The Pain & Pleasure of Making Joint Calls

If you really want to help your salespeople develop their selling skills while at the same time really annoying them, make joint calls with them.

I’m not suggesting you make joint calls just to annoy your salespeople. What I’m saying is that you will annoy them by making joint calls. That’s because most salespeople think they don’t have anything to learn and that you’re just going along on the call to find fault with their normally flawless performance.

Flawless though they may be, I don’t believe there is a salesperson alive that couldn’t benefit from having someone passing on impartial, constructive criticisms on how they can become even more flawless.

What Annoys

There are two major causes of annoyances. The first is the sales manager’s ego and the second is the sales manager’s lack of people skills.

The ego problem usually stems from the fact that many sales managers got to that position because they were good salespeople, sometimes a star salesperson, and they don’t want anyone to forget it. By the way, just because someone was an excellent salesperson doesn’t necessarily mean they become an excellent sales manager. I’ve seen a number of situations where the company has promoted their best salesperson into sales management only to lose their best salesperson and get their worst sales manager! Sales management requires a different set of skills in addition to being able to sell.

An inappropriate ego will cause two problems:

1. Because the sales manager fancies himself as one of the world’s greatest salespeople, he feels that no one can sell as well as he does and therefore every comment that comes out of his mouth is a critical one.

2. The second ego-triggered problem is the tendency to show off. This manifests itself in the sales manager taking over the sale at the first sign that things aren’t going as well as he wants them to go. Smart salespeople catch on to this fact real fast and make sure that they say or do something early in the call that triggers off the sales manager’s desire to take over the call. Now the focus is off the salesperson and all he has to do is sit back, relax, and let the sales manager handle the rest of the call. There will be little or no criticisms during the post-call critique as the salesperson didn’t really do anything.

I’ve seen major disasters when both the sales manager and the salesperson allow their egos to take over control of their logic and the situation. It becomes a clash of the Titans. The prospect quickly begins to realize that something odd is going on here as the ego’s clash and the two people start contradicting each other or get into a outright argument. Talk about a sales call going bad. No sales call should ever require a referee!

No People Skills

Some sales managers excel at the management part of the job and are less able at the leadership part. In other words, they’re more managers than they are leaders. It’s always been my opinion that you manage processes, but you lead people. You lead people by understanding them, where they’re coming from, where they want to go, and then use that information to affect, rather than force, change.

Telling someone that they really screwed up the last sales call hardly has the desired effect of creating positive change. It may, however, have the effect of causing the salesperson to change jobs to a more pleasant working environment.

A better approach would be to ask the salesperson for her impressions of the call and to use your questioning skills to draw out what went badly and what needs to be done to avoid it happening in the future. Trust me on this, but most good salespeople will be harder on themselves that you can ever be. Of course, if you’ve got a prima donna whose ego interferes with her internal eyesight, then you may have to verbally whack her on the side of the head to get her attention. Most salespeople know when a sales call didn’t go as well as it should and after their shields are down, they’ll discuss it rationally.

Avoiding Problems

By this time, I’m sure you’ve probably figured what to do or, more importantly, what not to do to avoid most of these problems, but here’s a few more ideas.

Remember, it’s the salesperson’s call, not yours. If the call is going bad, let it go. Use the call as a learning experience. Mind you, if you find that you’re having a lot of learning experiences with a particular salesperson, maybe you have a slow learner who should be given another career opportunity.

Makes notes during the call. Use these notes in your post-call critique. Focus on any positive points before embarking on the downside of your critique. Ask the salesperson what she felt went well and then ask what she felt she could have done better. If she covers all the points you wanted covered from your list, terminate the critique and move along to the next call. Resist the tendency to flog a dead horse.

If a sales call goes particularly well, take the time to compliment the salesperson before moving on to the next call. An occasional pat on the back can have a lot more impact than a kick in the butt.

If you want even more ideas on handling joint calls, read my article on “How to Curbside Coach.”

How Often

One of the major differences between a manager’s job and a sales manager’s job is that the sales manager shouldn’t spend all his time behind a desk or in meetings. Sales managers have to get out and “press the flesh” as the saying goes. They have to get out with their people, and I don’t mean out to the local pub at the end of the day. I mean out with your salespeople in front of real prospects.

I recommend that you put aside a half day per quarter to make joint calls with each of your people. That’s frequent enough to stay on top of any potential problems and not too frequent to really annoy anyone.

The pleasure part of making joint calls comes from seeing your coaching pay off with increased confidence on the part of your salespeople and even more closed sales that impact your bottom line.

Bottom Line

Remember, you can’t have the pleasure without suffering the pain. So, why not get out and hurt a bit today? It can pay big dividends.