Sales managers shouldn’t talk | Hal Becker

Sara G. Norris

If you are a salesperson, I bet this has happened to you while visiting clients or trying to acquire new business. You go with your boss and they want to watch or “observe you” on a sales call. Or in reality, they want to close the deal for you (because they miss selling).

You are on one of the first sales calls of the day and the customer asks a question. Maybe you are not quite sure of the proper answer. At this point, you could possibly stumble a little bit. Before you can say, “I am not sure, but I will find that out for you,” the boss or sales manager jumps in and now you are out of the picture.

Your manager is doing a few things wrong.

First, they are showing off and trying to impress you on how good a salesperson they are or used to be. Second, they are letting their ego take over and that is all that needs to be said. Third, they are trying to make the sale and forgetting all about sales management or why they are in the field.

The problem is that your manager should only ride with you under a few certain conditions, such as:

• You are new and being trained and it is their responsibility to show you by example. They should be leading the sales call.

• You are visiting a problematic customer or the manager has a previous relationship with the customer and their input is needed, which you determined before the sales call.

• The manager is there on an ongoing basis to observe and see if you are maintaining the proper skill set that is necessary for professional selling.

We first must realize most managers have never gone through professional sales management training themselves. They either were promoted because someone else left or they actually did a good job. Either way, in most cases they start training their staff on “what they know best.”

Managers must understand coaching skills to truly be effective in the field and this means doing what any coach would do in any professional sport. Their job is powerful and of incredible importance to the company and the future direction of the salespeople.

Think about it, what does any good coach do? They observe – the coach observes the players either during practice or a game. For a sales manager, this translates into watching the salesperson and not talking or taking over a sales call.

This might be easy to understand, but difficult to implement due to past sales habits. They should sit there and remain silent. The job now entails observing and taking notes to provide valuable feedback later to the salesperson. Not feedback from their memory, but specific things they observed and wrote down in their notes and then providing that feedback after the sales call.

You never see a team’s coach going in and making plays for the athletes. The problem is sales managers do this by taking over the sales call and trying to get “back into the game.” But their role now is to take players to a higher level of performance through their coaching abilities, which is accomplished by watching, listening and not taking over.

Just remember this: A sales manager is accountable for achieving revenue targets. The sales force is the resource to meet those targets. Like a team of professional athletes, salespeople have individual strengths and weaknesses that will produce the results wanted, or fall short of the goal. A sales manager’s role is to provide guidance, advice, strategy and opportunities to improve individual and team performance. Coaching will be very helpful for salespeople, from the novice to the seasoned professional.

Practice remaining quiet and watch the sales roll in.


Hal Becker is a nationally known speaker on sales and customer service. He is the author of numerous business books including two national best sellers, “Can I Have 5 Minutes Of Your Time?” and “Lip Service.” Hal’s newest book on sales is titled “Ultimate Sales Book.” He can be reached at Halbecker.com.


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