Are you a Sales Manager or the Top Sales Rep?

Firefighter NetYou manage salespeople. A component of your job is to go out on sales calls with your sales representatives. It is your job to sell if you are in the sales call, right?

Not necessarily. Through untold ride-alongs I’ve experienced with sales reps it has become apparent that sales reps sometimes lose control of sales calls during a sales manager’s ride-along.

Watching the dynamics between sales management and their salespeople for 20 years has caused me to stop talking on ride-alongs. As a sales consultant I spend hours in sales calls assessing the performance of the rep.

As the “coach”, most sales managers would agree that managing a sales organization can sometimes be painful. It’s reminiscent of a baseball coach watching his star hitter swing at a pitch that is obviously a ball. So does a sales manager get that queasy feeling in their gut when a sales rep misses a buying sign or starts doing a data dump without tying product features to the benefits of the product?

Sales Managers must understand that they are both Top Sales Rep AND Sales Manager. Sales Managers should view themselves as a firefighter’s net. When the fire starts moving towards the mother in the window on the fifth floor, the net comes out to catch her before she gets hurt. Similarly, does the Sales Manager save the sales call when the rep appears to be heading for a professional crash and burn.

Imagine if you will a sales call that is lost. Dead. Buried. There is no chance of a save. As painful as this may sound, it is OK to sit back and watch your rep fall flat on their face. I witnessed a few flame outs in my time. Some I saved. Others I used as a learning experience. The conversation in the car afterwards went like this:

Me: “So how’d that feel?”

Rep: “Not so good. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Me: “Will I be here next time? The time after that? Probably not. Let’s replay it and figure out how it went wrong.”

Just as it’s OK to let you child fail sometimes to learn how it feels and understand what went wrong, it’s OK to let your sales rep feel the pain of a really bad sales call. Now you wouldn’t allow this to happen with an important client. But a prospect who you determine to be a lost cause, for whatever reason, can be very useful as an educational exercise.

Sales reps inherently get better as they increase activity over time. Every sales call should be a learning experience. Your role is to make sure they learn something each time. This may come from their own success, you taking over the call demonstrating best practices or having the rep fail miserably. In every case, you’re the coach.

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