He had missed his daughter’s soccer game, his son’s baseball game, and a trip to see his favorite pro baseball team. New to his sales job, he knew that at Monday’s meeting they would reveal who had hit their goals for the month. While his goals were slightly lower than others, he also didn’t have any house accounts or past relationships upon which to build. In addition he had the “leftover” clients and territories. Despite all of that, he was determined to show his sales manager that he could make it happen.
The next Monday, his sales manager stood up at their Monday morning sales meeting to discuss the goals. He was the only salesperson that had not only reached but exceeded his goals with all new clients. The sales manager began:
“First of all, the numbers look okay this month. Some of you all fell short, but it’s tough times. Our new salesperson exceeded his goals, but I have to acknowledge that they were set lower than everybody else’s. I can see now that I set them a little too low and will adjust accordingly :). We have to do better next month – I need better numbers out of you or Corporate is going to chew me up. We only have a couple months left this year, and you all have to make it happen. Let’s go do it!”
She read a motivational quote and sent her sales team out. The new salesperson walked out quietly, and left the company a month later. He became the top salesperson at a competitor within a year.
How the Sales Manager Lost Heart
Through lack of acknowledgement, the sales manager lost the heart of her employee. She lost a top performer to appease many mediocre performers who would have complained about the goals that were set. Here’s what she could have done differently:
1. Find the bright points. By failing to leverage her one success for the month, the sales manager lost a chance to uncover what her new person had done to exceed goals in a tough environment. He could have shared with others and infused new energy into the team. By focusing on what wasn’t achieved, she set them all up to lose heart.
2. Tie results to the people achieving them. I’ve been a salesperson all of my life, and nobody’s heart is tied up in a goal on a whiteboard. However, recognition of achievement, of what’s been sacrificed and of how someone has positively committed to a team does involve the heart. People are willing to sacrifice time if they know they’re positive contributing to something. The sales manager’s focus on numerical goals over the lives of her salespeople showed that she had lost heart.
3. Show people how to improve. Reading a motivational quote and telling a sales team to “get their numbers up” doesn’t make it happen. Most of them would have better numbers if they knew how to do it. Specific ideas, like “since there’s a longer sales pipeline right now, let’s start getting more in that pipeline. Everybody set up one appointment per day with a new client.” If people don’t understand how to improve, they will lose heart every hour of every day because they won’t see a way out of their failure.
Here’s the bottom-line: 95% of the people out there want to do really good work. Too many have been beaten down by management that can discuss numbers but fail to understand how to motivate the heart of their people. That doesn’t mean being touchy-feely, it just means understanding when recognition is due and when people need the “how.” Remember, great sales managers lead from the front.
“You young lieutenants have to realize that your platoon is like a piece of spaghetti. You can’t push it. You’ve got to get out in front and pull it.” — George S. Patton