Our series concludes today with Tom Langmyer, President/CEO Great Lakes Media Corp. A broadcast veteran, his resume includes VP/GM WTMJ and WKTI Milwaukee; National VP, News/Talk/Sports Programming for Scripps Media; VP/GM Tribune’s WGN Radio in Chicago; VP/GM CBS Radio’s KMOX in St. Louis; and VP Programming for CBS Radio’s News/Talk Stations group.
Radio Ink: How do you manage high-performers vs. low-performers?
Langmyer: High performance as a group or with individuals begins with a strong sales culture. That means everyone in the business unit has a common vision, which doesn’t just reside within the defined sales organization. We work in an advertising-based medium, so everyone needs to understand the goal, their part in achieving it, and where the company is to that goal. A strong sales force needs to know and perform by and to the numbers — period. In terms of separating high-performers versus low-performers in sales, this can be tricky. Of course, numbers don’t lie, yet many sales organizations confuse “performance” and “potential,” wasting lots of time and money. Numbers don’t lie, but the story behind the numbers needs to make sense, as well.
Radio Ink: Do successful Sales Managers need to really be “on their game” to handle the challenges presented by high-performers?
Langmyer: Great sales managers go beyond the rolled-up numbers to identify specific areas of opportunity. They can deftly break out categories, revenue buckets, and timely ways to shore up weak areas. This separates the great sales leaders from those who are housekeepers. I’ve seen more than one ‘high-performer’ be undeservingly rewarded with that title because of the entitlement that often comes with time-in-service. It’s often a longtime AE that’s generated little or no new business, yet stands outside the GSM’s office, waiting to be handed more accounts when someone leaves. Strong sellers are in demand, so that can create hostage situations, but only if a culture allows it. On the other hand, I’ve also seen high-potential AEs pushed out the door because they weren’t put in roles where they could succeed, not paired with a high-performer, trained properly, managed correctly, or monitored for activity. This can happen when an inexperienced or panicked sales leader is forced to hire a certain number of people to check off a box, with little long-term thought given to development and goal achievement of an individual or the group.
Radio Ink: What role should high-performers play in motivating other AEs?
Langmyer: High-performers exceed expectations because of their people orientation, skills, internal and external relationships, and their need to play on a winning team. Many high-performers hone their own game when they mentor or teach fundamentals to teammates. There is no rule of thumb on having high-performers formally motivate other AEs, but generally their presence and success sets a great example. Bright people look for those who model a winning way and they imitate winning behaviors.
Radio Ink: How do you keep high-performers happy enough to stay on your staff?
Langmyer: Generally, high-performers are self-motivated, and because of that they may be unintentionally ignored. What can you do for them? Remove roadblocks that get in their way. Recognize them for a job well done, and ask them about things you can do to help them achieve even more success. Care about them as people and do things that help them stay fresh. Make them feel important. Even top-performers can be worn down by lack of connection, roadblocks, and life’s ups and downs. That is not exclusive to top sales professionals. Embrace top-performers, yet know how to stay out of their way when they’re doing great things. It’s a bit of an art. If you have a good relationship with top-performers, you’ll share in the knowledge of what keeps them happy and performing on your team, versus doing it on someone else’s team.
Radio Ink: What things need to be considered before firing an AE and how do you know when to do it?
Langmyer: There are certainly a number of HR and legal factors to consider when parting ways with an AE. There are also basic performance-related criteria considerations. If you have set specific expectations, such as activity standards, and things haven’t changed despite intervention, it is likely time to make that call. The key is to be close to your people, ask questions, be supportive, and help them to a better career fit, if necessary. That’s the right and most noble thing to do. When I was having a difficult time letting a person go, a very wise boss of mine and well-known leader in the industry once asked me this question: “How do you cut the tail off a dog?” I wasn’t sure where he was going, so I just said, “You grab the tail and you cut it.” He said, “Exactly. It’s the more humane way. So why are you causing so much pain by cutting the tail off, one-inch-at-a-time?!” As an animal lover, I hope any literal people reading this, who don’t get analogies, realize this is figurative; but his analogy was right on the money. Go through the steps with HR and don’t blame the process if you’ve not been on top of the situation. Do the right thing for the company and the person. The under-performer can move on to their real area of genius and their success, and you can focus on winning. We all have places where we just don’t fit, yet we all also have places in which we can soar.
You can contact Tom Langmyer at 312.320.4700 or