A few days ago, I was standing in my kitchen, preparing my coffee. My five-year-old son came up to me, tugging at my shirt-tail. “Daddy, Daddy look at this, I drew it!” Perhaps one day, my five-year-old or his two-year-old brother will become great artists. But right now, the drawings won’t probably be considered for the National Gallery. “Awww… wow, Champ! That’s amazing! Did you do this?” He nodded, trying to hide how pleased with himself he really was.
Now, I’m not comparing my salespeople to five-year old kids. What I’m saying is, it’s amazing what we can learn about sales management from parenting. Studies show that financial rewards are around 50% less important than they were 25 years ago. And anyone who thinks running a sales office like a tyrant dictator has the figures showing that this is not the way forward. Here are some good examples for you.
1. Give Your Sales Team Recognition
Imagine one of your salespeople walks into your office and hands you a signed contract. You could tell them to stick it over there with the rest, not even bothering to look up, or you could give them some recognition for their efforts. How much of a difference do you think it would make if you stopped, looked them in the eye and said something to the effect of:
“Hey John, good work on this contract, I heard it was a tricky one. You know, your close is getting really solid, so, thank you and keep up the great work.”
There’s no reason not to make your salespeople feel appreciated for doing what you pay them to do. Even if it’s not a record-breaking account they’ve just signed on. By recognizing their deeds, whether it’s booking an appointment with a difficult prospect or making even a small sale, your positive words will make them want to excel and seek more recognition. And that’s good for all parties involved.
2. Avoid Disasters by Predicting Them
One of my boys recently had his first ever interaction with two-wheeled transportation. He was so excited about getting on this little scooter. But no sooner than he’d traveled around 6 ½ meters had he fallen square on his butt. He came running to Daddy holding his tailbone with both hands, tears flowing freely. It was six weeks before he went anywhere near that scooter again…
This same thing happens in sales. The new guys receive training, sometimes for even a couple of weeks. There’s excitement about the product and about the commission to be made. They get sent out into the field, they knock on someone’s door, eager to press forward. The door subsequently gets slammed in their face and they think “this job sucks! I quit!”
The best way to avoid this disaster is to predict it. Do your sales training and then say something like:
“Listen, I’m glad you’re feeling comfortable with the training. You should also know, the job can be tough. You’ll pick up the phone, call someone and they might be angry. They won’t talk to you or listen to what you have to say. It’s likely they’ll slam down the phone on you. It’s not personal, it’s just the way it is. But, as soon as that’s done, you need to pick up the phone, feeling rejected, and make another call with a positive outlook. Will that be okay with you?”
Let it sit with them for a while. Let them think about what that’ll feel like. As if by magic, when the inevitable happens, they’ll feel a whole lot better about falling flat on their butt.
3. Explain Why You Said “No!”
I’m sure it’s not only my kids who want to go to Disneyland. The truth is, sometimes it’s just not practical. Holiday time is limited, and there are other places I’d rather be (even if I’d never tell them that)… Sometimes I have to say that fateful two-letter word. No… There’s pouting. Playing stops. Shoulders droop, bottom lip comes out and head goes down. They all add up to a posture resembling one that’s mighty counter-productive for a salesperson.
If one of your guys comes up to you with an idea or request and you say NO, make sure you explain the reasons why. Explain you’ve tried the idea before. Let them know it’s a great idea, too… It’s just that you know it doesn’t work or is otherwise not possible. Once you’ve explained it, ask them if they understood why you had to say no. Ask if they have any questions. See if there’s an objection there that could cause the kind of pouting that will negatively impact their performance.
4. Look Out for Those Lessons
At the end of the day, our kids are like miniature adults. Human beings with needs and desires of their own. And the workplace is really not so different from a family. I learn a lot about sales management from the time I spend with my kids. It’s amazing how they’re never too young to teach me a few lessons.