How managers can improve team’s performance

Denver-Based Sales Leadership Development Available Nationwide

Posted: September 17, 2010

Denver Business Journal - by Colleen Stanley

If a sales organization isn't hitting its numbers, the focus immediately goes on the sales team.

Salespeople get a bad rap, and sometimes it's well-deserved. But let's take a step back and figure out if it's the salesperson or the sales manager.

There is an old saying, "The pace of the leader is the pace of the pack." What kind of sales leader are you and where could you improve?

If you are really serious about making your life easier, more productive and more profitable as a sales manager, look no further than your hiring practices. Most sales organizations make three basic mistakes over and over again:

Recruit only when they have a territory open.

 This is the kiss of death, because an open territory means there's an unmet quota hanging over your head and a CEO breathing down your neck. Desperation sets in, and all the sales frogs start looking like sales princes.

Practice what you preach to your sales team - prospecting is a process, not an event. Your prospecting targets now are people, not deals. Make recruiting a continuous process, not an event. Interview candidates each month, even if you have no openings. The wise sales manager builds a sales bench before it's needed..

No formalized hiring process.

 When you look back on a bad hire, you probably come up with characteristics such as bad attitude, poor work ethic and not coachable. But ask yourself: How focused are your interview questions on these soft skills?

Bad hires often are a result of no alignment with company core values. Have you identified your core values and incorporated them into a behavior-based interview? For example, if a core value is team, why do so many managers tolerate prima donnas? Weed out high-maintenance salespeople, send them to your competition, and let them have the fun of cleaning up internal and external messes created by these lone rangers.

Lead by example.

 How many sales managers turn off the electronics during a sales meeting so they can give 100 percent attention to their teams? Or are you the guy that looks like a fishing line with your head bobbing up and down, trying to maintain eye contact while sending off an email?

In Daniel Goleman's book, "Emotional Intelligence," he notes that empathy is a fundamental people skill for sales and management. Empathy is the ability to read people and understand where they're coming from. It's the ability to identify a change in tonality, an irritated gesture and other nonverbal cues.

It's difficult to tap into other people's feelings when you're dividing your attention between a smart phone and a salesperson. Sales team members observe this behavior and model it in their daily life of networking - pulling out their electronics while talking to a potential referral partner. Now, that's a real plus for building a relationship and making people feel important.

Or they have their smart phone on vibrate during a sales call - and look down every 30 seconds to see who is more important than their prospect.

How sad that being present is the new selling and leadership skill of the future.

Name the game.

 Political correctness exists everywhere, so we're used to renaming things to soften the impact.

For example, road rage is nothing more than a rude, undisciplined driver who's dumb enough to drive in rush-hour traffic - then gets upset with crowded expressways and delays.

Sales managers who need a shift in behavior or attitude are well-served when they eliminate political correctness and speak the truth. For example, a salesperson who's spending time on their personal Facebook account during work hours is stealing. If they have that much free time, shouldn't they be calling a customer to tell them "thank you" for their business?)

A salesperson putting false data into the CRM tool is lying. A salesperson not learning new selling skills is uncommitted.

Start naming things for what they are and you'll see a dramatic shift in behavior. For example, a sales manager who was having a tough time because sales team members were surfing nonwork-related Internet sites in the office addressed the problem, calling the inappropriate behavior by its real name. She saw an immediate shift in behavior and no more excuse making. After all, who want to 'fess up to being a thief, dishonest or lazy?

The pace of the leader is the pace of the pack. Recruit, lead by example and name the game.

About the Author

Colleen Stanley is founder and president of SalesLeadership Inc., a sales development firm specializing in sales and sales management training. The company provides programs in prospecting, consultative sales training, emotional intelligence training. and leadership training for sales managers. She is the author of Growing Great Sales Teams and Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success. Reach Colleen at 303-708-1128 or visit

Permission is granted to reprint this article in print or electronically as long as the paragraph above is included and contact information is provided to Thank you.

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc. in Denver. Reach her at or 303-708-1128 .

We practice what we preach and don't make recommendations without a face-to-face appointment or phone consultation.

For more information, please call 303-708-1128 or email us.