Effective Sales Leaders don’t push the more button without pushing the how button. They push the how button by painting the target and not by micromanaging.
A recent business survey said that even in mundane jobs like flipping burgers in a fast food restaurant, well over half of all employees say that they don’t clearly understand how to do their jobs correctly. In fact, our research finds that lack of adequate sales training is a common complaint for many motivated salespeople. Sales Leaders are always pushing the more button and rarely push the how button.
Years ago one of my sales students got a summer internship in the sales department of a leading technology firm. He was ambitious and eager to prove himself. He asked for a tough assignment and got one. He was asked to map out all of the key market segments for each product line. He wasn’t given any guidance. He wasn’t pointed in any particular direction for help. After all, his sales supervisor thought, he came from a top-tier business school.
Four weeks into the internship, the student was totally frustrated because he couldn’t make any headway on the problem or find anyone to help him with the assignment. Eventually, his sales manager sensed his frustration. “How are you doing on the project,” the manager asked. “I really haven’t been able to make much progress,” the student answered; and continued, “Can you point me in the right direction?” The sales manager frowned and quipped, “I am sorry, that’s not the full credit answer.”
The next day, the would-be-sales-wizard was reassigned to another department. Needless to say, the student wasn’t pleased with his internship experience. His initial love and praise for the technology company quickly turned to hate and scorn.
By the way, after graduation he went on to work at one of the country’s top enterprise technology firms. All he needed to succeed was to be pointed in the right direction. He didn’t need handholding, but he did need someone to paint the target.
Motivated salespeople want to do their best and are understandably upset when they are asked to do more without knowing how to do their best. Have you ever got a sales assignment with a handful of vague objectives or tasks, but no guidance? Did you have to fall back on common sense or shoot-from-the-hip because you couldn’t figure out anything better? Have you ever left a customer planning meeting just to look back at your notes a couple of hours later and wonder to yourself what you learned or what might be the next step?
For all the reasons listed above, we have observed that many salespeople, especially eager-to-please salespeople, want some personalized help to understand the steps to success, and get them moving in the right direction. In contrast, disengaged salespeople don’t care that much. Using common sense, shooting-from-the-hip, and/or doing what they’ve done in the past are perfectly good tactics for them. Effective sales leaders are frustrated with disengaged employees, but don’t grouse over interested employees that seek out some extra help.
The next time you ask people to take on a new goal we recommend you try painting the target by:
- Help salespeople understand the key activities for each stage of the selling process.
- Focus your salespeople on just one or two key activities of the selling process to help them improve their performance (level up) each month.
- Coach salespeople on the necessary skills to perform the key selling activities to improve performance.
Effective sales leaders want to give salespeople the freedom to think for themselves, but don’t see any harm in pointing salespeople in the right direction. They know that micromanaging motivated salespeople quickly kills motivation and guarantees reduced effort. It’s about having fun and collaboration to get salespeople to level up. Painting the target focuses on providing salespeople the answer of how they can improve. Which is what all salespeople desire to know.