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Possibly mission impossible: Managing your sales team

Gary Harvey //August 24, 2011//

Possibly mission impossible: Managing your sales team

Gary Harvey //August 24, 2011//

Managing a sales team can be quite a challenge. Harnessing individual personality preferences and getting everyone focused on the same goals, moving at the same pace and working in collaboration to develop business opportunities is a major (and some would say, impossible) undertaking.

To illustrate the complexity of the task, let’s examine the dynamics of the sales team at Hypothetical Systems, Inc. Bill is the sales team leader. He is extremely knowledgeable about the company’s services and the markets served. Bill’s teammates describe him as having only one speed – fast forward. His strategy, from their perspective, is “give me the relevant facts and figures and let’s get moving.” Actually, once Bill gets a clear picture of an opportunity, h e makes decisions quickly and is ready to take action.

Tom is a senior member of the sales team – having been with the firm almost as long as Bill. Tom is also a “give me the facts and figures” man. He wants all the info about an opportunity before he’s ready to make decisions. But, unlike Bill, Tom needs to invest more time analyzing the information before he’s comfortable taking action. He’s always looking for more information to analyze and review – and review – before he’s ready to move forward with an opportunity.

Karen is another member of the team. Unlike Bill and Tom, she is not particularly interested in facts and figures. She only needs “the big picture” to get a sense of an opportunity and the possibilities it holds. She plays hunches. When pressed for the rationale behind a course of action she suggests, her typical response is, “That’s just the way I feel.”

Jeff is the fourth member of the sales team. Any one of his teammates would tell you that Jeff is a “people” person. Jeff’s concerns tend to revolve more around the people involved in an opportunity than the facts and figures that Bill and Tom are concerned about or the possibilities that Karen looks for. Jeff’s aim in developing a selling opportunity is to maintain a state of harmony between all of the players.

Each member brings something different and valuable to the team – something that enhances the team’s ability to understand an opportunity. But, at the same time, each is pulling in a somewhat different direction. It’s easy for any one of the members to feel misunderstood or ignored.

Bill often accuses his teammates of “dragging their feet” when it comes to making decisions and taking action.

Tom accuses Bill of moving too quickly and can’t understand Karen’s and Jeff’s lack of interest in the details surrounding the opportunity.

Karen doesn’t understand Bill’s and Tom’s “fascination” with the details or Jeff’s “whining ” about how “so and so” will feel.

Jeff has a hard time understanding how any opportunity development strategy – based on facts or intuition – can be formulated, much less initiated, without first considering the people with whom you will interact.

Can you relate? If you’ve managed salespeople for any length of time, some of the attitudes – preferences for thinking and acting – and the problems they create will sound familiar. Unless channeled appropriately, these different preferences can be a roadblock to productive activity.

What can you do?

To turn potential roadblocks into building blocks, you must understand — and help your sales team understand – that each person’s preference (including your own) is neither right nor wrong, neither good nor bad. It is simply part of one’s personality makeup and, most importantly, each has value. Let me repeat that: each has value.

Your interaction with your team must reinforce the notion that each preference can make a valuable contribution to the understanding of a situation and help determine the most appropriate course of action – but only if each person is open to the ideas and views of his or her teammates and willing to give them unbiased consideration. With the proper coaching and encouragement, and by taking the lead and carefully orchestrating your sales meetings and individual communication with your team members, you can establish an environment where that concept can flourish.

Imagine Bill, for instance, resisting the urge to jump from facts to action long enough to consider Karen’s hunches and sense of the big picture. Both can also pay attention to Jeff’s concern about how various decisions will affect the people involved in the process. And all three can give Tom some time to think things through.

When you help your team respect and appreciate each other’s personality preferences, you open the door to improved communication, creativity, and productivity.
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Gary Harvey is the founder and president of Achievement Dynamics, LLC, a high performance sales training, coaching and development company for sales professionals, managers and business owners. His firm is consistently rated by the Sandler Training as one of the top 10 training centers in the world and he has been awarded the David H Sandler award given to the top Sandler trainer in the world. He can be reached at 303-741-5200, or [email protected] .