Not so fast sales managers!

I often feel like I’m operating in hyperdrive, with 15 spinning plates of my everyday life wobbling precariously, getting light headed as my eyes race left then right then left, trying to spot the next one that’s about to fall.

I’m getting drenched with data and drips and insights and hindsights and quests and requests and all I want is a dry place to sip my coffee, or a little Kentucky bourbon at the end of the day. Just a little.

Therefore, to deal with all of this (all of my choosing) I work harder to get better at faster processing the flood of what comes at me. In other words I try to get to conclusions as fast as possible. Process this one. Then move on to the next one.  Wash.  Rinse. Repeat.

I’ve created an illusion.

I compare it in a way to multi tasking which apparently is not possible, they tell me. The brain isn’t capable of doing that. I don’t have time for that nonsense. I spin more plates.

Recently I was facilitating a coaching workshop with front line sales managers. One of them was new to his region. He was a veteran of sales and held management positions in his career. On the shuttle bus to the airport at the end of the week he said his strategy has been to get to know his salespeople first.

I said you’re brilliant.

My advice (since they were paying me to offer it) was this: resist the temptation of quickly coming to conclusions about your people. How long does it take to really get to know someone? Have you figured out your spouse? Your dad? Your sister? Your neighbor?  Do you really know all of the pivotal events throughout their lives that shaped their personalities and prejudices and cause them to do those little things that annoy the kabootle out of you?

I see this front line sales manager as sort of in a construction zone with his salespeople, needing to slow down and put both hands on the wheel.  Then, pave that new road that allows his sellers to get back to full speed as soon as possible.  Go.  Sell.  Now.

Leading people isn’t easy. Front line sales managers have a phenomenally challenging job. Manage up and manage down.  Manage sideways.  Manage high maintenance customers.  They process an avalanche of to dos every day. A fun house of spinning plates. But these plates are not all equally pressing.  Maybe some of them are able to crash to the floor and cause little damage.  The ones with salespeople’s names on them should glow, though it’s not always obvious.  Salespeople don’t want to be processed.

This manager also recounted an earlier job as a salesperson himself.  He said his manager called in daily to ask “what’d you sell today?  Why not more?  What’re you gonna do tomorrow to fix that?”  Coaching?  Maybe in some language I’ve never heard of.  Pity the fool for grabbing the pant legs of his people as he went down the drain.

Frameworks and methods and skills can certainly help sales managers do their jobs. Then there’s Empathy and Curiosity, supported by Patience and Vulnerability.  How do you teach that?  Who’s going to sign off on that training?

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