Sales Management & Leadership-Effective Communication Is the Foundation

This is part of a continuing series on sales management and leadership. If you have been in sales then you have had an interesting range of sales managers. Let’s see, I had the smiley guy who saw his world through rose colored glasses; there was the happy guy who was unwilling to tell it like it is mano a mano; there was the hulk who sulked; there was the brown booter who thought Mein Kampf was a children’s tale.

All these lovable nimrods had one thing in common-they did not understand the fine art of communication! One of Wikipedia’s definitions is: communication is defined as a process by which we assign and convey meaning in an attempt to create shared understanding. This process requires a vast repertoire of skills in intrapersonal and interpersonal processing, listening, observing, speaking, questioning, analyzing, and evaluating.

Intrapersonal is how we process messages internally. Interpersonal is a connection between two people where influence and shared thoughts and engaging in activities together are key. It is how we impact each other. So how does this play out in the world of sales management? Taking one of my past nimrod managers will define “how not to do it”. The gentleman was supposed to give me my annual performance review but instead of conducting the review face to face, slipped it under my hotel room door. The review was harsh, which I did deserve but why not do it in person? Fear? Loathing? Dislike of confrontation? Probably a combination of all three.

Sales managers “owe” it to their salespeople to communicate effectively, which includes the following:

  1. Stating clearly and concisely what the sales manager’s expectations are for the salesperson.
  2. When a salesperson really screws up, listening “hard” to what the salesperson explains about the situation.
  3. During sales calls listening to the salesperson make the call rather than taking over the sales call.
  4. Communicating with the salesperson in ways that make processing information logical to them.
  5. Understanding what makes the salesperson “tick”, what does this person want from the job and life in general.
  6. Understanding how a particular salesperson needs to be motivated.
  7. Listening, without judging, what makes a particular salesperson frustrated.
  8. Asking questions to clarify anything the sales manager does not understand during any conversation.
  9. Having no pre-conceived ideas about the salesperson and their motivations.
  10. Connecting with salespeople in a way that establishes complete and total trust.
  11. Having the strength of character to admit to being wrong.

So, what does all this take? Patience, humility, people-sense, emotional intelligence, vulnerability, compassion, empathy, mental toughness, openness, and common sense to name but a few applicable adjectives. Why do I refer to sales management as an art? Because to do it right requires skills that are not in common use by the majority of people.

The Final Thought: To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well” John Marshall


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