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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

The Ghosts of Managers Past

ghosts of managers pastYour new hire has had great success in the past, but they don’t seem able to hit the ground running.  You look at their talent assessment, and they should have tons of confidence and enthusiasm, but the reality is, they are a little unsure, hesitant, and they keep to themselves. What happened?! You may be dealing with the ghosts of managers past.

I recently had a conversation with a talented seller who had been a top performer at their previous job. During the course of our discussion, I found out that their previous manager had been terrible.  Negative, distant, disinterested, with no control over the team. Would gladly point out the negative, but unwilling to see the positive. And quick to browbeat AEs, with or without provocation. Basically, the worst sales team environment possible

Not surprisingly, that AE got a new job. My role here was to point out how truly talented they were for their new position. Their new manager's job? To exorcise the influence of that previous manager. You can’t erase the memories of that manager. Most experienced salespeople come with some management baggage. If they had an amazing manager, they will expect their new manager to “measure up.” Everyone’s style is different, but they might be looking for you to be a copy of their “favorite” manager. If their manager was awful, they could be waiting for you to go from Dr. Jekyll, the nice manager who hired them, to Mr. Hyde, the monster manager who they left.  So how can you help them?

1. Listen and Learn

Within the first two weeks of the hire, sit down with them over coffee or lunch. Use this time to discuss how they like to be managed, how they like to be praised and rewarded, how they learn best, how hands-on of a manager they need, and what their outside interests are. All of these questions will give you an insight into their style as an employee, and give them a sense of who you are as a manager. Let them know your door is open, and that you want to be a resource for them.

2. Show Interest

Next, based on their answers, show personal interest in them. If they need a strong, caring relationship with their manager, give them that. Ask about their family, their interests, and their hobbies. If you are not one to remember personal details, write yourself a note to ask what their weekend plans are on Friday, then follow up on Monday with questions about their weekend. If they don’t want  to be “friends” with their manager, that’s also fine. Take an interest in their training, their progress, what they like best about your products, etc. You are still showing interest, but in a way that suits them.

3. Boost Their Confidence

Perhaps most important, boost their confidence! The biggest effect a previous poor manager can have on an AE is to make them “lose their mojo.” If they are consistently told that they didn’t do a good job, they begin to believe it. It erodes their confidence and can negate past successes. You look at their job record and see success after success. They look at it and see, "not good enough, not good enough, not good enough."

So, how can you help change their mindset? Sit down with them and give them one-on-one personal feedback on their strengths. Take three to five of their top talents and tell them, this is a talent you have, this is when I have seen you use it, and this is how I am going to help you make money with this talent. And then be there for them. Be a coach and cheerleader for their talents, and help them regain their confidence. 

With caring and a little extra insight into how they need to be managed, you can take your new AE from seeing the ghosts of managers past, to working well with, and liking, their current manager and looking forward to, or maybe even being that future manager.

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