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Something about Mary   ::   Is your team busting the numbers? :: Evidence of an engaged sales force  :: Take action  :: 30-Day Action Plan :: RETURN TO WEBSITE  :: 
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Something about Mary…

and the effects of positive leadership

Mary, (not her real name) had already been a frontline leader in the company for a few years when a re-organization brought her department under my leadership. Mary had been a very productive sales rep, and once she was sales rep of the year.  However, leadership was a challenge for her.  She had received no leadership training, in fact the only input she had from her old boss was about what she was doing wrong.  She constantly tried to prove herself in meetings by answering every question I raised, not giving her reps a chance to answer. She gave negative feedback to her team in front of other people.  She constantly focused on what they were doing wrong.  Why did she do this?  Because all the feedback she ever heard from her boss was just negative, Negative, NEGATIVE.

As we began to work together, I spent the first few weeks simply observing her leadership style and then one day I asked Mary “do you enjoy being a manager?”  She said, “Yes, but…” 

Mary told me it looked so easy for me, and that my style was not what she thought a manager should do.  What little input she had from her boss in the past was that she needed to be tough and hold people accountable, (we will cover accountability in a future article) 

I told Mary that she did not have to keep proving to me, or to the reps, that she was a competent leader.  From now on I wanted her to relax during the team meetings and not jump in to answer all the questions, her senior reps need to share their expertise too. I went on to give Mary a specific example of the knowledge I had seen her demonstrate. She took a call for a rep and countered a very tough objection our industry faced and asked a transitional question that showed the customer the value of our advertising. 

I told Mary that I believed in her and her commitment to our business. I told her that I was absolutely sure that, with a few minor changes in her communication style, she would be one of the most successful front-line leaders in the company. She cried.  I asked her what was wrong.  She told me that no one had ever told her anything like that, that all of her “coaching” had been about what she was doing wrong.  I asked Mary how our conversation made her feel.  She said, “Great in a really uncomfortable way!”  I asked,  “Mary, how do you think your reps would feel if you talked to them the way I just talked to you?

The next day I saw a change in Mary’s walk and demeanor.  At the sales meeting that day, Mary let the reps answer questions.  I also noticed that some of her reps were initially puzzled but over the next few days reps that had been avoiding her began to share their successes with her.  At the end of that week the president of the company asked me  “John, what in the world did you to Mary?  She has worked for managers for years that have tried to get her to be more effective.  Mary has worked with you for a less than a month and over the last week we have seen a visible change for the better.  What did you do?”  

Now my question is:
What will you do and what effect will it have?

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Is your team busting the numbers?

In this issue we will discuss what is meant by an engaged sales force, what it means to our sales targets and how to create and sustain the energy of an engaged, professional selling team.

 An organization comprising of ‘engaged’ people means that every single person is aware of the goals that the organization has and every single person is taking personal responsibility to fulfill their part in supporting these shared targets. Everyone has their hands on the rope and they are all pulling in the same direction. 

  • An engaged sales force is 38% more productive.
  • Your cost of goods sold is lower with an engaged sales force.
  • Your engaged employees miss less work.  
  • Your engaged employees create loyal customers.
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Evidence of an engaged sales force

How would every member of your team respond to the following questions?


Do you know what is expected of you at work?


Do you have the right materials and equipment you need to do your work right?


At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?


In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?


Does your supervisor or someone at work seem to care about you as a person?

If your employees can answer yes to the following questions,
then there is a good chance that you have an engaged sales force.
 >Visit us on the web for more team engagement questions<

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Our Positive Leadership series, exclusively written for the print industry can support you in expanding your positive leadership skills.   Visit the leadership series on the web to view clips from the DVDs and sample the companion leadership handbook

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Take Action

Each e-letter will encourage you to take immediate action to implement positive leadership principles. There are many leadership activities to foster an engaged sales force.  We will focus on three in this issue.

1         The 5-Second Rule
Before you give any input, answer any question or offer coaching, pause for five seconds, and ask yourself; will my reaction support this person in an open, positive way so they can continue to be engaged in our sales efforts? If your interaction with someone does not promote a positive atmosphere, then chose not to respond for a few seconds until you have organized your thoughts into a positive response.

2      Prioritize 
Look at your day planner or to-do list. Will every item or activity you have scheduled for today help your employees answer "yet" to the engagement questions? For example, does your sales meeting make it clear to people what their performance is and where they stand in a positive way, or is it unfortunately a time where you constantly point out areas for improvement?

3         Compound Excellence 
As leaders we must observe, analyze, or monitor our employee's activities. The next time you are observing activities, focus on finding areas of excellence; instead of catching someone doing something wrong, catch them doing something right.

Example: You are a telemarketing manager and you have monitored a call. You hear someone doing a masterful job of handling an objection, but then you hear the same sales rep not clearly spell out a production deadline or rate card, leaving the customer open for misunderstanding or mistake. Take action. Immediately bring up the specific call and focus on what the sales rep did right. Then ask them if there is anything to do with the account that needs your attention. Ask the rep to review policy in all areas, making sure you include but do not single out the areas of concern. The rep will know that you could have chosen to focus on the negative and you did not. This sends a number of powerful positive messages:

  • My boss is supportive and encouraging. S/He is actively looking for positives to focus on.
  • My boss understands that there is an issue, but is giving me the chance to fix it.

If the sales rep does not fix the issue, then a deeper problem exists. it could be apathy or lack of awareness or a skill gap. We will focus on fixing these problems in a later issue.

For more free leadership tools visit our Employee Engagement page

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30-Day Action Plan

For the next 30-days your 3 action items are:

  1. Follow the 5-second rule. Make a list of the leadership skills you will demonstrate.
  2. Prioritize your day to focus on activities that create an engaged sales force. Make a list of the leadership skills you will demonstrate.
  3. Catch people doing things right. Make a list of the leadership skills you will demonstrate.

If you know sales will go up double digits, cost of goods sold will go down, absenteeism will be cut and you will build more loyal customers by creating an engaged atmosphere, why would you spend your time doing anything else?


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