Like the childhood game “follow the leader,” sales leaders need to understand that sales people pay attention to what is important to sales management and follow them as a result. Sales management sets the standards for their teams.
I often facilitate a variety of meetings, team building programs and workshops, where I’m frequently shocked to see sales leaders distracted by their phones, computers and iPads—or not even present—rather than engaged with their team.
Now, one can say that there are deals to close and key client executives that require immediate feedback, but in all of my years selling large complex deals, most things can wait unless a deal was closing imminently or an important call was scheduled. Or, others could say that they are adept at multi-tasking—reading emails and proposals, yet still participate in a meeting or workshop. However, when people multi-task, they are not able to give 100% to any one thing.
When sales managers routinely do not contribute anything to the meeting nor participate in team discussions, then others most likely will follow the same behavior.
When I see this happening, one thought comes to mind: if the managers were in the room and engaged, then chances are, everyone else would be, too. Otherwise, who’s to stop account managers and sales reps from walking out of the room at any time, or working on their computers/phones/iPads? How can the sales managers criticize them if they set that very example?
Managers are part of the sales team. Their presence and participation sends the message that the activity is important, and that others are expected to not only be there, but actively participate as well. If not, then the meeting/workshop will be dysfunctional from the moment it starts. Whatever mindset the sales leader sets can become so ingrained in the culture that it becomes the norm.
At the beginning of any meeting or workshop, the sales manager has a distinct opportunity to begin with a statement about his/her expectations for the participants. And, the sales manager should follow those same expectations. After all, everyone is taking valuable time away from sales activities, so they should ensure everyone gets the most they can from the time or experience.
To those sales leaders who are currently reading this while in a meeting or workshop—wake up and realize you set the standards for your team that others will follow.
Janice Mars, principal and founder of SalesLatitude, is a senior business and sales executive with more 30 years of experience helping companies build successful sales teams. She has parlayed that experience to help her clients to improve their sales processes, accurately forecast revenues, ensure focus on winnable opportunities, and attain consistent results.
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