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We’ve all read the book, “Top Sales Producer Gets Promoted to Sales Management and Fails.” This best-seller has been on the market for a long time. It’s not a new challenge in sales organizations, so what’s the reason that this long-time problem has not been fixed?

Many sales managers are good at the mechanics of sales management. Their one-on-one coaching sessions are focused on sales activity metrics, sales pipeline management and forecasting. But often they lack the soft skills, the emotional intelligence skills, required for effective sales management. There are several to examine, but let’s look at two soft skills that will produce better and sustained sales results. 

Emotional Self-Awareness – That which you are not aware of you cannot change. Sales managers, how do you show up to each and every conversation with your sales team?

Sales managers are busy people, and it’s easy to show up harried and hurried to a coaching session. And because you are busy, you may not be fully present during a coaching session. You arrive to a coaching session armed with technology.  You’ve got your cellphone, what I now refer to as the adult binky, within sight so you don’t miss any incoming messages. Your tablet is nearby. Yeah, that set-up makes your salesperson feel like the most important person in the room. Not.

Or, because you are busy, your body language and tonality might be a little intense, which sends your salesperson into a fight-or-flight state. Instead of really sharing what they need help with, your salesperson smiles and agrees with everything you say. Real worries or concerns are never addressed so the next week, you’re back to discussing the same old selling challenges. 

Are You Aware Of How Are You Showing Up?

The number one way to improve self-awareness is to slow down. Carve out downtime, preferably in the morning before you check your smart phone.  Yes, your emails can wait. You aren’t that important. Sorry. In the stillness, you’ll gain clarity of thought. A cluttered mind is not a clear mind, and you need a clear mind to be an effective leader. In the quiet, you can ask yourself the reflective questions:

  • Was I fully present in all my conversations or am I really getting good at being half-present?
  • Did I pay more attention to my smart phone than my smart salesperson?
  • When I gave coaching advice, did I do a product dump on the salesperson on what to do, instead of really trying to understand why the salesperson isn’t doing what he is supposed to do?
  • Did I treat my salesperson with the same respect as I would my top client?

Stop and reflect. That which you are not aware of you cannot change.

Empathy – Most sales managers actually possess a good deal of empathy, which is the ability to step into another person’s shoes. It’s the ability to know AND care about what another human being is thinking or feeling. The question I always ask my clients is: How can you possibly influence another human being if you don’t know what they are thinking or feeling?

You can’t.

But sales managers often forget to demonstrate this EQ skill during coaching conversations. Their intention is good, but their approach is way off. They tend to give advice before they give empathy.  

Let me give you an example of an empathy miss during a sales coaching conversation.  Jennifer has been working on an opportunity for nine months. She’s done a great job of meeting with all the buying influences, building relationships and providing thoughtful recommendations to the prospect. Then, out of the blue, a new decision maker joins the prospect’s organization. 

This decision maker has previous relationships that he wants to bring in and be considered for this opportunity. 

If you are like me, my typical response is defaulting to the mechanics of sales management. “Well, let’s strategize on how we can gain access to this new buyer. Let’s brainstorm on how we can leverage our existing relationships so we can still land this deal.” We are great at dispensing advice and solutions.

The problem is that a salesperson can’t hear a sales manager’s great advice until the sales leader demonstrates they understand what their salesperson is thinking or feeling.

The empathetic sales manager may tune into his burning desire to solve the sales problem. With increased awareness, he chooses a different response. He slows down and thinks about the salesperson’s perspective, what is he or she thinking or feeling.  And right now, that salesperson isn’t feeling that good. “That is a bummer. You’ve worked so hard on this opportunity and now I’m guessing you feel like you’re back to square one. And on top of that, you’re probably wondering what you need to do to replace that piece of business that you thought was going to close this month.”  PAUSE.

Sales managers, salespeople can’t hear your great advice until they know that you’ve heard them.

Empathy first, advice second.

Sales management is a blend of hard skills, sales management skills and soft skills, emotional intelligence skills.  This integration of skills creates sales coaching conversations that produce hard sales results.

Salespeople can’t hear your great advice until they know that you’ve heard them.”

Colleen Stanley | President and Founder of SalesLeadership

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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