Sales Management Leadership-Oral & Written Communications

               Say It And Tell It Like It Is-Clearly!

Some of the stuff that happens to sales managers you cannot make up! Case in point. Several years ago during a sales management consulting gig I put a sales rep on probation. (This was with the approval of the owner of the company who also approved the document I gave the salesperson.) I took quite a bit of time preparing the probation letter because I wanted the rep to know the sales activities that he had done correctly as well as the ones where he needed to improve. He got through reading the two and a half page document (OK, so I’m wordy) and said, “Tom, that was really well written!” I kid you not! There’s a chance that Jiminy Cricket may not have been dealing with a full deck.

If you have ever done anything like this you know that it can be similar to going into battle. The salesperson will start to hyperventilate and then you’ll hear something like, “Tom, I just don’t agree with this. I can think back to a time when I did…..which directly contradicts what you wrote right here. And then, no way have I not….” By the end of these sessions all you want to do is hit the local pub and put your mouth under the Sam Adams tap. Or, in my case, pour about four fingers of Makers Mark!

Communicating with salespeople is challenging, regardless of whether it is oral or written. Here’s a case in point where I was not even remotely clear. I once told a rep that he needed to do more prospecting and that was all I said. I knew what I wanted him to do but all he heard was the word prospect, so the next time I travelled with him we wound up in these god-forsaken, penny-ante, low potential, hole-in-the-wall businesses. True, most salespeople would have figured out that I did not mean Bob & Jane’s Petunia Factory. Hey, ya see that building over there with 34 bay doors? Let’s go there! No doubt, Bob and Jane’s was less intimidating.

Several weeks ago I wrote a post on why communication is fundamental to good leadership. This post drills down on why written communication is key so that salespeople can’t wiggle, squirm, or squeeze out from the letter of the law. Here is what always works when you want to get a specific point across to a salesperson. Say that you just completed two days working with Billy Joe Bob and you watched him massacre almost every sales call. I’m going to give BJB some feedback and yes I will say something positive to start with. (Hey man, nice tie!) On the back end I’m going to suggest that Billy Joe start every sales call with a specific agenda. I will explain what I mean by an agenda and I will ask  him to write one out and that it shouldn’t last more than 60 seconds. I will illustrate one for him. I will ask him to have an example to me in writing by a specific date and that we will role-play it over the phone.

OK, I would never be that condescending in how I communicated with anyone but I would be specific without treating the person like an idiot. I would also follow up the verbal communication with a written document (email) summarizing what I said in person. Does all of this sound ridiculous? Not if you read some of the emails I get from salespeople whose managers are vague, uninformed, irrational, limited in scope, and totally unable to string 7 sentences together.

Be Clear!

The Final Thought: “If you just communicate you can get by. But if you skillfully communicate, you can work miracles.” Jim Rohn


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