Successful sales management requires the boss to have his nose in other people’s business. Other people here are his sales people. “Do not bring your problems to work” is an oft-quoted admonition that rings sour to successful sales management. Personal problems could range from the mild, “My boy, Juma, is unwell” to the grave, “I had an unprotected one night stand, and I think I “caught” something.” Selling, like religion, is intricately a people (emotion) business.
Whereas a desk job may afford someone to mechanically go through the motions at work in spite of personal problems, selling near paralyses one. The desk job is passive, in the sense that it has work coming to the worker. Selling is active. You look for the work. And the fruits come after days, even months of consistent labour. It also comes after iterating several steps. None of these steps is “passive” and all are intertwined with emotion. You need to look for someone to sell to; you need to meet and present to them; you also need to validate your product by showing why it is suited for the buyer; you will also face rejection. Even your non-sales colleagues tolerate you as a necessary evil. That your fiancé has just dumped you after a steady five year relationship will destabilise you emotionally; and this is not something to be ignored by the manager, but explored through discussion.
Unfortunately, personal problems are not freely shared; the more when it is with the boss. One must feel sufficiently close to him to do so. And it is the manager’s responsibility to create that enabling environment.
Perhaps the fastest and most effective way to break barriers is to visit the seller to understand how he lives, having invited him to your place first. But building trust is not an event but a never ending journey.
So, effective managers have been seen in a pub on a Wednesday afternoon with a salesperson whose performance has suddenly inexplicably slumped. Sacrilege? Not at all. The sales manager knows that this salesperson is freest in this environment. In case you are thinking ethics and corporate image, then you are not in sales. Most high-performing sellers have quirks and oddities that would make the desk job holder shudder. For instance, there’s one who takes pride that he sweats profusely and insisting that he uses deodorant could impede his performance. The effective manager seeks to understand these habits, wisely correcting them when necessary with the intention of growing the seller and his performance. And, like a priest does with confession, most effective managers jealously guard these idiosyncrasies from prying eyes, defending them whenever necessary. This adds to their credibility.
There are no systems and structures in the field. Not even (corporate) rules and regulations. The sales manager that expects to manage like a desk job manager deludes himself. And his team quickly disconnects from him.