As I discuss in my book, “One Thing All Sales Managers must Know”, there’s a helpful metaphor you can use to visualize the motivation of a salesperson. Motivation is like an inflated balloon, and it is YOUR job to jeep it inflated. If the air goes out of a balloon, it deflates, much like motivation leaving a salesperson who feels hopeless about their own work. If you’re running a sales team, which motivational balloon do you want to be producing? The biggest damn balloon you can get, right? Have you seen the movie “Up’? You need to be inflating balloons so big that it lifts your team right off the ground and out into the wide blue yonder.
So when you were going up to Tom and chewing his ass out over not making enough calls, as far as Tom is concerned, you’re way off base. He knows his calls suck, and he knows making more of them isn’t going to make him more sales. So, what’s his motivation balloon looking like now? Probably full of holes, and you are, in fact, wasting your breath.
So what could a successful approach, or action in our physics of sales equation, look like? The interaction could go something more like this:
“Tom, are you happy with your sales results? No? Well, what do you think is holding you back?”
This approach allows Tom to get all his ass-covering and deflecting out of the way, as is typically the natural reaction of a salesperson when their back is against the wall. Allow him to vent and place blame and share his thoughts, even if you know they are misplaced or simply dead wrong. DO NOT ARGUE, just let the guy talk. Then you can continue with a productive conversation:
“Tom, let me see if I can help. I want to listen to some of the phone calls you’re making and see if there’s anything that stands out that we could work on to improve your results”.
The key in this next step is to make sure you’re not jumping to conclusions too soon, even if you think you already know the answer. You can’t listen to one call and think you’ve solved the problem right off the bat. You’ve got to listen to several calls, keep notes and try to find a pattern. You’ll likely find some obvious flaws in the calls, or maybe some not so obvious ones that you wouldn’t have noticed had you not spent the dedicated time analyzing what he’s got going on. Perhaps he’s not qualifying, or he’s not breaking the ice. Or maybe he clearly hasn’t done his research prior to the call, or is using some shockingly inappropriate humor, blowing any chance at a possible connection with the client. You know best of all that these aren’t issues Tom is capable of self-diagnosing. Once you’ve figured out the pattern, and have narrowed down what key motivation Tom needs to push his sales physics, then you can help him be aware of where he falls short. That conversation may look something like this:
“Tom, ole boy, remember our sales training on qualifying? Do you remember what some of the critical behaviors and tactics we discussed were?”
This way, you’re opening the conversation to see what Tom remembers and whether he had just forgotten some key points, or had actually never understood how to apply his training in the first place. You may need to remind him of a primary tactic or approach he seems to be forgetting. This may seem like some frustratingly elementary stuff, but you can’t treat Tom like an idiot, even if you think he is one. The reality is, he’s your salesperson, and you’re tasked with helping him reach his full potential.
Perhaps he remembers every single detail of his training and is well aware of the tools, tactics and behaviors he should be implemented, but doesn’t realize what an abysmal job he’s doing applying them to his actual calls. You could move forward with him like this:
“Well, you know, Tom, I’ve listened to 8-10 of your calls, and I think we may be off base with your understanding of how you should be using this particular approach. Let’s go back and brush off that training together and revisit some of the best practices. We can see if you can pick up on where your results are being affected.”