Come over to my house sometime and meet my kids. You will learn everything you need to know about managing a sales team. How is that possible? Because people don’t change.
My sixteen year old twin daughters had a get-together for Halloween. I should quickly pause and mention that for many weeks they had planned to just help me hand out candy because they were “so past the whole Halloween thing.” Then around 6:00 on October 30th, they decided they would just throw a little something together for a costume and “have a few friends over to help.”
Fast forward to Halloween night, and you will find a seemingly endless buffet of spooky treats and drinks, long and heavily-decorated tables with dozens of pumpkins for carving, the perfect music playlist thumping, and shining jack-o-lanterns lining our walk, pointing the way to the party. I only tell you this because I should have known. This is like déjà vu from so many times past. People don’t change!
Amidst the chaos that comes with a houseful of teenage angels, bananas, penguins and superheroes, we had incessant doorbell ringing, pumpkin mishaps, and even a small kitchen fire. And all I could think of (this Talent Analyst thing runs deep) is the awesome example of innate talent I was witnessing in this house and how each one of these kids should come with detailed instructions for their future bosses to carefully follow in order to manage them well. I know them. They practically grew up in this house. I know what motivates them and what shuts them down. I know how to bring out the best in them and what brings out their ugly side. If I could just attach permanent care instructions for those that will manage them in the future, I know it would be a life-changer.
But there is no one whose innate behaviors I know better than those of my daughters. I could write a book. Seriously. We’ve had the perfect little petri dish here—an ongoing experiment on the subject of Nature versus Nurture—for sixteen years. While they look a lot alike, have been raised the same way, and certainly have a lot in common, they are strikingly different. Here’s what I’m talking about:
Age 3: playing hide and seek with a group of kids:
Daughter #1: Felt bad for the person looking for everyone and would never stay hidden too long because she didn’t want to hurt their feelings. She would also cry when she was “it” because everyone kept hiding from her! And, she always convinced her friends to play a different game that would be more fun for everyone.
Daughter #2: Had great ideas on where everyone should hide and felt compelled to tell them about (and sometimes even drag them to) the hiding place that she knew would be best for them. Also decided when it was boring and let everyone know it was officially time to quit.
Age 10: relationships with friends:
Daughter #1: Liked to develop close, meaningful relationships at school and always seemed to have a “bestie” that she spent all of her time with. Painting nails and sharing secrets with a friend at a sleepover was about as fun as it could get.
Daughter #2 The more the merrier was her motto. One-on-one at a sleepover? No thanks. She wanted lots of action and people around, extended many invitations, coordinated complex get-togethers with lots of moving parts and many people... but made sure everyone knew where they needed to be and when.
Age 16: carving pumpkins at a Halloween get-together:
Daughter #1: The ringleader behind the last-minute ghoulish gathering, wanted to make sure she included everyone so she didn’t cause hurt feelings, and used her power of persuasion to convince me to invite extra kids who didn’t have plans so they wouldn’t feel left out.
Daughter #2: Decided on behalf of the group when it was time to start carving pumpkins, herded everyone outside, and kept them focused on the mission so that they would all be on track. She helped people make “better” decisions about the jack-o-lantern they were designing and announced which pumpkins were the best (guess she was the judge).
Future salesperson on the job:
Daughter #1: If she were to go into sales (which this Talent Analyst would not recommend), she would be the ultimate relationship seller. She is honest, caring and trustworthy. Her clients would know she had their best interests in mind and that she would never steer them wrong. She would probably hate to bother her clients too often, or annoy them by asking for more money so soon, but she would always remember their birthdays, bring by donuts, and let them know they were important to her. Her manager would need to make sure she always had a Valid Business Reason to be making a call (beyond seeing her clients’ latest vacation photos) and also ensure that she always left with a next step in place. She would need to believe in her product immensely to be able to convince others to use it... and her manager had better plan to give her constant praise for every little thing she does right along the way.
Daughter #2: Watch out world! This girl could give any AE a run for their money and will thrive off of the most intense competition to be the best. If she were to go into sales, she would be hard-charging, energetic, persistent, and even relentless. She would feel totally entitled to take up any business owner’s time and she wouldn’t waste a single unnecessary moment on the gatekeepers. She would go straight to the source, ask tough questions, discount any inadequacies or lack of knowledge she may have, and just figure it out. Her manager will need to help her dial it back sometimes and manage her sense of urgency. That manager will also need to make time for her whenever she needs it to get frustration off her chest, so they don’t shut her down and possibly even help her to know when to keep her mouth closed. But, a manager up to the task will be in for a TREAT!
Although we mature over time and refine our behaviors based on our experiences, we are who we are. Take time to consider the people you are coaching. Who are they really? What are their natural behaviors and how do they need to be coached to succeed? What would the people who know them best advise you to do?
Follow these six steps to create an individualized plan for each person you manage:
- Remember, people don’t change! They are who they are... and you need to bring out their best. Because they don’t change, you need to change the way you manage them to meet their needs.
- Figure them out: Use a validated talent instrument that measures the intensities of strengths and weaknesses so you can clearly understand what you are working with. This talent-based assessment should give you the information you need to build a coaching plan that will allow you to maximize their strengths, while working around areas of weakness so they don’t get in their way.
- Get their input on what they need from you: Our clients use an instrument we call the Individualized Management Questionnaire which guides them through a list of questions like, “Do you like being given a clear plan to follow, or do you prefer to do your own planning?” Create a list of questions that will help you to uncover how your salespeople want to be recognized, corrected, motivated, and taught to improve.
- Consider both what they NEED from you (see item #1) and what they WANT from you (see item #2): Construct a detailed plan that you can follow to make sure you get the most out of each person and develop them in the best way possible. Consider the specific coaching they need in the field and during your weekly meetings, as well as what they will need for general growth and development.
- Prioritize that list: There’s no way that you can do everything in that detailed plan for every person you manage every single day. Take a minute to narrow that list down to a handful of coaching strategies that you know you can commit to. And consider sharing that list with the seller himself so you can both be on the same page.
- Create a simple reminder system that you can count on and use it regularly: This could mean plugging recurring appointments into your Outlook calendar at the right intervals or use a simple coaching reminder system like www.coachingreminders.com that will send you texts or emails with the messages you input.
Beth Sunshine is a VP / Talent Analyst at The Center for Sales Strategy.