If anyone tells you that sales management is a walk in the park suggest to them that they walk in your shoes for a couple of months. Sales management is a great job but it is very challenging. There are certain activities that a sales manager must do but there are situations where there is no road map and a good manager has to have a fair amount of instinct to guide them. Here is an example.
Early in my sales management career I had a rep who, for lack of better words, was arrogant and aloof. I haven’t admitted this to many people but the guy intimidated me. He was older than I was by about 8 years but that wasn’t what got to me. He always seemed to have an answer to any question I had relative to his performance or attitude. This was at a time early in my management life when I didn’t have the confidence to call a rep on conduct or attitude issues. I wanted to keep people happy! Well, the truth is that there are times when you have to rattle people’s cages.
So what deserves a little cage rattling? Here’s a short list:
- The salesperson exhibits no team work when in meetings or other company functions.
- They work hard enough to make plan but don’t put forth any effort beyond that.
- They always seemd to find something wrong with the comp plan, marketing’s plan, customer service or some other company department.
- They never initiate contact with the sales manager or anyone else in the company. They could have written the sequel “Every Man is an Island.”
- They have a certain coldness about them that can’t be penetrated.
- They are selfish and very much into themselves.
- Reports are half-ass at best.
I admit that some of these are subjective but sometimes sales management is subjective. If you’re good at this job you have a “sense” or “intuition” about people and situations. Your intuition is telling you that something isn’t right; that is the time to take action.
The action you take is not disciplinary as in probation. Whatever the rep is doing does not warrant probation. The rep does deserve a verbal wake up call however. And depending on the circumstances, that wake up call should be intense and in your face or tactful but firm. The worse the behavior the more intense the wake up call. Sales managers have a responsibility to maintain the culture of the sales department; they need to establish behavioral/conduct parameters that all reps adhere to. This may sound corny but sales managers should create a reasonably harmonic sales “family”. And, no, I’m not talking about the Leave It To Beaver environment. Salespeople can disagree; they will not always have a cherubic smile on their face; they will be emotionally down on occasion. These situations are day to day; they are not built in character flaws.
The rule of thumb is that if your intuition is screaming at you to address an issue with a sales rep-do it! The longer you wait the harder it will be to do.
The Final Thought: “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” William James