Once in a two-day training program while somewhat bored, I made a list of all of the sales managers I’d directly reported to throughout my sales career. The list of sixteen didn’t surprise me – because some companies had a “revolving door” in the sales manager’s office.
I’ve also had the privilege to work with and for dozens of client sales managers, and I was a sales manager myself for five years.
My most memorable sales manager was named Al Martin, a big man with a commanding presence from the old IBM white shirt, blue suit heydays. While other managers around Al did little, Al set an example for all. I learned strategy from Al, and I learned that if you were a true professional in selling, you should be treated with respect, just as you treat your prospective clients and customers. Even when Al was not my direct manager (he oversaw the corporate team, which I was not in initially) he influenced me more than my own boss did.
One example was in going to a prospective customer’s office for a meeting. It was very customary to make the sales guy wait and wait because something “more important” may have come up – rather than to honor an appointment time, I had learned that people varied on the value they placed on my time, and others in my industry.
Al accompanied me to an appointment. We let the receptionist know who we were and who we were there to see. After nine minutes past our planned meeting time (we’d gotten there early as well), Al got up – all six foot four of him, and began to pace in the reception area, flipping through each magazine with a smile, sometimes making note of an article, and making sure the receptionist knew we were there. It was not rude, not arrogant – just obvious signs of “hey, we are still waiting here”
The receptionist became so uncomfortable with Al’s activity (big man pacing in a small office) that she made more attept than normal to remind her boss that he had people waiting. This worked on more than one occasion. Al had a limit- I think it was either fifteen or twenty minutes to wait – then he’d leave. He felt that if someone didn’t respect their own time and others’, then he didn’t want their business.
What it taught me was the value of my time – not just the person on the other side of the desk. It also taught me that you can move people to action in positive, respectful, fun ways. Al always had a big smile on his face, and said things to the receptionist or administrative assistant that made her (or him, on rare occasion) feel important too.
Al Martin was in the computer industry for many years – it would be fun to find out what he is up to now. His lessons (there were many others) remain – even after working with dozens of other managers.
Post any lessons learned from your favorite manager – as a tribute to their efforts.