October 13

2 Reasons People Pleasers Make Lousy Sales Managers

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Sales managers choose the role of leadership because they like people and like helping people. These qualities are necessary for effective leadership. However, it’s important to be aware of when your desire to help people turns into people-pleasing, non-productive, sales management behaviors.

Here’s the hard reality.

People pleasers make lousy sales managers.

People pleasers are often conflict avoidant. They are often reluctant to talk about the “tough stuff” that accompanies the role of being a sales manager.

The “tough stuff” might be a truth telling coaching session with a member of their team. For example, a sales manager may have a salesperson who is not demonstrating the core values of your company, one such value being teamwork.

This salesperson is a lone ranger and doesn’t really care how his/her actions affect other team members or other departments. Or, they never give time or advice to other members of the team because they are focused only on themselves.

People pleasers make lousy sales managers.

A people pleasing sales manager might be reluctant to hold a coaching conversation with this salesperson. She doesn’t want to rock the boat or worries about not being liked. By not addressing this behavior, the sales manager sends a clear message to the team: ignore our core values. They are just pretty posters on the wall.

Maybe the “tough stuff” conversation is meeting with a salesperson who is not doing the work they were hired to do. For example, the sales manager has worked side by side with the salesperson to develop their business development plan. However, the salesperson consistently falls short on achieving activity goals. They refuse to calendar block which impacts their ability to put in the consistent time required to build a sales pipeline.

A conflict avoidant, people pleasing, sales manager avoids the “tough stuff” conversation. The bad behavior continues and the sales department falls short of achieving their sales goal.

Over time, people pleasing sales managers build mediocre cultures.

Which creates another problem, turnover.

High sales achievers thrive in cultures of excellence. They don’t like hanging out with “the chickens.” As a result, they move to sales organizations where they can “fly with their fellow eagles.”

People pleasing sales managers can also have a difficult time leading the charge on change. This is especially evident in fast growth companies. Systems and processes are constantly changing in order to keep up with the growth.

The reality is human beings don’t like change, even if the change is for the better.

So, when your very human salespeople predictably push back on changes, the people pleasing sales manager tends to default to go along to get along management behaviors.

  • They become overly empathetic, agreeing with the team on how difficult the new changes are for everyone.
  • They are reluctant to hold their sales team accountable to the necessary changes and agree with the many excuses given for resisting change.

The overly empathetic sales manager is WELL liked. 

And their team is WELL on their way to falling behind the competition.

If you find yourself falling into the people pleasing trap, don’t despair. All of us fall into the need to be liked trap at some time or another. The key is to to be aware and take more productive actions.

Follow these tips to decrease your people pleasing sales management behaviors.  

#1. Examine your belief systems. Take a step back and remember your “why” for becoming a sales manager. The “why” probably includes helping people become the best version of themselves, personally and professionally.

When you find yourself avoiding the difficult coaching conversations, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to help this individual grow or am I more focused on my need to be liked? (Am I self-focused or other focused?)
  • What makes me think that this individual won’t appreciate honest feedback? Am I making up a story that has no merit?  
  • In the past, when you’ve received well-intended feedback, did you resent the advice that helped you positively change? What’s the reason you are reluctant to offer the same gift?   

#2. Remember, sales management is change management. Stop telling your sales team to buy into new changes. Instead, raise your sales team’s awareness around the importance of change versus the status quo.

People believe their own data so conduct this quick exercise at your next sales meeting to increase your team’s awareness around the importance of change.  

Prior to the sales meeting, ask each member of your team to find two companies that were once highly successful and are no longer in business. Ask them to identify common themes as to why these once successful companies went out of business.  

Your sales team might be surprised to discover that many of these successful companies failed because they didn’t recognize the need to change.

Jim Collin’s shares compelling research to support this data in his book, “How The Mighty Fall.” It shows that the number one reason for failure, in once successful companies, is hubris. It seems that successful companies can become arrogant about their success and it blinds them to the need to change.  

The need to be liked is human nature. However, be aware of when the need to be liked gets in the way of your ability to lead a high performing sales team.

Good Selling!


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