Save the Salesperson, Not the Sales Call

As managers, it’s likely that most of you have gone on joint sales calls with your salespeople. And it’s also likely that many of you have found this to be one of your most painful experiences particularly if it’s been with a salesperson that hasn’t been doing so well. It’s also painful for the salesperson, I might add. Why? Because many sales managers mishandle the joint call.

Many sales managers have come up through the ranks and were made sales manager because they were good salespeople. Unfortunately, some of them haven’t made the transition from salesperson to sales manager and this can cause problems. It takes more than being a good salesperson to be a good sales manager and sometimes your best salesperson can make your worst sales manager.

Good salespeople are often outgoing, ego-driven individuals who enjoy being center stage. Problems arise when these qualities are carried over to the sales manager’s position. When this happens, joint sales calls become a battle of egos at best. At worst, the joint call destroys any remaining vestige of self-esteem that the salesperson has as he/she watches the sales manager take over the call.

Even with all my years of experience as a sales manager, I still find it painful to make a joint sales call with someone who is botching up the call. The temptation to jump in and “save the day” is almost overwhelming. When this happens to you, my unequivocal advice is, DON’T DO IT! You may save the sale, but you’ll lose an excellent opportunity to coach your salesperson to even greater success down the road. It’s your chance to change a lost sale into an investment that can pay off big time in the future.

Succumbing to the temptation to jump in on a sale going bad doesn’t help in the long run. You simply can’t be there on each and every disastrous sales call so you must coach and train your people to recognize when something is going wrong and help them develop the ability to correct it on the fly.

Be a Coach

Your job is to observe. Then after the call is over, constructively comment and provide insightful coaching on how the salesperson can improve for the next call. Comments like, “You sure blew that one out of the water,” are not considered constructive! And insights like, “That was one of the worst calls I’ve ever been on,” aren’t too helpful for the long-term development of your salesperson.

Like military peacekeepers abroad, on joint calls your job is to observe only and to fire only when fired upon (by the customer). Even then, your job is to see how well your salesperson reacts under fire. The coaching process begins when you’re back in the car or some other private location.

Use the standard three-step process:

1. Comment on something the salesperson did well.

2. Comment on the area that you feel needs attention.

3. End the coaching session with another positive comment.

Limit your coaching to just one or two points in order to avoid overwhelming the salesperson.

Draw Out Ideas

When making suggestions for improvement, try to draw ideas from the other person rather than telling him what you feel he needs to do. Questions like:

What are some other questions we could have asked to qualify the prospect?
What do think would have happened if we had done…?
If you were going to do the call over again, what would you do differently?

will all help the salesperson save face while he or she learns from the experience.

As I mentioned, if you detect several areas that need attention, limit your critical comments to only two. After two smacks at their egos, most salespeople will begin to become defensive and the coaching session will degenerate into a bitching bout.

The joint call can be a real pain, but it provides an opportunity for real gains in terms of personal and professional development.

Bottom Line

One of your tasks as sales manager is to develop your people. This means putting your ego and biases on hold, making sure that your people, not you, are in the spotlight, and that you build on their strengths.

That’s why the best salesperson doesn’t always make the best sales manager. It isn’t an easy job but it’s a critical one if you are to get the best from your people.