As Jim, the sales manager, walked back in from the Lion’s meeting, he happened to see Albert Antonio talking with one of his salespeople, Bob. Albert and I go way back, thought Jim. Actually, I think he was my first sale, way back when.
“Jim,” called Albert, as he saw him across the room, “been beating up on Bob here. How the heck are you?”
Jim came over and shook the outstretched hand. “Pretty good,” he replied. “Sales are up, good product, good people,” nodding toward Bob, “what more could I want?”
“There is something more you want,” replied Albert, putting his hand on Jim’s shoulder.
“And that would be?” asked Jim, his voice trailing off.
“You want me to buy today, just like I’ve bought from you for the past . . .”
Albert looked up at the ceiling for a moment, “what’s it been, 20 years now?”
“Closer to 25,” replied Jim.
“Loyalty like that must be worth something . . . Bob and I can’t seem to come to an agreement on price. You know me, Jim. I’ve always been a hard bargainer, and all I ever wanted all these years is a fair price.”
“Albert, I think you and Bob can work out the fair price.”
“Jim, hate to put it this way, but that new place two towns over really gave me an unbelievable price this morning, and they don’t even know me. Doesn’t loyalty mean anything anymore?”
Jim looked at Bob and then Albert. “Look,” said Jim talking to Albert, “how about you and I head into my office and work on a ‘loyalty’ price. If you are satisfied, you come back out and give Bob the go ahead. He’s still the salesperson on record for this deal.”
“Sounds good to me,” replied Albert.
“Sounds good to me also,” responded Bob.
“Okay, now that the two of you agree, let’s go, Albert. Let’s bang some heads like in the old days.”
Maybe, thought Bob, watching them head for the office, Jim and I ought to double-team more often.
Jim stepped in and saved the sale for Bob. While Bob appreciated getting credit for the sale, did Bob learn anything from what Jim did? Yes, it seems he did—that whenever a sale is in trouble, Jim will rescue it for him.
A good sales manager will see when a salesperson is heading toward the rocks, and the natural instinct is to quickly paddle over, shout a warning, and perhaps even toss a line to pull the sale to safety. After all, the sales manager’s job is to see to it that sales are made, correct? Or is that the salesperson’s job? Whose job is it?
Assume for a moment that the manager’s primary function is to guide, teach, encourage, and demand that salespeople follow behavior that enable them to reach their goals. If, in fact, this is the primary function, then the manager should rarely, if ever, get between a prospect and the salesperson.
Either the salesperson alone makes the sale or he does not. In this story, Jim saw the rocks coming, decided to “save” the boat, and got between Bob and the prospect. In short, Jim made the sale, and Bob went along for the ride.
The only thing Bob will learn from this experience is to depend on Jim saving him when things get out-of-hand. Bob has no motivation to learn what to do for himself since Jim will do it for him. To top it off, Bob even gets the reward, the commission, for allowing Jim to make the close. Does this make sense?
If you have not established goals for each salesperson and established behavior designed to reach those goals for each salesperson, you will head down the road Jim has taken.
Jim sees making sales as his primary function as manager. As a result, whenever he comes upon a situation that he can close on, he will. The first negative result of Jim’s behavior is that the salesperson is trained to wait “for Jim to do it.”
A second negative result occurs when Jim is absent and the salesperson doesn’t know what to do other than let the prospect walk. “Gee, Jim, you weren’t in yesterday, and I needed you to give that final push to a couple of prospects. Oh well.”
If your primary function is to encourage them to learn new behavior to reach their goals, then you won’t get caught in the Jim trap.
Salespeople who are floundering don’t need to be rescued. They need to recognize when they are floundering and know it’s time to learn new behavior.
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