How can you have a positive, long-term effect on the performance of your talented salespeople?
Good sales managers work to maximize the natural strengths of their sellers. But exactly HOW can you successfully get the most out of them? That can often feel like a mystery, and it is at the heart of many of the coaching calls that I do with sales managers these days.
Here’s some positive news: You have the power of expectation on your side when coaching sales people and, with some continued focus, you can use that power to generate tremendous momentum on your team.
You know how easily you can set the “tone” for the day without even realizing it. Have you ever spilled coffee down your shirt just before leaving for work and decided it was going to be a bad day? Bet it was. That negative experience and mind-set can set the tone for the hours to come. On the other hand, have you ever felt so good about a presentation you were making that you walked in with super-charged confidence and a little extra bounce in your step? Chances are good that your confidence led you to give a top-notch performance, which may have led to a positive outcome. (By the way, those are the days you should really buy a lottery ticket.)
These self-fulfilling prophecies apply to managing others as well. When a manager just “knows” that their seller is going to do a great job with something, they unintentionally communicate their confidence to the seller through non-verbal cues such as a smile or a nod. Picking up on these cues, salespeople usually find that their confidence in their abilities as well as their actual performance is greatly impacted.
Think about all the people in your life who have had an impact on who you are today—your coaches, mentors, teachers, and friends. They all had one thing in common, didn’t they? They expected you to succeed and you KNEW it. In some cases, you may not have believed it was possible yourself.
If you expect very little from your salespeople, you are likely to get very little in return. But if you expect a lot from your salespeople, and the innate talents are there, the sky is the limit on what they can accomplish. It is important to note that, while you can believe in your heart of hearts that your pet pig can fly, you will only be disappointed when they can't. The power of positive expectation only works when the actual ability for success is already there.
Can you imagine how performance and self-esteem could improve in a company if every manager genuinely believed in their direct reports and treated them as such?
Here are a few ways in which you can encourage positive, powerful self-expectations for your salespeople today:
- Provide opportunities for them to experience increasingly challenging assignments. This will communicate to them that you truly believe in their potential and will encourage them to stretch their talents to new heights.
- Provide one-on-one coaching and continuous feedback. Reflect on their winning plays to review what may be done differently next time to enhance the outcome.
- Consider providing them with a mentor in the company who can play an additional role in their development and coaching.
In “Pygmalion,” George Bernard Shaw wrote “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves. It is how she’s treated.” In the end, we are all like the main character, Eliza Doolittle. We too behave according to how we are treated. As a manager, by focusing on your expectations for others, you have the power to influence them in ways that will impact your company and their lives.
For more sales coaching tips, download 10 Steps to Delivering Powerful Feeback.
Elisa Hillman is a Talent Analyst at The Center for Sales Strategy.