A couple years back when I took over a sales team, I was hired as a sales manager, before I left the corporate world to train sales managers fulltime.

I was a sales manager for a few Fortune 500 and Nasdeq 100, and some smaller company’s as wekll. I did that for many years. but one of the organizations that I started with, going back 8 or 9 years now, it was an organization that I really wanted to be a part of because they had an excellent record and a tremendous amount of opportunity.

I got a position with them as a Sales Manager, I had taken over a team that was not doing well, and they had not had the type of leadership that would solve their kinds of problems.

I happen enjoy having to problem solve, and best find out how to motivate, lead and coach and turnaround sales teams.

I took over a team whose district that was theirs, none of the members could solve any of their problems. They were not empowered to solve their own problems, because the previous boss did not allow them to solve them. He became a toll booth from which all things and decisions must pass. There wasn’t a support mechanism set up to alleviate the burden

I came into a situation that was a nightmare. In my first month, I looked at the number of incoming calls, and in one day I had 57 incoming calls. It was insane. They would start at 7 in the morning and keep going until 7 at night. That was the incoming calls! I had outgoing as well. In one day I had measured 103 calls that I had made in that one day.

After my first couple of weeks on the job, I realized that something had to change. I was going out of my mind! I started thinking about techniques that I could use to get my sales reps to solve their own problems, and improve my life. I wasn’t doing anything but helping to solve their problems all day long.

I figured out a way to do it, but I noticed that there was a strange side effect to using this technique. The Lazy Man’s way to coaching sales people.

It is really true, not only is it the lazy man’s way, it is also very effective because it also improves morale. Because people who feel like they are in control and not being controlled by an outside source, feel better about what they are doing and their morale increases.

Think about how you feel when you solve your own problems, you fell empowered about you and feel pretty good about it.

Whether you are fixing the sink, or figuring out some complex sales issue, if you do it yourself, you feel good about it. You pat yourself on the back and can be able to say, “I figured that out by myself and I did that on my own”.

That’s what you want your sales people to feel when they have individual sales issues.
Sales people aren’t any different.

Out of that extreme pain and anguish, in this new position, I started to realize that the goal should not be to create “dependents:, but the goal should be to create a bunch of independent people that are inter-dependent on each other, but not dependent upon me.

Of course there are always going to be difficult dilemmas that confront sales people that you sales manager deal with that require your advice and your control. There is not question about that. But the majority of calls that a sales manager receives on a daily basis, are routine in nature, and can be solved fairly easily and do not require the sales manager’s assistance.

What I am saying is that I was an enabler. To the tune of 50 calls a day, and 100+ on the really bad days, and I couldn’t get anything done.

The more that you answer the questions of the sales reps, and most of the calls were basic sales related questions, the more they became dependent upon me. The more that I solved their, the more they wanted to call on me. But the problem is that it creates dependency, and you want to create independence.

I read this upon doing research on this:

People’s happiness is in direct proportion to how many things in their life are within their control.
You can probably agree with this, because it’s the basic human nature concept that you want to use our advantage.

If you keep the answer in to these questions in their hands, you enhance their happiness, and yours as well. Obviously, you have less to do, but you are empowering them

When are you the most frustrated?

Chances are it is when something happens that you have little or no control over.

Control is that common denominator to many frustrating events.

Think about the last time you were stuck in traffic. Maybe you are riding in traffic right now as you listen to this. Not only are you frustrated because maybe you are late to an appointment and you don’t have control over the speed that you are driving, but you are very frustrated because you don’t have any control. The more you feel in control of your destiny, the less frustration you feel and the happier you are. Often times, when I’m stuck in traffic, just to feel like I am control, I’ll get off the highway and just drive the back roads just so that I feel like I have some control. Even though if I stayed on the highway, I would go just as slow, and probably would have gotten to my destination in the same amount of time. The point is that you feel like you are in control.

You want to use the basic human nature concept in leading and coaching your salespeople as well.

So how do you do this? What technique did I learn? The technique that I learned is a two step process. Let’s say your Sales Managers sales force are calling him/her on a regular basis with basic problems. First, you confirm that the problem actually is a problem. A true problem exists if there is a difference between what the sales person wants to happen and what is actually happening.

So if the sales person can’t tell you what they would like to have happen, then they don’t really have a problem, they are really just bitching.

First off, they bring you the problem, and you confirm that the problem is actually a problem.

Secondly, upon them bringing a problem to you, start asking any of these 4 questions to

Respond to their question with questions back to them.

Throw the questions back onto them.

1. What do you think the best course of action should be?
2. Would that fully solve the problem?
3. How do you think this situation should be handled?
4. If you did that, would what you want to have happen happen?

Help people to think through the process of solving the problem by first, confirm that there is actually a problem, and what is the difference between what they want to have happen and what is actually happening? If they can’t tell you, then they are just complaining. And if they are just complaining, dismiss it and move on.

If it really is a problem, then ask them the above questions.

It is a 2 step formula.

By doing this you become a coach, and not a king.

You are not giving them all of the answers, they are coming up with the answers on their own. They are using their own brains, instead of borrowing your brain. Because the more they borrow your brain, the more they are going to become dependent on your brain. And you don’t want that. You want high performing, highly motivated, low maintenance salespeople that are going to produce tremendous results for you and your sales team. That’s what we want, for your sales managers to reap all of the benefits of success; which is more money, more promotion, and the satisfaction of doing a good job.

So remember that coach brings out the best in others, by helping them to reach deep down inside and discover their own potential.

Whereas a king only gives commands.

Here is an actual example of how you should approach this with your salespeople.

Salesperson: Gee boss, I have this problem

Manager: Well, tell me about it.

She explains the problem.

Manager: What do you think the best course of action should be?

You have confirmed that there is a problem, throw it back, what should they do.

Sales person: I could do this or I could do that.

Manager: If you did this and that would it solve the problem?

They will say yes or no.

If they say no, say:

Manager: Well what else could you do?

Sales Manager: Well I could do this or that.

Manager: Will that resolve the issue?

If they say yes, you’ve got a solution.

If they say no, keep pushing, keep driving towards what you actually want.

Manager: Well that’s no good, what else could you do?

Maybe they come up with a solution again, and say

Salesperson: If I did the other thing, then this and then that, then that would bring it all together.

What you are doing is that you are confirming that there is a problem and then turn it back to them.

If they are brand new you might have to tell them what to do, because maybe they don’t know.

But if this is a salesperson that has maybe done this for a while, instead of you dictating to them (being a king), you are now being a coach. A coach helps them to uncover talents and knowledge that maybe isn’t on the surface, but it is up to you to help them pull it out.

In doing so, you make them independent of you and not dependent on you. This is why this is the lazy man’s way in which to coach sales people.

At the end of this whole thing, once they figure out the solution, they will probably thank you. Put the credit back on them, your response should be, “hey, I didn’t do anything, you are the one that figured out the problem and you are smart enough to figure it out, and remember that next time you have this kind of problem you can figure it out for yourself.”

Mix it in with praising them for figuring it out, “hey you are the smart one who figured it out you don’t need me”.

There are many sales managers that look at these types of situations that look at this as a “coaching moment”, “this is when I put on my coaching hat”. And I don’t think you do it like that, you just make it part of your routine.

Think to yourself, when your sales manager complain to you that the sales reps are asking too many questions. It’s not the sales reps fault, it’s the sales managers fault. If you are the sales manager, and you’re answering the questions, you’re the one that is responsible.

I know that that may sound tough.

But if you are taking all of these call, and making all sorts of calls to resolve that problem and you are making more calls to get resolution to that problem, the problem isn’t the sales person, the problem is you.

There also may be other things within the company that need to be fixed.

Take it upon yourself, to push things back onto your salesperson, because that is how they learn.

Your goal should be to get them to take 100% ownership of the solution. If your sales person has ownership of the solution, you have increased your chances of this being successful, because nobody likes to see their ideas fail. They are then they are vested in the successful solution that they came upon themselves.

You can take this a step further, and say, “now that you have come up with a solution, what is our timetable for implementation?”

And if they don’t complete it by that date you can say, “I know that you came up with a solution, we agreed upon implementation by this date, why isn’t it done yet?”

The point is that you are using this 2 step formula to empower them to make decisions on their own.

And when a sales person, they become more motivated. And a sales person that is motivated feels good about themselves, they sell a whole lot more for you and the organization.

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