In an effort to reduce the cost of sales, more and more sales managers have been forced to increase their span of control to 12 or more salespeople. With more people under their command, managers must make every encounter with a salesperson more productive, more motivating, and more meaningful.
How can you make every moment you spend with a salesperson count? Here are some helpful hints.
1. Tune into the person. Focus on what you can see, hear, and feel. Observe the body language. Are the salesperson’s eyes downcast? Are her arms crossed? Is his voice thin, harsh, or pleasant? Is the rate of speech fast or slow? Is the pitch higher than normal? How do you feel as you survey the salesperson?
2. Create a cocoon of concentration. That will enable you to see and hear everything vividly. Pay attention to the emotional content of the communication. Do you sense anger, frustration, or annoyance?
3. Assume a professional, confident, and friendly attitude. If your salesperson notices you are preoccupied, distracted, or in a world of your own, the encounter is likely to be unproductive for both of you.
4. Empower the salesperson to speak freely and frankly. Simply say, “Tell me all about it.” Then shut up and listen while assuming a caring and active listening attitude. Your reassuring nod will help the salesperson articulate his or her problem without hesitation.
5. Help separate fact from fiction. Sometimes salespeople begin their lament about a situation with an erroneous conclusion. To sort out the facts, ask for precise details and help them review the situation objectively.
6. Offer reassurance. If the salesperson is upset after a difficult encounter with a client, avoid launching into an avalanche of logical explanations – and refrain from making superior remarks like, “You should have [done this or that] instead.” Pay attention to your salesperson’s feelings. Your reassuring tone of voice and your words of empathy are far more powerful than an elaborate analysis of the situation.
7. Become the anchor in the storm. Once the salesperson has calmed down, you can address the logical issues involved in the situation. If the salesperson is very agitated, keep your cool.
8. Ask the salesperson to collaborate on the solution. It is to your advantage not to hand the solution to your salesperson on a silver platter. Ask instead, “Why do you think the customer reacted this way?” Or, “If you had to do this over again, what would you do differently?” Instead of giving away the solution, use questions that engage the salesperson in a collaborative discovery process. You may say, “Let’s think about this together and see what ideas we can come up with.” After you’ve reached a conclusion, the salesperson will feel rewarded by the synergistic effort.
9. Share the solutions and the credit. After the salesperson’s problem has been resolved, thank the salesperson for trusting you and for working with you on this challenge. What makes the encounter meaningful is that you’ve reduced the salesperson’s emotional pain, facilitated learning, and restored the confidence necessary to stay productive.
10. Be firm if you have to. Being friendly and understanding is not helpful if the salesperson has problems with boundaries. It’s your job to remind your salespeople of the rules and to let them know you will enforce them. Sometimes the most meaningful management moments come after you’ve drawn the line in the sand.