Within the last week our new president made an interesting statement as he sent an emissary to the Mideast to, again, bring stability to that region. Obama suggested that this person should “listen” first rather than dictate, which the United States is prone to do around the world. I was impressed with this! What a novel approach-listening!
Many moons ago when I was first promoted into sales management I asked my new boss what he saw in me that helped in his decision. (There were other choices.) One of things he said was that I was a “hard listener”. Loosely translated this meant that I listened with an intent to understand what the speaker meant by their words; I wasn’t just hearing words en route to making comments. This post is about leadership not me but the example serves to illustrate a point.
There are two factors that provide the foundation for a sales manager to be a leader and not just a manager. One, the salespeople have to feel that the sales manager is approachable and that they have the freedom to say what is on their minds. (The right environment) Two, the sales manager absolutely must listen to what salespeople have to say without pre-judging their motives. There is an ancillary to number two. The sales manager should not assume that he or she knows exactly what the salesperson means by their comment. Listening hard does not always lead to perfect understanding. Ask questions until the meaning is clear.
Anyone sense something familiar in that last paragraph? Don’t salespeople do the same thing (or at least they should) when they’re on sales calls? Salespeople are the sales manager’s customers! Salespeople should create an environment where the prospect has the freedom to speak; sales managers need to create the same environment with their salespeople.
Let’s face it, salespeople have a wait and see attitude when it comes to trusting sales managers. They’ve been burned too often not to be wary. As a result, sales managers need to be proficient at reading people. When that moment comes when you, as a sales manager, sense that your rep has something on his or her mind you need to ask a simple question like, “Sally, I have a feeling that you have something on your mind.” You know the drill after this. Shut up and wait.
If you, as a leader, create the right environment you will establish a culture based on trust.
The Final Thought: “Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” Unknown