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Changing Disliked Sales Behaviors

Increasing sales is what most of our clients want when they call us, but what goes unsaid is they hope we can change disliked sales behaviors that are difficult to manage. As a matter of fact, most owners usually have a detailed plan on how we can make these changes happen. It’s the plan they’ve been trying that’s not working. We usually don’t go there. The disliked sales behaviors are a symptom of a root cause that we need to discover. To find the root cause we first focus on our belief in the salespeople. We go in with a fresh set of eyes on what these people can do, rather than what they’re not doing. It sets a foundation for change that the company has been wanting for years. 

One of my favorite movie scenes is in the movie “Raising Helen,” starring Kate Hudson and Joan Cusak. Cusak barges in on her teenage niece in a hotel room when she discovers that she is in there with her boyfriend. After taking charge of the situation and directing her niece out of the room, Joan reads the boy the riot act. She turns to exit the room, pauses, and circles back for one last poignant message. She looks at the young boy square in the eye with a calm and determined focus and says, “You are not a bad person! But this is very bad behavior, very bad behavior!” (20 second clip)

That statement was intended to correct the behavior and empower the boy to keep believing in himself. Ineffective or bad sales behavior needs to be addressed and corrected but if we as managers stop believing in the person, it can lead the salesperson to stop believing in themselves. In business, when managers or other employees stop believing in salespeople, it’s hard for the salesperson to want to change some of the behaviors that irritate others or keep them from hitting sales quotas. Conversely, operating from a positive belief in the sales team will lay a foundation that leads to positive change among the sales team members. 

Our beliefs lead to conclusions

When someone believes a person is working hard and doing their best to succeed, they’ll tend to overlook small mistakes or seek more understanding. Conversely, if someone is not believed to be trying very hard, it’s normal to look for problems or see disliked sales behaviors before one shows up. If a behavior looks similar, we will jump to the conclusion that the “bad” person is at it again. 

For example, if you believe in salespeople and they are on their computer without picking up the phone for an hour or two, you probably know they are sending emails, doing research and working on proposals. If you don’t believe in your people, you might instead be thinking they are not working or they are wasting time. 

Believing in salespeople does not mean allowing for disliked sales behaviors

Just because you believe in your people does not mean you should put up with disliked, or ineffective behaviors. In fact, it’s the sales manager’s responsibility to manage and address these behaviors. Sales managers can’t change people or change sales results, but they do need to provide awareness, accountability, and coaching when poor behavior arises. It’s the sales manager’s responsibility to have a team that practices the right or “good” behaviors. Any behaviors, attitudes or activities that work against the greater good of the organization need to be addressed in a manner that results in positive change. Sales managers are not paid to complain or blame their sales team for the lack of results. They should be hired to lead and develop a “good” team that is trusted by the company and customers while attaining the company’s sales goals. 

Not believing in your salespeople becomes a systemic cycle

When my boys used to argue and pick on each other I used to teach them that one of them needed to take the high road for someone else to follow. I was not going to become a referee for every petty attitude clash. One of them would have to forgive, set a boundary, trust again and hope the other followed. In business, if no one steps up and stops blaming and changes their beliefs, attitudes or behaviors the cycle of poor behaviors or performance is a norm that becomes a cycle. Salespeople get loud and demanding, service people complain, the owner makes concessions or tells everyone to cut it out and the beat goes on. When Sales Manager Now is brought into a company, we are that person that takes the high road and starts enlisting others. Positive change begins with one person’s belief and action. Someone needs to step out of the historic cycle and start the change. 

Redefine how you view and work with your sales team

Business owners have the power to manage the attitudes and beliefs of others at the organization toward the sales team. When business owners and other department managers take on the same responsibility for their own attitudes and their team’s attitudes as just described for the sales manager earlier, incredible change can begin. Sales will begin to grow. In order to make this change, the business owner must redefine their relationship with the sales team as one who provides support to their success. The owner must be willing to be involved with the sales team in a supportive manner. It’s really pretty easy with the right belief in people. 

The choice is always in our court. We can manage by asking others to prove that they are good or by believing they are good until they prove otherwise. Those that ask for proof normally have a small circle of people they can trust. Those that trust others first are often surrounded by large groups of people they can trust. If you are someone who asks for proof first, I understand that making a change is not easy and will probably go against much of what has made you successful to this point in your career. As a matter of fact, you might never want to change and things will be just fine for you. My point is this; no matter where you are in your view of success, it can get even better when you begin to believe that bad sales behavior does not mean you have a bad salesperson. 

Sales Manager Now has been providing small-business owners with productive part-time sales managers since 2006. We not only help your sales team sell more, but we also help you redefine your relationship with your sales team in a way that becomes more enjoyable. More sales and more enjoyment….hmmmm…maybe you should call us for a free consultation.

Rene is the President of Sales Manager Now, a company that provides fractional sales management services to small and family-run businesses. He has twenty-seven years of experience in sales leadership, coaching, and consulting. He is also the author of the Part-Time Sales Management handbook and is based in Auburn, California.

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