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Sales Managers: Shoot the Messenger, Shoot Yourself In the Foot!

Jonathan Schultz
December 4th, 2017

If you’re a sales manager, every day your sales staff line up to bring you news of their success, failures, conquests, and exploits. Sometimes they bring great news, excitedly proclaiming,"The clients just signed, we made a deal!" High fives, words of affirmation and celebration, everyone rejoices in the success of the moment. It is simple to react in the proper way when everything is going your way.

On the contrary, there are times when the message from your sales representative is less than favorable, "Boss I can't get them to sign, they are going to walk away from the deal." Certainly, news like this can be frustrating for a sales manager. After spending so much time helping to manage the deal, then to have your sales person lose control like this? Getting angry or frustrated with your salesperson may be your first instinct; however, you need to know that your gut reaction to say something rude, sarcastic or angry, can cost you a lot more than one lost sale. So in situations like this, what is the best thing to do? How do you work to save the deal, correct the issues at hand without brow beating your employees?

Put Yourself in The Shoes of Your Salesperson

Put yourself in the shoes of your salesperson. [blockquote-left]They probably wanted the sale as much if not more than you![/blockquote-left] They probably wanted the sale as much if not more than you! Even top notch sales people with the best attitudes may feel down and out when the loss of a sale occurs. Do you think your sales person wanted to let you, their sales manager, down intentionally? Did they want to look bad in the eyes of their peers by losing a sale? Did they want to flush that commission down the toilet intentionally? Ask yourself this, how do YOU feel when you let your boss down? When you make a mistake, how do you want to be treated by your supervisor? More on this later, for now, bite your tongue!

Attempt To Save The Deal

First things first, attempt to save the deal. You probably need time to cool off before correcting your sales person properly. Speaking with the would be client will allow you this time. Also, more importantly, you can NOT correct your staff member and coach them if you don’t know WHY the potential buyer is backing out. At this point in the deal, you may believe you know why the customer is leaving without buying. [blockquote-right]In reality, until you ask the client, your only making an assumption.[/blockquote-right] In reality, until you ask the client, your only making an assumption. Corrective action based on emotion and assumptions? Sounds like a recipe for a frustrated sales person, who doesn't learn what they need in order to improve, as well as a loss of respect to their manager to me!

Talk To Your Customers

Go talk to the client or customers without your sales person present, this will allow them an easier time opening up or giving you feedback on your staff member. Ask them how their experience was right off the bat. They may give you subtle clues about what went wrong, or why they are leaving. Pay close attention to their body language. Are they actually listening and providing honest feedback or are they just running out the door? Ask permission to follow up with them, find out how and when they prefer to be contacted. This will cause them to not feel as if you are holding them hostage as well as give you a time frame on their purchase. If they don’t want you to reach out to them, something may have gone seriously wrong. If they won't provide any real reasons or objections for you to work with, ask permission to probe deeper. Something along the lines of, "Mr Customer, at the risk of sounding pushy or high pressure, may I ask you a serious question?" Once they say yes, throw it out there, "What is the ONE thing keeping you from making a decision today?" In this way you may uncover the main objection without making the client angry at you for being nosy. They did after all, give you permission to ask the question! Once you have tried your best to overcome the objections, save the sale, and you have cooled off you can move forward. Now that you know the REAL reason the customer did not buy, and your customer is not present, NOW is the time to coach and train your salesperson.

Don't Shoot The Messenger

Again, don’t shoot the messenger, your employee was just relaying the clients message. This message is probably an answer to your associates presentation or the manner in which you directed the sale as the manager. You did in fact train your sales person to sell for you right? You as the manager, must accept some responsibility for what has happens in a sale, both good or bad! Let your sales person know that you are on their team, that you want them to sell too as many clients as possible because their success is your success. In this way they will not put up a defensive barrier which will limit their listening. Next, ask your sales person if THEY know why the customer had left. There is no point in "beating a dead horse." Your employee may already know the mistakes that were made, if they hit the nail on the head and tell you the correct reason the sale was lost, then kudos to them. Your next question should be, "What will you do next time to produce a better result?" Then hold them accountable for their commitment the next time they are in a similar situation so history does not repeat itself. If their "reason" for the lost sale is not the actual reason the customer left, now it's your turn to point out what they missed, the opportunity lost, and what it would mean for them if they correct the shortcoming moving forward. If as a sales manager you adopt this method of personnel development, your staff will respect you for such resolve. They will always seek to grow with you, and will believe that you really do have their backs.

Short-Term Damage of "Shooting The Messenger"

In review, the short term damage to you, your client, and team member for "shooting the messenger." Are very serious and destructive. First and foremost you look insecure, weak and unconfident: all poor leadership qualities. If the customer hears what's going on you may easily offend them and will have no hope of saving the deal. Second, you do not find out what the sales associate needs actual training or coaching on, so they never get better at selling. You create a fear in your employee to approach their manager in any undesirable situation, which is when they need you the most. The next time something's going south, do you think they are going to tell you about it? Even IF you know the real reason the sale was lost, your behavior will have caused your staff member to shut down and not listen to you and improvement cannot take place.

Long-Term Damage of "Shooting The Messenger"

Long term damage of shooting the messenger, is high employee turnover. The only sales people that will stick around to work with you are ones that like abuse. More unnecessary lost sales will occur, due to the assumptive corrective action that isn't solving the real gap in the salespersons behaviors, attitudes or presentation. As well as you gaining a reputation for leading by irrationality and emotion, which is not a reputation you want in a leadership role. A true test of a leader is the ability to stay cool and react appropriately, especially when things don’t go your way. Stay calm, talk to the client, and lastly coach your staff member. Always remember, if you’re a shoot the messenger type of leader, your shooting yourself in the foot!

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