams, you have to chart a course and every step towards it.
Not only that, but when the going gets tough, you have to sell that person on
staying on that course.
Many of us are parents and if you are, you understand a level of caring
you never understood before. A good manager has to have a legitimate concern
for the well being of their team members. They have to know their people –
what motivates them, what they need and how best to address their concerns.
The successful manager may have 20 different personalities that all need love and
attention and sometimes morning coffee and bagels, too. Some days your crew
will post numbers that break through the stratosphere and the whole world will
smile with you. Others you put up a stinker of a day and the entire attitude
shifts; you can feel the defeat in the air. It is the way the cookie crumbles. But
consistency wins the race and keeping your head up will prevent the negativity
from overtaking you or your team. They look to you to be a leader. So lead. It’s
called self-fulfilling prophecy; believe you are a winner and you’ll come out ahead
in the end.
Get over the niceness as quickly as you can. That is not to say you want
to be a jerk, but if you have “friends” on your team that know they can prod you
into letting them off the hook for missing work or bending rules, you are headed
down a dangerous path. It is nothing but trouble if your employees think or
know they can get you to look the other way on rule infractions. Not only does
this mean they will further push the envelope and try to get away with bigger
things, but other team members will cry foul when they see a peer get away with
something they cannot.
This is a tough one, because I have also been fooled in my day into
thinking some of my employees were my friends. I learned the hard way that
they were not, but consistency in the way you manage will go a long way in
getting consistent results. There can be no doubt in your employee’s mind what
the cause and effect of every scenario will be. A clear cut policy needs to be in
place and enforced the same way every time to ensure there are no signs of
favoritism and no one trying to get away with something. Even if you are
concerned with what a subordinate thinks about you, if you live by the stance
that you are paid to enforce the rules and it is not personal, you can gain their
respect even if they don’t like it or you.
Many in management positions allow themselves to be walked on
because they are afraid of people not liking them and think that if their team likes
them they will work hard for them. Others let the power go to their head, forget
their roots and rule with an iron fist. Neither approach works.
The things that matter in sales management in the order they matter are
(1) constant attention to and supervision of the right stuff – the processes,
conversion rates, hustle stats, efficiency metrics, etc., (2) momentum, (3) morale
and (4) the skill of your team. An ineffective leader puts priorities in the wrong
place or simply cannot focus on the big picture well enough to put all of this into
perspective. I have seen countless managers who get so caught up in things or
desperate that they panic and do little things they think make a difference when
in reality they fail to make a dent. They lose sight of the big picture that will help
them on a high level and these misconceptions cost them dearly.
First, constant attention does not mean berating your team, lending too
much credence to these items or failure to consider the sum of a team member’s
parts. Everything has to be taken into consideration when you are diagnosing a
subordinate and your most important job is to find a way to get the most out of
your day. I found that I had to be content with getting about 75% of what I
wanted to accomplish completed in a given day of sales management. The
effective managers streamline their processes and get everything completed that
must be done and should be done. The ineffective allow themselves to be
overwhelmed and swallowed like they are in quicksand as they are ill-prepared to
handle all of the fires that constantly come up. Far too many managers poorly
budget their time and stop what they are doing for every little thing that comes
up which, in the end, equates to nothing of substance getting accomplished.
When you arrive at the onset of a day, week, month or year you have to
map out your intentions. Like a call flow, your adversary (in this case, your
chaotic day) will derail you at every turn. You want to stick as close to the game
plan as possible to make sure you can be as effective as possible.
Take heed: the biggest goal you should have as a manager is to have a
positive effect on as many people and things and sales opportunities as possible
without spreading yourself too thin.
Many managers in a sales arena think it prudent to constantly teach by
doing, whether on the phone or in the field. Don’t get me wrong; this is a great
tactic when breaking in a new hire. However, once someone has the training
wheels off and is fully versed in everything they need to know, spending such
time with them is a waste of yours. After someone knows the ropes, they need
only have checks and balances to keep them on track. This is where studying of
their statistics comes into play. This is where diagnosing their strengths and
areas of opportunity comes into play.
A lot of managers are apprehensive about pulling reps off the phones or
out of the field for any amount of time because they fear loss of revenue. Get
over that very, very quickly. I once had this same trepidation but you have to
look at it this way: if the time spent away from the trenches is quality time, it is a
quality investment into their future calls, visits and sales attempts. If you have a
positive impact on futuristic calls that you will not be privy to or riding shotgun
for, how is that a bad thing? Isn’t the very reason you sit with or accompany a
rep so that you can impact that one call? Is impacting one call out of thousands
they make in a month while others on your team flounder a worthwhile use of
your time? Especially when it is a more seasoned rep, believe me – you are not
making a difference by sitting there for one or two calls, even if they ask for it or
say they need it. Your best bet is studying their statistics, making
recommendations based on their efficiency and metrics across the board and
monitoring to ensure they are following your example.
This is where the concept of managing processes over people comes
into play. Your initial instinct is to keep someone on the phone as long as
possible without breaks in the action so they are always there to make money.
You may sit with them from time to time and help them and try to minimize any
deviation from that schedule. You may give them performance reviews by just
putting them on the desk while they are on a call and coming back later to get
their signature. Wrong answer! They will continue to do wrong things on every
single call you fail to impact. Having a drive-by conversation on one call or
giving them some notes on a performance review that you fail to enunciate will
not lead that rep to the path of success. Investing time in them off the job
function that will positively impact every opportunity they make in the future
while you aren’t looking and while you are free to help and impact others is how
you effectively perform the juggling act known as management.
After laying the groundwork, chart a course to greatness with each
subordinate you have. You always analyze where they are now versus where you
need them or where they want to be. If a rep has mediocre efficiency, mediocre
results and is gravitating towards just one of your product offerings when you
have multiple, there is a lot of room for improvement.
First, there is no need for them to have mediocre efficiency if
productivity is low. What are they doing to fill their time? You have to
determine that and sell them on why and how they can spend more time selling.
If they are only promoting one of multiple product offerings, they are a one-trick
pony because they lack confidence in the others. Why? Your exact question
needs to be, “What is holding you back from discussing Product X with your
customers?” “Where does Product X fall out of the bundle you are discussing?”
Just like the call flow, fact-finding is integral to determining corrective steps of
action with employees.
If you have a good coaching session with a rep for 30 minutes to an
hour, it is true they missed out on placing some calls or scheduling visits.
However, they are far more prepared for the ones to come. You have managed
to positively impact the largest number of future actions and calls as possible.
You also did it in an effective means; you spent a fraction of your day with that
team member and can move on to someone else. That’s management.
Another key principle that people in leadership roles must understand is
that follow-up is vital to the process. If I coached the aforementioned rep on
expanding their horizons when it comes to pitching the product line or on
shortening the gap between calls because they were doing unnecessary research,
no one is helped if I fail to follow up and ensure they are doing it. Even if your
company does not mandate it, keep a file of what you are working on with every
single team member. No doctor or dentist can remember the afflictions or last
check-up of all their patients; that is why they have charts! You too must keep a
chart on all team members and reference them every time they are in your office.
The key in setting these benchmarks is figuring out what milestone you
and the subordinate need to reach by the next time you talk, be it a week, month,
or however long out. You should become intimate with the term “improvement
plan” as you will want to use it in every meeting. Document an improvement
plan with the rep of where you are, where you are going and what you are going
to do to get there. Keep it in their binder and reference it every time you meet
with them. Furthermore, especially if you have several people on your team, you
will want to have little “touches” on a daily or semi-daily basis with everyone.
This could be in the form of just walking by casually to see how the rep is doing
that day. In these little fly-by meetings, reference what you are working on and
what you have discussed. This counts as a touch and, not only is it easy to
squeeze dozens of these into a day, but they make a difference because they keep
you in your team’s heads. That’s a good thing.
Maybe the rep is struggling with pitching Product Y; have them keep a
tally sheet of how many times they recommended it that day and the reasons
customers declined it. That journal activity will give the two of you tremendous
talking points when next you meet up. Do not just blindly and stringently follow
the guidelines of your department; many of them will only require you meet with
someone once per month. Work smarter and not necessarily harder so you can
optimize your results efficiently and effectively.
Many managers take the path of least resistance and have a drive-by
conversation with everyone and call it a day. I have seen managers who think
they accomplished something because they talked to everyone that day and know
what personal problems they are facing. Using a personal problem to explain to
me why some rep is flailing around is a poor excuse indicative of an ineffective
manager. Those who want to be successful will do what I have outlined here.
I encourage you to think creatively about how you want to implement
this style. By no means did I invent the wheel; I simply perfected it. It took me
quite some time to get there; you will witness or hear many different approaches
at management. You will hopefully get training on how your company or boss
wants or expects it to be done. I am simply telling you the most effective way to
be successful. My best advice: always complete what is expected of you. Offer
up your thoughts and suggestions on how the process can be streamlined. Find
a way within the confines of your job to satisfy the needs of the company and of
your team. This is where the holy trinity of sales fits into management and that
is how you will find success.
A lot of impediments will be removed from your path once you realize
you cannot and should not take for granted someone knows how to do
something or will do something correctly left to their own devices. Just because
you mastered being a rep all by yourself and worked well independently does not
mean you should take for granted that your subordinates know how to or will
conduct a proper call flow. In fact, the very reason you were plucked to lead
them is because you mastered it and the company wants you to train that mastery
to others. That said, you should always assume your team is a blank canvas;
teach them everything the way you want it done and follow up to ensure it is
being done the way you expect it to be done. Inspect what you expect. I heard
that a long time ago and it is very true.
The reason I make it a priority to point this out is because I have seen
many managers pay lip service to a lot of things to their detriment. Yes, you can
“come down” on bad behavior and talk big but after your team sees a couple
instances of you not following through on holding them accountable, they realize
they can get away with murder. When they realize you are blowing hot air, they
will not respect you, your “rules” hold no water and your results suffer. You will
look back one day and realize your collapse is an avalanche you cannot stop.
These are the managers who get trapped under the weight of failure. These are
the managers who allow themselves to become overwhelmed. Do not give them
an inch, despite your fears to the contrary about compromising morale; they
really will take a mile and you will be much worse off in the end.
Remember when these people came into the business they wanted a
career and to make money. You have to remind them of this regularly. You will
also want to use that when charting their course to greatness. Something makes
everyone tick. It is your job to figure that out and utilize it as motivation as you
guide them to that goal.
It’s funny; I have heard contemporaries complain that they had
employees who were content just making a paycheck and collecting benefits and
that there was no way to motivate them. Of course there is. For them, what
makes them tick is a place of employment and the benefit package it provides. If
they are not carrying their weight, you have to make them fear losing the only
thing keeping them going: that job, those benefits. Once you determine
someone is not going to push themselves out of self-respect to shoot for the
stratosphere and you have given them all the advice you can to no avail, there is
no shame in holding them to the letter of the law with the threat of losing their
Unfortunately, while tragic, many managers threaten first, coach never.
The refreshing thing is that these managers never defeat the managers who coach
and develop. Threats and intimidation can “work” in some areas but people
never go above and beyond for a boss that rules with fear. They will do just
enough to get by and hold on to their seat.
Never forget your roots. Do not let go of the person you were and
from where you came. To get buy-in, gain respect and get people to go above
and beyond the call of duty for you, it is vital you show them you can relate. My
employees knew I was the best salesperson around, that I would walk through
fire for them and take bullets for them. They knew if they brought me a
concern, if I could not fix it myself I would take it where it needed to go. They
knew even if I could not win a dispute on their behalf I would die trying. I
fought all the battles. It was important to me because I knew it was important to
them. I never once had to threaten first; I gained respect from my team
members and they did a lot of hard work for me. I did not reach everyone, but I
reached enough to reach success levels I would never have thought possible.
That’s management.
Mistakes are par for the course. Get used to them. Your mistakes will
be your merit badges; they are what qualify you to be able to teach and guide
others not to make the same mistakes. It is akin to parenting; how many times
have you thought as a parent or heard a parent say they want to help their kids
not make the same mistakes they made? You stumbled and fell in your past life
as a sales rep and your subordinates can be privy to those obstacles at much
earlier stages in their careers thanks to you. And, by reading this book, you can
learn from mine and find success without the tumbling.
Great success can be found through elimination of every single excuse
your workforce has. Hear them out but do not buy into them. Managers who
lend too much credence to their team’s excuses try to use these excuses to cover
up their own inadequacies. Do not fall victim to that. However, find a way to
eliminate what they are complaining about. If that is not possible, sell them on
why these perceived obstacles exist and what the alternative, which is often
worse, would be. Once objections and excuses are eliminated and overcome,
what other excuse do they have not to sell? None; and that’s the point. Show
them you are willing to go that extra mile and they will do anything for you.
And, if they don’t, they have no excuse left and will certainly see it coming when
a disciplinary plan is right around the corner. You have them right where you
want them. That’s management.
One of the few bits of advice I got from a manager back in the day was,
“When you’re up, ride the wave. When you’re down, make everyone behave.” I
have utilized and taught this principle for years; believe me, these are words to
live by. When you are exceeding expectations there are not a lot of boats you
want to rock. By all means, you want to continue tracking the progress everyone
is making towards a goal, you want to ensure policies and procedures are being
met and you want to make sure you complete all of your assigned tasks; however
you do not want to mess with your momentum. Like sports, sales is a game of
streaks and runs; when you are riding a hot streak you do not want to question it
or do anything to cause its demise. While you will still probably have a few
people in your group that are always at the bottom who need to be kept in line,
for the most part you want to leave the upper crust of your core alone so as to
not disturb the balance.
On the flip side, you will inevitably encounter lulls in the action no
matter how effective you are as a manager. What goes up must come down.
Get used to it; you will see a lot of peaks and valleys, more so the higher you
climb the corporate ladder and the less control you have over the people on the
front lines. I cannot say this enough: that is where management of process over
people is so vital in determining if you are going to be a phenom or a flop.
When you experience these breaks in the action, it is important to ensure
everyone is playing by the rules and living up to their potential. By no means do
you want to let your team see your frustration nor do you just want to start
having knee-jerk reactions that are inconsistent with your overall style. However,
it is important to be willing to pull in the reins lest this race will get out of your
When it comes to efficiency management, it is about ensuring your team
members see the statistics daily and that you are calling out any and all
discrepancies. If someone was short two hours on their time they should have
been on the phones, they need to account for their day. If they repeatedly fail to
provide a satisfactory answer, your improvement plan for them should entail
some kind of documentation of every activity they partake in that takes them
away from their job. If you still fail to see improvement, sadly, it is time for
disciplinary action. The trick, however, is charting a course and showing them
how feasible it is to make the tweak all while selling them on why it is important
to their performance and their quest to obtain whatever big picture grail they
In order to achieve your desired metrics in efficiency, you must sell your
team on realistic expectations. It is important to get their buy-in that the goal is
attainable, worthy of their attention (as in there is something in it for them, like
increased productivity or keeping their job) and the commitment it will be done.
From there, it is all about holding them accountable to that commitment. If you
are smart about how you manage, you will never have to surprise anyone with a
conversation or discipline or termination; they will always know it is coming.
As for call flow and sales management, most jobs also have steps in
place for these types of measurement of work. You are likely bound to many of
these internal rules yet do not let that inhibit you from putting your own stamp
on the processes where your team is concerned. Many a time I have heard
managers that worked for me complain about the fact their lesser-skilled sales
reps did a good call flow and they had a hard time flunking them. Believe me, if
a rep cannot sell, they are not doing the call flow justice.
The way to fix this is by giving your own personal definition to each
bullet point of the call flow. Be succinct and targeted in explaining to your team
exactly what you expect to hear on every bullet point of that flow. Document
that you had the conversation and hold them accountable on every call to do it
the way you outlined. Something as general on a call flow grading format as
“Offered Product X with benefits” could be marked affirmatively by the
ineffective manager just because the product was mentioned. However, this
same point would be marked with a negative response by the effective manager
who outlined with his or her team the expectation that at least three benefits
were utilized and a close was attempted. You are well within your rights to
manage your team as you see fit until or unless you are not cutting the mustard.
That was always my philosophy and it should be the same in your situation.
In my time as a manager and as a manager of managers, I mastered
those positions by perfecting the art of diagnosing my employees based on the
sum of their statistics. I can tell so much by looking at each quantitative and
qualitative measurement of work; I can tell if you talk too long, prepare too
much, send too many proposals, take advantage of the full suite of services in
your arsenal or are a one-trick pony. Basically, I can tell if you’ve been bad or
good so be good for goodness’ sake.
It is not like you are requesting your employees submit a different cover
sheet for meaningless TPS reports à la Office Space; expecting them to uphold
basic measurements of their work is far from outside your realm as their
supervisor. You have every right to set expectations and hold your team
accountable to strive for and exceed them. In fact, your ability or failure in doing
so will make or break you. Someone will always be holding you accountable so
you should by all means do the same to those who are a reflection of you every
It is not about whether they love you or not. It is irrelevant if you are on
their Christmas card list. The only gift you care about is their effort, attitude and
application. When an employee listens to you and does what you tell them out
of respect, that is a huge step in the direction of success. We have probably all
had times in our lives where our parents or guardians or someone in a position
of authority was not our favorite person. However, if they were consistent in
their approach, clear in their intentions and expectations and their methods
resulted in personal growth, we can look back on the experience and respect
them now.
It doesn’t take great results and accomplishments in your previous
existence. It takes patience, understanding, team orientation, striving towards a
common goal, the ability to put yourselves in their shoes, being able to relate to
them and doing absolutely everything in your power to help them achieve their
goals no matter what those goals are. Sometimes you cannot do any more for
them and you cannot fix a perceived problem but as long as you can show them
you did all you could, stood up for them or took a hit on their behalf, they will
follow you anywhere.
Coaching your team to success is the most integral part of management.
It always pained me when I heard reps complain of any manager that failed them
in this area. Some managers try to hide behind their responsibilities and say they
do not have time to coach as much as they want. Do not make this mistake.
Make the time for developing your team. Period. Failure to do so results in
failure. I don’t care what personal tweaks you need to make to your time
management; they need to be done to ensure you leave no stone unturned in the
evolution of your team’s approach to the mastery of the job.
There were many days in my management career where I would look up
late in the day and not necessarily be where I wanted to finish the day. My busy
work would be piled up and I had committed to myself I was going to finish
some things in that vein that were not yet completed. Despite that, I put it aside;
sometimes you have to make the decision to put aside other things for the sake
of your real goal: money. Your results are ultimately what you will be judged off
of; find the time to do the busy work but make the time to impact results.
The best thing about being a manager is that you dictate when you get in
the trenches and when you do not. While I could never stand those who just
wanted promotions to get off the phone or out of the field, I looked forward to a
career step that would unchain me from my permanent home at the telephone.
On the same token, it is nice to be able to get out there and get some positive
chatter and enthusiasm going because the boss is alongside the team members
making stuff happen.
Again, your time is best spent impacting as many futuristic sales
attempts as possible. Always keep that in the forefront of your mind. However,
especially with newer team members, there will always be good opportunities to
get out there and show by doing. One of the toughest decisions I would have to
make in these situations was if and when to take over the call for fear the rep
would lose the sale; I would scribble notes on a pad of paper to feed them lines
and would whisper instructions but would often not take over unless I saw that
sale slip-sliding away. The reason this decision is tough is because doing
something for someone else is not teaching. They need to learn. Be sure you
know when and how to draw that line so you are not making them dependent
upon you; they have to learn, grow and prosper independently of you.
As for coaching sessions with reps off the phone in my office, these
were my bread and butter. I love these sessions more than nearly anything in
sales management because this is what I found had the most impact.
Unless you have nothing useful to say, you should pull them off their
usual duties in an instant in the attempt to make them better. You invest in the
stock market, you invest in mutual funds and you invest in your people. It pays
dividends and that is how you make gains.
The art of coaching an employee is delicate because you are dealing with
feelings and emotional topics like performance. This is where many managers
fail; they are unable to deliver the tough messages necessary to get the point
across in the most effective manner. Giving bad news or telling someone they
need serious work is not easy, but, like selling products and services, the words
you choose to use and how you deliver them are keys to getting through to them
You do not want there to be a negative connotation of coming into your
office. Often, reps will hum some kind of horror theme when one of their own
is summoned to the office, but you want to dispel that feel quickly. Regardless
of my forthcoming message, unless of course I was terminating someone, I
would always let the rep know it was a privilege for me to meet with them and
that they should consider themselves fortunate that I felt they warranted
additional time to form a plan of attack. Especially when I was managing
managers, if I included a rep in a session, it was their lucky day to get my advice
in addition to their superior’s, even if not everything they were going to hear was
the easiest thing for them to find out.
Whether covering a call or visit or some aspect of their performance,
you always want to open by asking them how they are, how they feel about that
particular call or aspect and you want to ascertain where their head is. This will
give you a window into how you want to approach this session. If they are
defensive, you need to be relatively delicate in your approach but will have to sell
them on your legitimate concerns. If they are arms wide open and a willing
sponge to soak up your pearls of wisdom, first consider yourself lucky but
second be sure you understand your obligation. The manager-employee dynamic
involves egos and you have to be mindful of that as you proceed.
No matter what message you are about to deliver or how poor the
employee is at the item at hand, always acknowledge whatever good exists first.
Even if the employee only managed good tone or saying their name properly,
you want to lead off with a positive to set the tempo for what is to come. No
one wants to simply hear a laundry list of their downfalls. That is especially true
of someone in an employee’s shoes. You must also realize that they may often
have a differing opinion from yours so be prepared to back up every aspect of
your diatribe. That said, you should also be prepared to stick to your guns.
Speaking of laundry lists, do not administer one. People’s attention
spans are not equipped to handle every single thing they could have improved
on. If you consider what you are trying to communicate, it is likely some of the
items are higher priorities than others. That said, you want to lead off with the
important, high end stuff. I have heard many managers just read off everything
the rep did wrong; if you fail to discern that you care more about the passion and
enthusiasm they displayed during offering than the fact they read the scripted
introduction, they will likely not know which to apply more emphasis in
Never leave them guessing; your coaching session should by all means
outline what needs improvement yet it should center around a select few high
end priorities that will be their marching orders going forward. Like a sales
presentation, you want to lay out what you expect to be done to fix these items,
the benefit to them of fixing them and how they can feasibly do it. Plausibility of
a goal is one of the most important things on the minds of your team members.
One of the most frustrating things for an employee is a goal they feel they cannot
reach; if you can show them how they can take and make steps towards the goals
you have discussed, you have done them a great service.
Highlight the main bullet points you want them to have in the front of
their minds, recap them and have them repeat them. Writing them down and
giving them a report later of what you discussed is always a good idea; this works
wonders for the file you are keeping on your team members as well. It also
serves as quick reference for the employee; every time they glance at the paper it
shows what they need to be working on. Implementation of improvement plans
like having them keep track of the things you want them improving on is very
helpful as – at any time of day – you can get an up-to-the-minute update on how
they are progressing and they know you care. Stopping by someone’s desk to
check their stick tally of an improvement area takes seconds but it is working
smarter and not harder towards effectively managing the processes that make
you successful. That’s management.
While you may make several valid points during your coaching session
with a rep, they will not remember everything. Map a game plan and be creative
with the steps you want them to take to get to the “X” that marks the spot. This
can also be a great time to revisit what you expect on their evaluations; that while
they may have mentioned Product Y or asked a customer if they were interested
in discussing Product Y, they did not recommend it with benefits and therefore
they missed the point. Not only that, but as assumption never works in
management, you must outline the wording you expect to be used and show
them how you expect that recommendation to take place.
Heck, it may have even been a progression for the rep to actually start
mentioning Product Y, but it is still not being done with benefits. So, in keeping
with the theme we just discussed, you would first commend the rep for getting
over their fear of discussing the product. Then you would chart the next step of
recommending it with benefits, all while showing them how you expect it to be
woven into their call.
Much of the conversation with an employee should be dictated from the
fact-finding you undertake with them. It is one thing to ask them what benefits
are of Product Y and to have them quote your training manual in giving you
ample belief they know their facts. However, just because someone knows
benefits of something does not mean they can or will sell it. In fact, quite often,
that is the very case: you could have a very intelligent employee on your hands
that knows the products inside and out but they have no idea how to position it
or win the psychological tug-of-war with their customer. That is where you have
to show – not tell – them how to integrate it into their call flow.
I have found a lot of success in management by instructing employees to
write their own scripts in their own words that they feel would address
shortcomings in the call flow. After they have completed writing the script in
their words and voice, I will tweak and bless it. It is always important to let your
employee have a strong hand in the progression of their career; it is hard for
someone to just follow orders, they want to have some skin in the game.
Besides, writing sales scripts is second nature to me but I am the only one who
will deliver it exactly the way I intended. Having them craft it in their mold and
having me oversee and tweak it to my satisfaction is teamwork. That winning
combination will lead to success.
Once a script is born from a collaboration and coaching session, make
following it mandatory if necessary. Make sure the employee understands you
will be listening for that script every time you monitor them. Document that
discussion. Follow-up to ensure it is being used. Inspect what you expect. See,
a lot of management is going above and beyond just paying lip service to the
clichés you will hear every day from your supervisors. You have to take the
initiative to put your own mark on things, be creative and look for the best ways
possible to improve the processes in your group. A common fear of a manager
is that once you turn your back on one rep to turn your attention to another, Rep
#1 will misbehave or relapse into old behaviors that will not work. Your
attention to their progression, your dedication to following up on them and your
consistent approach to managing policies, procedures and processes will be the
deciding factor on whether you win or lose. That’s management.
Always keep your eye on the big picture and ensure your employees do
the same. All of them have some kind of motivation, but you have to get to
know them to uncover it. I know, the correlations between the sales flow to a
customer and the coaching flow to an employee are very similar; the same
relationships often exist in slightly different forms as you climb the sales food
Just like you can never assume your subordinates know something or
know to do something, you can also never assume they will keep their own eyes
on the big picture. In fact, for many, this is a very difficult undertaking and it is
another place where you come in. You have to keep their eyes on the prize; that
is how you motivate your team members from the bottom-feeders all the way up
to the climbers. Some of them need more attention than others. Some of them
deserve attention more than others. Based on the quality of the investment of
your time, you have to and get to determine how to divvy it up. You call the
shots on what you do and when you do it. Sure, you have a guideline, but you
need to keep all of these factors in mind when deciding how you are going to
play your hand.
With all the joys and successes also comes unrest. Being a master
negotiator, mediator and being adept at conflict resolution will all be skills you
must learn and call upon in your quest for management greatness. Like anything
else, it is not all fun and games and you will regularly be tested in your position.
Nothing worth anything is easy, and if you take on the role of manager be
prepared for plenty of challenges. You may be the best time manager in the
world and may plot out every second of your day, but those are the ones that will
most quickly be derailed by the problems that undoubtedly arise.
As frustrating as things can get, never respond with a knee-jerk reaction.
Your gut instinct to catastrophe – which is nothing more than a decision without
the facts – will only further the spread of potential disease. Always remember
your top priority and responsibility is not letting your team see you bleed, not
allowing them to witness your frustration and ensuring they view you as nothing
more or less than the authority on all topics. You may have chinks in your armor
but you do not want to expose them to your team.
Whether the situation is a subordinate taking a spill requiring medical
attention, a fight or argument between employees, a disagreement with a peer,
false accusations attacking your character, or a sales dispute that has people up in
arms, let cooler heads prevail and do not be afraid to sit back and gather all the
facts. People will want or expect an immediate decision from you when often
that is not possible or not wise. Granted, if someone falls in the parking lot, you
follow protocol and may call an ambulance. But if two people are fighting over a
lead, get the facts, make sure everyone gets the impression you are out to play
wise King Solomon even if you have already made up your mind, and always let
everyone get everything off their chest they desire to. If they are convinced you
have their best interests at heart, it will be easy to sell them on giving you enough
time to make a thoroughly investigated and informed decision.
Keeping your cool when you are under fire can be even more difficult
but I can tell you that anything you do to respond out of anger at a false
statement or accusation will only serve to undermine you. The people that
matter – even if it is just you sometimes – know the truth. You have to let things
roll off your back. Great leaders attract jealousy. Remember that you have to
hold yourself to the same high regard you asked for and earned. With
management comes a responsibility to yourself, others and the company. Take it
Put all of these things together and the better you oversee these
processes, the more effective you will be as a leader. Anyone can carry the
moniker but what does it take to be the best?
The best managers are the go-to-authorities for the team; they are a
wealth of knowledge and have a plethora of tips and trade tactics. If you are
going to coach you should know the game; the ins and outs, the idiosyncrasies
and what makes the machine run. Anyone can schedule a meeting with
employees, but the best managers have an outline, a game plan and talking points
plus the allowance for the team members to have their turn to talk. Where the
ineffective manager allows this open forum to get out of control and fails to
address concerns, the effective manager has the answers, dictates the flow of the
constructive “bitch session” and follows up on anything he or she cannot answer
that second.
The effective manager upholds all developmental plans, knows where
everything is for the purpose of personnel binders and keeps everyone in line
with office standards and expectations. The best manager volunteers for
additional responsibilities while peers sit back and do status quo. The best
manager leads in overall performance – sales, efficiency, paperwork and hustle
stats like conversion rates and whatever else your department comes up with.
The best manager is always looking for a new area to reign.
Can you get people to work for you? Do they want to work for you?
Can you bring them together as a team? Can you get their performance to its
peak? Are you worth more to the company as a solitary rep or can you replicate
your success in others?
The best managers can voice their opinions and the opinions of their
subordinates behind closed doors in making policy; then turn around and
embrace whatever the outcome, even if they are not in 100% support of it. They
are ambassadors of the company and have to sell their teams on how to tackle
the mission statement of the company, no matter what. The best manager can
answer the 20 questions per day they field from each of their employees. The
best managers are subject matter experts (or can effectively fake it) on every
The best managers do not and cannot care what others think about
them and must develop a thick skin. While they are concerned with what their
detractors and naysayers would spout about them strictly for self-development
purposes, they will never let anyone see them bleed. The best managers have a
clear cut understanding of all reports and why they are important, plus the ability
to sell their importance to those working for them. They can break down the
reports, make them make sense to others and get the buy-in and commitment to
excel in every facet of the job. They keep the information in their faces whether
it makes them comfortable or not, are not afraid of having tough conversations
and are not unsettled at the thought of disciplining an employee when necessary.
The best managers lead by example and leadership rather than threats,
fear and intimidation. The best managers know how to plot out their day to give
the most of themselves in the least amount of time. The best managers care
about their team and the success of the whole. They care about recognizing
successes of all shapes and sizes, improvements and milestones. They are
competitive but not at the cost or to the detriment of themselves or others.
The best managers commend rather than tear down. They do not show
their frustration or take it out on others. They have to be patient and
understanding but temper it with their duty to the business and the team as a
whole. They reach out to others to share and learn; they are interested in best
practices, no matter where they originated from. They are not afraid to delegate
work to others and put faith in employees who are ready for additional
responsibility. They understand that promotion from within reflects positively
on them and are not intimidated by those who work for them. They are secure
enough in their position and approach that they can mentor others and have a
succession plan.
The best managers have a strong enough support system that they can
take a day off without the kingdom crumbling. They have gained enough respect
of the employees that they work when the leader is out of pocket and know there
will be repercussions if they fail to do so. They empower their teams to have a
say on as many issues as possible such as work flow, approaches, incentives,
team bonding exercises and the like. They care about momentum and morale
and know how to keep it strong. They show strong respect for those with the
will to succeed while they assist in improving the skill to get there.
The best managers never judge themselves versus peers that are not
meeting expectations or goals; they always judge themselves against the
expectations and goals of the company and of themselves.
Like anything worth anything in this world, being a manager will never
be easy. However, when you see that light bulb go off in an employee and they
“get it” – when it all clicks and comes together for someone you have been
working with – and everything pays off, being a manager can be one of the most
rewarding things in the world.
That’s management.
* * *

About cvheady007

I am a Christian, Husband, Dad, workaholic and author. Biography Carson Vincent Heady was born in Cape Girardeau, MO, graduated from Southeast Missouri State University and moved to St. Louis in 2001. He has served in sales and leadership across Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. Carson is best-selling author of the Birth of a Salesman series, the first book of which was published by World Audience Inc. in 2010. He released The Salesman Against the World in 2014, A Salesman Forever in 2016 and Salesman on Fire in 2020. He is also featured in Scott Ingram’s B2B Sales Mentors: 20 Stories from 20 Top 1% Sales Professionals. Carson is a 7-time CEO/President’s Club winner across 5 roles at AT&T and Microsoft and National Verizon Rockstar winner. He has been recognized as a top social seller at Microsoft and is consistently ranked in the top 25 sales gurus in the world on Rise Global. He is included among the Top 50 sales authors on LinkedIn. With over 330K social followers, Carson has also been interviewed on over 30 sales and leadership podcasts, by such luminaries as Jeffrey & Jennifer Gitomer, Jeb Blount, Brandon Bornancin, Sam Dunning, Larry Levine, Darrell Amy, Scott Ingram, Thierry van Herwijnen, Jim Brown, Sam Jacobs, Luigi Prestinenzi, Donald Kelly, Marylou Tyler, George Leith, Pat Helmer, Eric Nelson, Ron Tunick, Jeff Arthur, Mary Ann Samedi, Jean Oursler, Andre Harrell, Marlene Chism, Bill Crespo, Matt Tanguay, Josh Wheeler and Chad Bostick. He has also co-hosted the Smart Biz Show on EG Marketing Radio. His articles have appeared in several noteworthy publications such as SalesGravy, Smash! Sales, Salesopedia and the Baylor Sports Department S3 Report. Carson lives in St. Louis, MO, with his wife Amy and daughters Madison, Sidonia and Charlotte.
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  1. Caribbean Angel says:

    i like!

  2. Caribbean Angel says:

    “The best managers never judge themselves versus peers that are not
    meeting expectations or goals; they always judge themselves against the
    expectations and goals of the company and of themselves.”- this is by far the best piece of wisdom, because… it is true!

  3. Andrea says:

    You’re right on. Unfortunately many managers do not apply these principles and end up losing great employees.

    • cvheady007 says:


      You are SO right; I could not agree more with your assessment. It’s so important that we – as leaders – never forget from whence we came, and we truly work FOR our people.

      Thank you for your feedback!


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