(By James Bahm) Looking at the articles and comments over the last couple of weeks about how to let someone go, brought back a lot of memories of places I’ve been on my stops up and down the dial. The problem seems to be that most of the people who are lucky to be in leadership positions have forgotten the Human portion of Human Resources.
Sit in any Monday morning sales meeting and the manager is likely to tell you to sell with empathy. Put yourself in your client’s shoes and sell from their perspective. There are sales managers across the country who don’t have a clue what they’re doing – but that’s a column for another day. There are some good managers that I’ve worked with and if the opportunity came, I’d jump at the chance to sell for them again. And there are some managers that wouldn’t know how to tell the truth if their life depended on it.
There are sellers who struggle and get let go. Why? Instead of reading them the riot act and scare them into to closing more accounts, why not lead with empathy? What are managers afraid of?
There are three things you can do to be a better sales leader this year.
1. Lead with empathy.
In my current role, the Q4 rankers came out just before the Holidays and I was #1 in the country for my division. It’s a nice feeling that lasted about 17 seconds before I asked my supervisor how I could better help our team improve. Success is not an individual achievement, rather it should be a goal that you attain as a team. I put myself in my team’s perspective and wanted to see where they were missing the mark and if there is something that I’m doing differently that they could implement.
Instead of telling your struggling seller if they don’t bring in X-amount by the end of next month, say this: You’re a great seller. You know how to sell, but it seems you are struggling somewhere. How can I help?
If you do a good job of gaining their trust, your team will be honest with you and tell you where they are struggling. Ask all your sellers how you can help and then actually listen to what they say. How they answer will be more important than what they say. You’ll find out who trusts you, and who thinks you’re full of bologna.
I had an amazing relationship with one of my managers and I remember walking into his office for our one-on-one and I remember telling him that I wanted to close more deals and over the course of a couple weeks, I was able to improve my proposals and I sold more. I also had sales managers that I wouldn’t tell them if I had a cup of coffee that morning. There are some “managers” who are distant, they don’t care about their team. They’re dishonest. Some are in the position, and they don’t deserve to be.
2. Let your team honestly and anonymously review you.
Managers are so into reviewing their staff, I wonder how many would do a better job if their job depended on the reviews their team provided? You don’t have all the answers. You’re not the best manager ever. You want to know how you can improve sales in 2022? Ask your team how you can be a better leader. There are free ways to do this (Survey Monkey is one that comes to mind). Though I’d suggest you only do this if you have thick enough skin to take the truth and use it to improve how you’re doing your job.
3. Put the Human back in Human Resources.
Bob, Carol, Ted, and Alice are people with families. They show up every day and put their all into the job. Simon Sinek has a tremendous video called ‘Start with Why’ – if you haven’t seen it, you need to. Find each person’s why on your team. My manager with Xerox did this a few times each year. He wanted my why to be his why as a leader. It made all the difference in my career, and I made President’s Club as a result.
There is a formula in broadcasting when it comes to letting someone go – do it on a Friday and make sure they don’t have access to their computer, or email. And to some extent, I get it. You don’t want to become friends with your staff because you may have to let them go one day and the second you think of that person as a human with a family, letting them go gets a bit harder. And yes, there are some employees that no matter what you do, they need to be let go as a last result.
Before you let someone go, ask yourself if you truly did everything you could to ensure their success. I’d suspect that answer is no, you didn’t.
Bottom Line: Start asking how you can help your team improve, or you risk losing them.
James Bahm has over 30 years’ experience in broadcasting, sales and marketing, and recruiting and hiring. He is the author of ‘Don’t Yuck My Yum’ – a Professional Development and Sales & Marketing book. He can be reached via email: [email protected].