Sales managers – when in a meeting, speak last

Lessons for sales meetings

Lessons for sales meetings

I belong to a book club that has an interesting way of selecting the monthly book to read. Whoever will be hosting the upcoming book club meeting sends out an email with 3 or 4 choices. Then people start responding. But, rather than responding directly to the host they use the “respond all” feature. Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the first book mentioned to win several “votes” early – and then few if anyone wants to swim against the tide.  Realizing this was not the best way to select a monthly read – we now send out an email with the options and have a paper ballot vote at the end of each meeting to select next month’s book.

This did get me thinking about sales managers who raise an issue in their team meetings and then go about answering it. And if that doesn’t work, they make enough points to make it clear to the sales team what they believe the right answer is. Some sales managers try to be inclusive and ask a question or two – but that’s often done half-heartedly so they can “check off the soliciting opinion box” and then go ahead sharing what they think the answer is.

Now there is no doubt that some topics are not open for discussion – so fair enough.  On the other hand, many topics are open for discussion and one is likely to get a “better” answer if a real discussion occurs. In the latter case the obvious problems with the no-discussion approach is the experiences of the sales team around the issue are not brought to bear in crafting a solution. Plus, the sales team is less likely to get support for the solution.

In many cases sales managers are not cutting off discussion by intent. They are simply trying to get a lot done in a short period of time and from their perspective do not see the topic at hand as warranting discussion. Of course the problem is the rest of the team may well have a different view.

How about trying this approach next time? Be the last person to speak and start by asking questions that build on and challenge the ideas on the table so your sales team becomes actively engaged in understanding the issue and in crafting the solution.

From our observations the reason why all this might be more important than it first appears is more ideas fail not because the idea is inherently flawed but because the idea is poorly executed – and great execution requires buy-in and buy-in requires active engagement in formulating the idea.

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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