Three indicators that sales people are stuck and need our help

I’ve heard and have even been trained on surface indicators that we sales managers are supposed to watch for, to know if our sales people need help.  Some of the most popular “text book” observations are:

Time in the office (too much and too little)

An unfilled calendar (nothing about the quality of calls and relationships)

Not being a great presenter or demonstrator. 

None of these is an indicator that sales people are stuck.  How do we calculate the right amount of time in or out of the office especially in today’s mobile environment?  Why would we assume that white space on a calendar means the person isn’t doing something productive?  It’s helpful for sales people to have good presentation skills but what if they’re not a Marissa Mayer or a Steve Jobs?  If these aren’t the indicators to watch for, what are?  Here are three that I use:

Repetitive references – When sales people constantly refer to the same customer individuals and challenges  (e.g. Jane said… or John said…), it’s advisable for managers to test whether the sales person is stuck in place  This can happen when sales people get comfortable with certain customers or when they’re stuck with wannabe decision makers or assigned gate keepers.  A short conversation about how decision makers are viewing our offer will surface diverse people and details or the same thoughts spun differently.  If the latter, we usually have an opportunity to manage and coach.

Not taking managers on sales calls – Sometimes great sales people just want to be left alone.  However, most great sales people are proud to have their managers and others see them in front of customers.  They look forward to the feedback as a means to continually improve.  When we see sales people who avoid taking managers on sales calls, or people who over-orchestrate sales meetings, it’s usually a sign that the sales person is stuck or uncomfortable.  Being open about the observation and offering ideas for how we can help is a way to help our sales people out of this quandary.

Sales people avoiding us – Some sales people feel badly when they can’t solve problems on their own and others are intimidated by us.  This has happened to me and I was just reminded of it by a former employee.  She said that some of the team was scared of me.  This is a common problem among sales managers and it’s a hard thing to see by ourselves.  In today’s multi-cultural environment it’s up to us to proactively check in with employees and I don’t mean just asking how it’s going.  I mean to engage people both in planned sessions and impromptu moments.  The latter is what Dave Packard coined as “Management by Walking Around” (MBWA) and refers to the added learning managers get when they engage people conversationally versus just formal settings.  

I’m interested in your experiences in spotting when sales people need help.  I look forward to hearing from you.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™ LLC


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