Sales Management War Story

These two stories could be called the Dark Side vs. the Light Side or Before vs. After or How Not To vs. How to. Let’s travel to the dark side first.

Back in the dawn of my selling career (1973) I worked for a pharmaceutical company, ergo I was calling on a range of doctors in a horizontal strip of geography in the central part of Minnesota. It was an OK job but not a great job. I was making about fifteen thousand dollars a year, which my wife and I actually survived on. Our sales region had a sales manager who was just too damned happy-all the time. Hey, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with happiness but you know the people who make a big production about their happiness? It gets boring, which was what this guy was.

At the time my wife and I lived in a two bedroom house with a one car garage. Behind the house was another area where I could park my company car instead of on the driveway. Now we all know that some salespeople do not work 10 hours a day 5 days a week. So when I chose to take a few hours off here and there I parked my car out of sight. Know why? Because our idiot of a manager used to drive around and check to see if his salespeople’s cars were in the driveway or not. If he saw a car in the driveway at, say 11AM on a week day, he’d have a few choice words for the sales rep! Did I want to work hard for this nimrod? Absolutely not! How did he know that there weren’t extenuating circumstances for me to be at home.

Ah, and now for the light side. The first manager I had with this company was an absolute sales management pro. The week I returned from training this gentleman and his wife hosted my wife and I for dinner at their home. I honestly felt like this person cared. Nothing threw this guy off his game. If I completely screwed up a sales call when he worked with me we’d talk about it after the sales call. He made suggestions about what I could do differently on the next call. And he did that while salvaging my ego! He never once condemned me to sales hell because I sounded like a complete doofus, which I did from time to time. He knew I was green and it was his job to develop me. I would have gone up Pork Chop Hill or over Niagara Falls in a barrel for the man.

Salespeople are not dumb. Most of them are good at reading people and motives. They will follow any sales manager if they trust the manager and if the sales manager offers constructive advice and sound leadership. How hard is that to do? It does take practice and skill but it’s eminently “doable”. Build trust with your salespeople and they will work miracles for you.

The Final Thought: A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better. (Jim Rohn)

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