Monday Morning Manager

You’re a sales manager. It’s a Monday morning and you’re on the way to Atlanta to work with a salesperson who has been with the company for a little over six months. As you walk out of the airport your cell phone rings and it’s the rep who is supposed to pick you up. He says that he is sick and can’t make the calls as planned. You decide to rent a car and make the appointments yourself.

A couple of days later you return to the office. You are expecting the next fiscal year’s forecast from each of the 6 salespeople who report to you. The reps have had 3 weeks to complete the forecasting spreadsheet, which is critical to the company’s planning process. You received 5 on time with the Atlanta rep the only one that is late. You’ve tried to call him for two days but both his cell and home phones go directly into voice mail.

This is the 5th situation where the Atlanta rep has missed a deadline, been sick, had an emergency or, according to him, been “left out of the loop.” As the sales manager you are frustrated and running low on patience. What do you do?

 This is a tough situation. If you’ve got a heart you don’t want to see someone lose a job but you, as the sales manager, also have a job and the people you report to have expectations. You don’t want to let something like this go too long or your other salespeople as well as other people in the company will begin to wonder and the last person in the company you want wondering is your boss the VP of sales.

The mental gymnastics here are considerable. The things that seem to plague the Atlanta rep could happen so you don’t want to create WW III over issues that aren’t issues. But still…..

Every manager has experienced something like this before. Here is one way to handle the situation. You can use the prior situations that occurred but I wouldn’t, especially if they seem plausible. From this point forward I would:

  1. Begin to document any late reports, missed meetings, excessive number of of sick days (assuming there is nothing catastrophically wrong with the individual or member of the family) etc.
  2. Check the salesperson’s past activity or call reports if your company has reps do these.
  3. Review this person’s sales numbers. Has he lost any business? Are too many deals still unclosed or failed to move through the pipeline? Has there been a fall off in new business development?
  4. CC your boss on all this. I know, it sounds like you’re ratting out a friend but you’re not. If your boss wonders about this rep he would expect you to do something. If he sees zero documentation from you he’ll wonder about your ability. The Army refers to this as C-Y-A. Not a bad thing to do.

If the Atlanta rep continues to be the target of “bad luck” then you’ll need to have a face to face come-to-Jesus meeting with him. Have your documentation ready and check with your HR department as to how you should approach the situation.

Here is my last word pf advice. If you do need to take disciplinary action on a salesperson don’t wait too long because you think that you can salvage the individual through coaching and/or tough love. You’ll spend too much time on the salvage operation, your stomach will have a hole in it and your other responsibilities will suffer. And whose to say that your current customers aren’t suffering due to potential neglect from this rep. How long is too long? That’s always going to be the manager’s call because, after all, that’s your J-O-B.

Two other notes. This will be a soft week for posts. Our daughter is getting married within a few days and the women in my life have informed me that I need to be available for whatever loose ends need tightening. I will do one more post on Wednesday. You will also find that beginning next week I will provide three instead of four posts. I’m having incredible amounts of fun with this blog but client activity is picking up and I have a book soon to hit the street. (November 26th to be exact.)

The Final Thought: Anyone can become angry–that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-this is not easy. Aristotle


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