The Arizona sun just started to shine over the mountains and come through my hotel window as I finished organizing my notes for the seminar I was delivering in a couple of hours. I was keenly aware that this new day would bring a new experience. I was going to test out a new methodology in front of an audience for the first time. I was certain my ideas would trigger a reaction and infuse new life into this program while championing longer-lasting results.
The title of the program was “Coach Your Sales Team to the Top.” Essentially I was going to leave it up to the audience of approximately 60 front-line managers to design the content of the program on the spot. The concept? Facilitating what I call participant-driven seminars not only fuels greater audience participation and collaboration but also helps identify the stronger, natural leaders of the group.
This format enables participants to tap into and experience firsthand the significance of empowerment, the power of coaching, and the real value of investigating and identifying problems. They would be developing their own solutions and creating an executable action plan everyone could follow.
When we came to the topic of execution and follow-through, I started to hear most of the grumbling, complaining, and resistance.
I typically get this reaction during a seminar when I discuss time management and strategic execution. However, the decibel level of this grumbling was much higher than average. You see, this particular company was Vetter Staffing Inc., an executive recruiting firm, one of the largest in the country. And like many companies today, this company’s management team was responsible for its own level of personal production.
I opened up the seminar with some questions. I posed the first question to the management team. “Can someone share with me how you wound up in the position you’re currently in?”
As I listened to their responses, I realized that most managers in the audience were top producers themselves before becoming managers and subsequently were promoted into management.
I then asked, “When you were promoted into this new management position, were there any changes in your workload and in your responsibilities? How did your job description change in this new position?”
“Nothing’s changed, other than the 10 salespeople who started reporting directly to me about a month ago,” one manager shared.
Wanting to confirm consensus, I asked one more question. “So every manager in this room is still responsible for a certain level of personal production and your own monthly sales quota?”
I took the head-nodding and silence as agreement. I found out that even though their own individual monthly sales quotas had been reduced by 10 percent to 20 percent, they were still responsible for everyone else’s sales and daily sales activity. Therefore, the reduction in their sales goals and the time that was typically used to drive sales would now be replaced with the added responsibility of hiring, training, developing, retaining, and managing an entire team, a full-time job in itself. Talk about unrealistic expectations.
This common situation is the first major clue as to why a sales team may not be meeting its goals. Something has got to give. Unless managers are putting in 15- to 20-hour workdays, they will not have the time to carry out their roles to the best of their ability. Tasks, good intentions, and core managerial responsibilities fall through cracks that get wider and wider. Additional demands are placed on these managers, who have fewer resources available to them that are necessary to perform their role successfully.
Here’s an interesting fact to consider. This particular company has experienced 85 percent attrition among its sales team over the last two years. Before they hired me as their coach, the company’s strategy to stanch this bleeding wound sanctioned by the senior leadership team was “work harder and smarter.”
Managing is a lot like parenting in the sense that practically anyone can be a manager but not everyone will be good at it. And becoming a great manager means becoming a great coach. This requires not only your commitment to your own development but also to your investment in the continued development of your team. For Vetter Staffing, bringing in someone like me to work with their managers was certainly one positive step toward giving them the additional tools they need to not only survive but to flourish. The deeper issue that I uncovered during my one-day program was more of a cultural phenomenon that would ultimately have to be addressed with the senior leadership team, where the source of the problem originated.
Although these managers at Vetter Staffing did not have the power to change their roles or job descriptions, each had the power to change how they currently managed their teams. They learned at the seminar that a little honesty, introspection, and self-analysis goes a long way, especially as it relates to evaluating the integrity of their commitment as well as the process they are currently using to get their salespeople to perform at their very best.
Keith Rosen is an executive sales coach, speaker, and best-selling author of many books, including Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions. He was named one of the five most respected and influential executive coaches in the country by Inc. magazine and Fast Company. He can be contacted at 516-771-1444, firstname.lastname@example.org, or his Web site.