The first in an 8-part talent development series!
You know who I’m talking about... your salesperson who usually gets in early or stays late, and seems to cram so much into her day that she has to walk and talk faster than everyone else just to get it all done. She’s fun to manage because she loves to work (and you never have to push her). But she’s intense. While you enjoy her relentlessness when it comes to checking tasks off her to-do list (she can be kinda of like a dog with a bone sometimes), she can be a little too impatient.
Loaded with what we call Work Intensity,
this salesperson needs to be coached the right way.
Here are a few ideas that will help:
- Whatever you do—don’t make her take a vacation day so she doesn’t burn out! People with strong Work Intensity aren’t really at risk of burn-out, and they are actually energized by the work they do. The greater danger would be allowing her to feel unchallenged or bored. Make sure you notice her productivity, let her know when you are “wowed” by her efforts, and tell her that you appreciate her time and intensity.
- Discuss her goals with her often. She has many of them, and you will want to make sure that her goals match up with yours.
- Give her very clear expectations and all of the tools she needs to get a job done well. Make sure she knows exactly what success looks like, because if she has to backtrack and redo work that is already done, it will feel like a tremendously frustrating waste of time.
- Respect her need for speed. Don’t keep her in meetings any longer than you have to, and don’t take her foot tapping, iPhone scrolling, and clock watching personally. She can’t help it. Show up for your weekly meetings on time, and respond to her emails as soon as you can. Also, when she pops into your office, force yourself to turn away from your email and focus entirely on her. If you don’t have time for her right then, don’t just halfway listen. Instead, respect her sense of urgency, and tell her exactly when you will have time for her.
Handy tips, but of course, they won’t apply to every hard working salesperson you manage. We all have a conglomeration of strengths and weaknesses that, when they come together, make us entirely unique from everyone else around us. As a result, each one of us needs to be coached differently.
People are complicated! And that makes managing them complicated.
For example, let’s say this high-strung seller we are talking about is also extremely weak in organization and time management. You would have loved her energy and tenacity during the interview process, and you may have felt confident that you could help her stay focused, but pretty quickly you probably learned that she is like a 500-hp Ferrari with no navigation system. She races through everything, often spinning in circles like a teenager doing donuts in a parking lot, and lacks the structure, detail orientation, and follow-through to arrive at her destination on time. She is going to need some specific coaching to help her with this.
Here are some ideas:
- Meet with her frequently. Don’t let enough time go by that she has veered off the road and is going in the wrong direction. That will only frustrate both of you.
- Give her access to a sales assistant if that is possible.
- Help her to determine the priorities on her mile-long to-do list, because to her, everything probably feels very important. It’s hard for her to tell the difference. Ask her to back-burner items that are not worthy of her immediate time and attention.
- Take bullet-point notes during your weekly meetings on both next steps and timelines. Hand them to her when she leaves, and follow up with her on each item in your next meeting.
- Send her reminders for important action items by text, email, calendar invites, or live and in person. Just make sure you help backstop her on these details, so all of her energy doesn’t go to waste.
Most importantly, remember that her talents won’t change—so your coaching has to.
We could talk about different talent combinations all day — the options are endless! And actually, as a Talent Analyst, that is exactly what I do every day. I have found that...
The best managers we work with have a unique coaching recipe for each person they are developing, and we help them to adjust that recipe until it’s just right.
When you are determining how each of your salespeople would best be managed, consider both their strengths and their weaknesses. Create a short list of a few things you should ALWAYS do when managing them and a few things you should NEVER do when managing them. Keep that list handy and look at it before every individual meeting and in-field coaching days. It will give you a quick refresher on how they tick so you can be the coach they need you to be.
Need a tool to help you keep track of those you may hire?
Beth Sunshine is VP/Talent Services for the Center for Sales Strategy