Are You A Relationship Manager?2

By Tibor Shanto – 


While I don’t want to get into the discussion as to whether relationship selling is dead, limping or doing just fine, there some aspects of relationship selling that need to be rethought. Specifically the kind of sales managers that relationship sellers end up being. If you are a reader of this blog over the years you know that while I think relationships and the ability to foster and maintain relationships are very important traits of a successful seller, I have always taken issue with the sequence of things.

There too many sellers who give a disproportionate, if not too much, of their focus and energy for gaining a relationship, rather than getting the sale, which what they are paid to do. As is clearly articulated in: “The Hard Truth About Soft-Selling: Restoring Pride and Purpose to the Sales Profession”, sales people get paid commissions for closing sales, not relationships. There are too many sales people try to secure the relationship first, then worry about the sale, rather than the other way around. The best way to build and grow a real and solid relationship is to deliver value, and keep delivering it. You can argue, but there are too many examples of people sellers thought they had a relationship with who ended up buying from someone else, despite that relationship.

Most sales people mistake the need for loyalty with relationship. Consider that “75% of customers who leave or switch vendors for a competitor, when asked, say they were ‘satisfied or completely satisfied’ with the vendor they left, at the time they switched.” Customer Loyalty Guaranteed’ Bell & Patterson. I’ll bet you every one of those sales people would tell you they had a good relationship with their buyer, but they still lost the revenue. Like it or not, The Challenger crowd raises some interesting questions about relationship sellers.

So what happens when a relationship seller gets promoted to a manager? They have spent their careers nurturing relationships as a means of achieving revenue, wanting more to be the customer’s friend and advisor, rather than a subject matter expert fit to challenge convention, willing to shake it up a bit and get the buyer to buy what’s right, leading the process instead of trailing behind or just being a passenger.

Well they continue being that same way when it comes to managing. They don’t so much lead from the front, but more manage from behind a desk. They present expectations rather than set them. But mostly they fail to help their reps because they would rather have a relationship above all else.

I see too many sales managers (former relationship sellers), who dance around expectations, who don’t inforce and reinforce things, who see metrics as a nice to have not as a means of driving change and improvement, as something that needs to be inspected, and no it is not OK if it is missed. Managers’ goal should be to lead sales people out of their comfort zones, build calluses and develop their skills and talents. Sometimes getting them to stretch requires more than a smile and suggestions, it requires challenging the rep, setting some nonnegotiables, and following through with the consequences. Hard to do when you are fixated on relationships above all, some of your best sales people will not always be your best friends.

Speak to most people who were in the service, and one of the people they speak most highly of after the fact, the ones they have the most lasting and genuine relationships with, and they’ll point to their first drill sergeant, the one who helped them most to make the transition from civilian life to military success. And believe me, it wasn’t based on relationship first. It was success first, and relationship on that foundation.

Key Sales Management Actions To Prepare for 2015 (#video)0

By Tibor Shanto – 

2015 rocket

About a month ago I had the privilege to be part of a great panel exploring key issues sales leaders need to not just think about, but act on in preparing for a successfully 2015.

The panel included:

Lori Richardson – Score More Sales
Lee Salz – Sales Architects
Steven Rosen – STAR Results
Dan Enthoven – Enkata
Miles Austin – Fill the Funnel
And myself.

As the next instalment in this week’s posts dealing with kicking the New Year off right, meaning in a way that will help sales organisations and teams exceed quota in 2015. Below is an expert from that discussion, but I encourage you to take in the full discussion by clicking here. It is a lively and insightful discussion that will provide a number of ideas for helping your team crush their number.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Sales Management is not Cloning – Sales eXecution 2660

By Tibor Shanto – 

Clone not
There has been lots written about the common mistake companies make in selecting new sales managers; specifically the habit of promoting some of their best sales people to the management ranks, whether they are suitable or not. To be fair, the thought behind the move is positive, rewarding deserving contributors, keeping good talent in house, and all that. There are also smart sales people who realise that management is not their first choice, who prefer and make the choice to stay in a sales role, usually with greater career satisfaction and financial rewards.

Adding to the challenge is that often these new managers are not given much help in the transition from being contributors, to effectively leading a sales team. Sure in companies of a certain size or better, they get basic training, you know, how to conduct performance review meetings, do’s and don’ts of harassment, racial sensitivity and other important “things”. But leading a sales team while managing a sales process is another thing, something HR often assumes will be provided by “the sales leadership”. In instances where this happens, it is sometimes worse that no help at all; what happens if the current sales leaders went through the same pattern of evolution, they just perpetuate the model; and the model is one of cloning.

While not isolated to the new managers above, cloning is a common and costly problem. The thought is “I was successful, they made me a manager, and they didn’t give clear direction to the contrary; so they must want me to make my team just like me.” Partially true, “they” do want you the make the team successful, as successful if not more than you were, after all the sign of a strong leader is one who surrounds themselves with people more talented than they. But this rarely means creating “mini me’s”, or even full size “me’s”.

The role of the sales manager, and other sales leaders, is to develop and bring the best out of all their teams. To shape individuals not in their image, (as man did with god), but into the best that their direct reports can be. People who can do that best, are not those who were the best front line reps. Just look and Wayne Gretzky, on the ice and behind the bench. Two different realities, two different results.

The notion that the best managers are those who have done it is simply not right. Most sales people know what they have to do, the challenge is getting them to do it. This requires a different skill set, different methods and tools, than those relied on for being a number 1 rep. Saying “here’s what I did, you can do it too”, is useless.

Every sales leader wants to surround himself with superstars, just as every coach wants a bench full of superstars. But they need to have excelled in the role of a coach. Hire someone who can lead a sales process, who can lead people to execute, the how is secondary.

Again, I understand wanting to reward star sellers, but there are other ways, ways that allow you to avoid leaving a territory short, and a disappointed sales team. The reality is that many of stars made managers often decide to go back in to the field to sell, and because of egos and politics, it is often with another company that is looking for a star, not a future manager or cloner.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto 

Managers – Give Up Your Phone Addiction – Sales eXchange 2230

By Tibor Shanto –

Multi tasking Manager

With all the challenges sales professionals have to face in the field, the amount of tests they endure to their patience, it is sometimes disheartening when they are disrespected by their own colleagues, especially their front line managers.

One common example is managers who answer their phone, text, e-mail during a meeting with one of their direct reports, especially during scheduled coaching or review meetings. But this happens much more regularly than many think, and I suspect, more than many of the managers guilty of the act actually realise.

While many fancy themselves as being great multi-takers, few are, we are not built that way. While we may be able to talk on the phone and press the elevator button, we are not able to do really important tasks with any degree of real quality. And what can be more important than coaching and leading your team, those people who either make you look good or real bad based on how they perform. There is no doubt on occasion, let me repeat, once in a while, something really important will come up to disturb a meeting with a team member, but I am talking about the other time.

How many times have you sat there in you managers office, and they are checking their e-mail as you speak, first on their desktop monitor and then on their smartphone just for good measure. They answer the phone, flashing the obligatory smile and the one minute gesture, which only adds to their insincerity and effectiveness as a leader.

It is bad enough that sales people to endure this type of thing in the field, they should not face it in their managers’ office. Sales people put up with people answering their phones only to tell them that they are in a meeting. Given all the tools available to people today, the overwhelming pervasiveness of caller ID and voice mail, it is hard to understand why people would answer a phone from an unknown number while they are in a meeting, unless of course they are sales managers meeting with a member of their team.

Sales people also have to put up with this in meeting with prospects, fidgeting about with their electronic pacifiers, or modern day worry-beads. While one can argue that if the prospect is so disengaged a rep should move on, it is also true that many are behind quota and see any meeting as a meeting, I guess they need to look at the outcome to come to their own conclusion. But in the end it should not be a scene they have to deal with internally with their manager, especially when the time was scheduled for them to be coached.

As an aside, I often wondered when I called someone and they tell me that they are in a meeting, whether I work my magic and get them to engage, or it is a short call, I wonder what the other person in their office feels like at the time, how fast are their priorities fading?

I remember I had a boss who felt he needed to be involved in everything, right then and there, the phone would not ring a second time before he answered it. I remember he would take a call while meeting with me, then answer his mobile when that rang, what a circus. The next time I was meeting with him and he answered his phone, I got up and walked out, I think the first time he did not even notice he got so involved in the call. The next time he looked up and asked “Where are you going?” “You must be busy, I got things to get done, and I don’t want to hold you up.” After that he never answered the phone while meeting with me.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto  

The “M” Word – Sales eXchange 2140

By Tibor Shanto –


I’ve spoken before about how sales people seem to have a better grasp on the stats of their favourite athlete than their own numbers, just sit back watch them pick their football pool. When you speak to them in the context of coaching or training, they all recite the familiar quotes: “What gets measured gets done”, or “if it’s not measured it’s not managed”. Yet as soon as you introduce any form of metrics, and a means to manage the data/outcome, many sales people resort to the M word. Micromanagement!

One tool that our clients like is our Activity Calculator, not tracker, calculator (e-mail me if you would like the tool). It allows reps and managers to plan their activities based on their individual key conversion rates. It helps them use their time more effectively, and create an improvement plan based on the individual reps capabilities and specific metrics tied to sales cycle, their goals and process. It has helped managers coach better, and sales people improve specific attribute of their selling. But as with any calculator, you need data, or more specifically accurate data, without that it is just an empty tool, and no change or improvement.

While I am not for adding to reps’ work load, it is them that have to provide the data for the calculator. Just for clarity, we are talking a few data points a day, the tool calculates everything else, and the only other time commitment is to review (and benefit), in the first month this may be 10 minutes a week, after that once a month. Not a lot of time, certainly no more than that required for the pool, not a big investment to change the way you sell and the outcome, hey if nothing else, more commissions.

Some reps see the tool and embrace the opportunity, the ability to diagnose their performance, decide on what to change and how, they not only run with it, but take complete ownership of the process and outcome.

Others default to the M word, right away whinging not only about “all the extra work” they’re going to have to, it’s “gonna slow me down”, and “you know, I don’t need to be micromanaged.”  Please, being provided with a tool, any tool, or process that helps you sell better and make more money is not micromanaging. Especially given the fact that many of the very people complaining are the ones that should focus on changing most.
Micromanagement is having everything you do be managed and controlled by your manager with every thing you do, not being provided with a tool, and be expected to use it. Nothing less than the expectations one would have of the football players they are betting on in the pool.

At the same time, many of the reps who complain about micromanagement, are the same reps who complain that their companies don’t invest enough in their development, their managers are not invested in their success, and refuse to be accountable for their actions and outcomes.

Next time these reps feel like leaning on the “M” word, they should replace Micromanagement with Mindset.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

You Don’t Need To Be Manager To Be A Leader2

By Tibor Shanto –


I hope we can all agree that in sales, manager are better leading from the front than behind the desk. Yet despite the rousing and collective yes we just heard, and the fact that less managers manage from behind the desk, the reality remains that all too many managers still do not lead, or lead effectively. The major cause continues to be that managers come from the ranks of the best sales people on the team. In an attempt to keep them, companies will promote them to being managers, and without a managed and planed transition, they instantly create two problems. First a person not ready to manage who cannot get buy in from the team, becomes disillusioned and either leaves or becomes the ass hole manager from hell. Second, is a territory that flourished under the rep in question, now sits vacant while the “new manager is replaced”, risking customer satisfaction and retention.

Fortunately leadership can come from different corners of the team, and often in a way that does not threaten the managers, allowing the manager and the organization to make adjustments and develop the manager to assume their leadership role. In fact, even as the manager does grow in to their role as “leader” these other leaders do not need to go away or be silenced, they could enhance the leadership of the manager and the performance of the team.

These are leaders are sales people who exemplify the best practices captured in you company’s sales process, and their willingness to share their experience with other willing and open minded members of the team. These are the sales people who have made the decision not to pursue management, and continue to get a thrill from continuously improve their sales skills, and the improved benefit of money is just a spin-off of their pursuit.

These individuals are easily recognized but do not necessarily conform to the profile of many company’s HYPO programs. The non-conformity is usually on the social or corporate politics side; their selling usually exemplifies the prototypical person to execute and win, they just have an aversion to puckering up, probably because they know they can make more money and have greater career satisfaction staying on their own course.

They don’t rock the boat, they just sell, and as a result are an asset to revenue and team development and leadership. One example would be reinforcement, not in the ra ra sort of way, but by actually doing it, someone you can point to exemplify what it takes to succeed beyond, a real live example for willing reps.

In essence these reps are good leaders precisely because they are great sales people. They are able to lead prospect through a range of choices, challenges, noise and alternatives, cheaper and easier solutions, and get them to arrive at choosing them. The same qualities that managers need to lead sales people and sales teams, selling them on an outcome that meets their needs and that of their company.

As in sports, it is a good thing to have great coaching leaders and great teammate leaders, they can coexist and serve the greater good. Companies should encourage this, first step would be to talk to these reps and understand their aspirations, and not assume that they want to be promoted, just because you did when the time came. You hear about leaders in the dressing room, there is room for leaders in the sales room.

What’s in Your Pipeline?
Tibor Shanto

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