Exactly what kinds of experiences award an individual entrance into the wisdom club? Now there’s a question that stops the creative process with the finality of the word end on the last page of a book. So, where to from here? According to Wikipedia wisdom in the Western tradition is one of the cardinal virtues. As a virtue, it is a habit or disposition to perform the right action under given circumstances. This translation I like better. Wisdom is a disposition to find the truth coupled with an optimum judgment as to right actions. A decent synonym is insight. (According to this my 7-year-old grandson has wisdom. He looked at me the other day and said, “Grandpa you have big ears”! Thanks kid. Always good to have the ego stroked. 😉
Usually, parents have wisdom. My father did not necessarily prove that out. In all the years I knew him he gave me one bit of sage advice, which was ‘go into sales’. As it turned out that was a brilliant bit of truth that came at the right time. But that was it. Apparently, Harry decided that he wasn’t going to offer any other truths; he wanted to offer one humdinger of a truth and then rest on his laurels. Harry was also a shy individual who did not want to impose his will on anyone. My mother would disagree but that’s for another day and venue.
Whatever shortage of wisdom my father offered I made up for in spades by offering more than people needed. That’s where ego and wisdom intersect. If people think they are wise and they have a larger than required ego they believe that they need to dispense their wisdom freely to everyone. Really a bad idea! I don’t think that I fell into that category although my kids and wife may disagree. How you deliver wisdom, when you do it and to whom are the real keys to this virtue.
I freely dispensed (some might say dictated) suggestions under the guise of wisdom. There was a better way to do it. Making a query as in “Mind if I share an opinion on….” is better. My intentions were good but the delivery sucked. When you offer wisdom (if it really is that) non-stop people get really annoyed and before you know it they tune you out. Kids tend to model their parents anyway so if the modeling is good then how much ‘wisdom’ needs to be dispensed? Probably not as much as most parents think.
One of my bosses offered this pearl to me when I became a first time manager. “If you need help or have questions give me a call”. Okay. The sign on his desk could have read Wisdom will be dispensed upon request. His theory was that if I had a problem or question I was smart enough to know that I needed help and that he was a phone call away. Either that or he didn’t know what to tell me because no one had ever taught him how to manage. He basically winged life anyway and I suspect that’s how he handled sales management.
Past the age of 16 (my own very arbitrary number) wisdom should be delivered with some finesse as in a tactful, diplomatic maneuver. Why the touchy feely approach? Maybe the person already knows the best way to approach a problem. Maybe they have already proven they can handle tough situations. Maybe they enjoy the process of learning from their own mistakes. Maybe they’re stubborn SOB’s. Maybe they’re tired of listening to you. Regardless, not everyone is anxiously awaiting the next pearl to escape your frontal lobe. Offering wisdom that might actually have a lasting impact on a person or situation should be offered upon request, humorously, in a metaphor mixed with humor, with permission or to sell a book. 😉 And isn’t wisdom akin to advice?
George Carlin was one of the funniest humans on the planet. He had a classic one liner jam-packed with wisdom. Don’t let your ego write a check your body can’t cash! Or something like that. Not a bad bit of wisdom.
Maybe the better question is, can you motivate a salesperson who has a lousy work ethic? And then, where do you start the coaching process? From experience I can tell you that the hard-nosed approach will not miraculously cure the sales rep that likes to quit at 2:30PM and head for the driving range. Discovering why a salesperson is lazy is a decent first step. Why are some salespeople lazy:
- It’s in the gene pool or they never saw or learned from anyone what hard work looks like.
- They are satisfied at a certain income level and don’t see any reason to work any harder or smarter.
- They’re working two jobs or double-dipping.
- No one ever taught the rep how to write a plan and work it.
- The rep should not be in sales.
- The sales culture is lousy and the rep fits that culture. (Hard to believe but it could be true.)
The sales management position requires a fair amount of psychoanalyzing. People think and act based on certain triggers in their brain. If you can figure out the triggers then you have gone a long way in finding out what motivates people. When I managed salespeople I believed in having “off the record” one-on-ones. These conversations and what came from them did not make it on the annual review nor did they make it up the chain of command. There are times in managing when “come to Jesus” meetings should stay between just two people.
I’ll follow up this post with a second installment later this week.
The Final Thought: “LAZINESS, n. Unwarranted repose of manner in a person of low degree.” Ambrose Bierce
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how so many salespeople find it so difficult to move out of their comfort zones. I may have mentioned head trash but doubt whether I spent much time on it. H.T. comes in lots of shapes and sizes; most of the trash roaming around in our brain comes courtesy of all the people who have and are impacting our lives. Here is a wondrous list of some of the more insidious bits of head trash:
- You can’t do that!
- Don’t talk about money.
- Don’t talk to strangers. (Absolutely great advice if you’re a kid; lousy advice if you’re in sales.)
- You’re lazy.
- Math is not your cup of tea.
- You have a short attention span.
- That’s too risky.
- You’ll never make it…
- Are you sure you want to do that?
- No one has ever done that before…
Now, before you think that I am about to indict all parents, teachers, coaches etc. let me say that with a few exceptions the people who raised us and effected our lives are good people. Their hearts were and are in the right place. They didn’t consciously try to mess with our brains. (OK, so there were a few times when I deliberately messed with my kid’s heads but they weathered the storm!)
Each one of the above “well-intentioned” comments, if said enough times, become lodged in our brain. They become negative mantras, reminders of limitations, and precursors of failure. You’re familiar with the acronym GIGO as it relates to computers-Garbage In, Garbage Out. The same is true with head trash. If the garbage doesn’t get tossed it begins to affect how we act and what we are willing to do.
I strongly advise younger salespeople to do a “head check” to determine what kinds of head trash they have. And if they find some determine how it affects their sales abilities. Getting rid of H.T. isn’t as hard as you think. Apply this to all situations where you think head trash might be lurking-WTWTTCHTM-or What’s The Worst Thing That Can Happen To Me if I do an intimidating or uncomfortable activity. The worst thing rarely is that bad.
The Final Thought: “Most successful men have not achieved their distinction by having some new talent or opportunity presented to them. They have developed the opportunity that was at hand.” Bruce Marton
Do you ever wonder why things just pop into your brain? I was in my office last night thinking of something fresh and completely off the wall to write about sales management. Nothin’, absolutely nothin’ passed through that caught my interest. So I planted the idea and this morning checked in on that cob webby part of my brain where I store things for later reference. Sure enough, “mental feng shui” was sitting there like an 80 mile an hour fastball waiting for Justin Morneau to hammer it.
Yes there is something to this but it’s just not evident. Let’s get a definition of feng shui out of the way first. It is a complex body of knowledge that reveals how to balance the energies of any given space to assure the health and good fortune for people inhabiting it. Or, the more funky one. Feng shui is improving life by receiving positive Qi. (Maybe that’s what was wrong with the idiots at AIG. The negative Qi made them do it!)
When you manage salespeople you are, in essence, managing the area between their ears. (As Ben Hogan so accurately put it “Golf is played on a six inch course”.) At any given time a salesperson’s brain might be dealing with any of the following thoughts:
- I really hate this job but I’m trapped
- I wish my boss understood me better
- My wife and I spent way too much on that flat screen TV
- If I lose the Thompson account there goes my year and the bonus
- Should I consider the marketing job that will be opening up
- I wonder why the VP of Sales is coming out to work with me
And these examples represent only a fraction of what’s roaming through the brain of any salesperson at any given time. I maintain that a good sales manager should be aware of some of the unnecessary junk that floats through a rep’s brain and that the manager needs to help the salesperson focus on what’s important and what’s not. Put another way, people need to live in the present. A good manager knows what the “present” looks like to a salesperson so why not help them focus on that rather than the situations that are past or future?
Is this not similar to “balancing the energies of any given space”?
The Final Thought: “Present-moment living, getting in touch with your now, is at the heart of effective living. When you think about it, there really is no other moment you can live. Now is all there is, and the future is just another present moment to live when it arrives.” Wayne Dyer