Sales Management & Favoritism

Somewhere back in the dawn of time someone said that all salespeople should be treated equally. True or false? False! Favoritism is the wrong word to use in this situation. Here’s why.

Most sales groups have diversity in terms of:

1. Sales skils.

2. Ages.

3. Need to be managed.

4. Years in sales.

5. Organizational skills.

6. Communication skills.

7. Industry experience.

For this post at least I’m leaving out the obvious diversity, which is gender. It’s pretty safe to assume that any sales group will have people all over the board when it comes to skill levels and experience and if that is the case then they should be managed differently.

Here’s an example. At one point in my sales management life I had 8 salespeople reporting to me. Two of them were new sales reps who had been what we called “clinicals”. Clinicals worked in the field with salespeople supporting them when the rep needed technical product and medical procedure skills. The clinicals were former RN’s or lab technicians. The clinicals were not salespeople although they, at times, wore that hat–by choice more than design. Two of the clinicals requested sales positions and were given them. So, I had two of these folks in my region along with 2 all-pros and 4 others at various skill stages. We were all remote from the home office so my time was spent on the road working with salespeople. 

Where do you think I spent most of my time? Obviously, with the newbies. I would have done an injustice to my job if I hadn’t spent more time with these people than with the other reps. True, this example is pretty obvious. What about written call reports, phone communication, projects, goal setting? Should the more mature reps be let off the hook when it comes down to a salesperson’s admin responsibilities? Again, managers have to be selective and that is the point of this post.

Your hot shot all pro sales person will, more times than not, be on top of the admin needs of the company because they know that this is part of the job. But what about the “loner” salesperson who consistently makes the numbers, knows the product and the competition cold and whose customers write letters to the company extolling the virtues of this rep? Oh yeah, this person is also stubbornly blind to the admin side of his or her life. Now what? Of course, this means that we have to take a little trip into the “Management Gray Area”. To tell you the truth there is a lot of MGA in a sales manager’s life.

If I were managing Mr. or Ms. stubborn I would make a decision about the importance of the admin request. If we worked for a company that delighted in forms and reporting I would decide what I wanted this person to spend their time on. If the project was make work I’d tell them to forget it. If the project is key to, say, next year’s sales goals I would work with this them either in person or over the phone to help them finish the project more quickly. (I want them in the field not behind a desk!) But what about the newbies and the mid-skill level reps? Isn’t this unfair to them? No. They need to learn how to do these projects the right way because it is part of the sales development and maturation process. If one of the newbies vented a little frustration over my playing favorites I’d tell them that when they reach the all pro sales status and they’re over plan then I’ll accord them the same leeway.

Frankly, this is why sales management is more black art than science. How do you teach people to use this kind of judgement?

The Final Thought: At 20 years of age the will reigns, at 30 the wit, at 40 the judgement. Ben Franklin


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