This is one of the coaching questions I am asked most often, so chances are high that you’ve wondered the same thing. My short-and-sweet answer to this question? No, it is not wrong. Not even a little bit.
I’ll even go one giant step further by saying that in most cases, it is actually imperative that you are friends with the people you manage.
Many of the sales managers I work with hesitate to get too close to their employees for fear that they may need to correct or discipline them one day. Makes sense. But, I discipline my children all the time (just ask them!). Would you suggest that I not get too close to them? Of course not!
It's Easier to Manage People When You Are Close to Them
Management is no different than parenting in the sense that discipline is most effective when you are close to the individual. It can feel awfully meaningless, or even offensive, when you lack the foundation of a friendship. Have you ever received disciplinary action? Does it feel better if your manager doesn’t know you or doesn’t care about you? Absolutely not. Most often, it is the relationship that makes it possible to even move forward afterwards. Remember, you join the company, but you quit your boss.
So, we have established that a strong relationship with your salespeople is the key to curbing unwanted behaviors during those tough times. But, it is also one of the best ways to activate their talents and increase their success during the good times. When your salespeople know you have their backs, they are more likely to tell you about problems before it’s too late. They are also willing to try new techniques and adopt systems that benefit them because they trust you. Finally, and maybe even most importantly, it will make them more engaged at work.
Recent Gallup research tells us that only 32% of all employees are actively engaged in their jobs. Shocking, right? 50.8% of poll respondents identified themselves as “not engaged,” and 17.2% admitted that they are "actively disengaged.” Some mighty scary numbers when you think that these are the people responsible for serving your clients and increasing your revenue.
So, How Can You Keep Them Engaged?
• Recognize their accomplishments—even those outside of work
• Teach them something you know
• Give them additional responsibilities when they are interested and ready
• Bring them an article that you think they might find interesting
• Spend time with them on their terms
• Provide clear expectations that allow them to succeed
• Deliver timely and consistent feedback on their performance
Want more ideas? Click here to download 30 Ways to Develop Powerful Relationships with Your Salespeople.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2012 and has been updated.