Effective sales management requires the manager to have his nose in other people’s business.

The effective sales manager has his nose in his sales team’s personal business. “Do not bring your personal problems to work” is an oft-quoted admonition that rings sour to successful sales management. And personal problems could range from the mild, “My boy, Juma, is unwell” to the grave, “I had an unprotected one-night stand, and I think I ‘caught’ something.” Selling is a people (emotion) business. It’s also different from a desk job.

Sales is not a desk job

With a desk job you can (comparatively) afford to mechanically go through the motions at work despite having personal problems; not so selling. The desk job is passive, in the sense that work coming to the holder. Selling is active. You look for the work. And the fruits come after days, even months, of consistent labour.

Further, success comes after iterating several steps. None of these steps is ‘passive’ and all are intertwined with emotion. You need to look for someone to sell to; meet and present to them; validate your product by showing why it is suited for the buyer and also face rejection. Even your non-sales colleagues tolerate you as a necessary evil. That your fiancé has just dumped you after a steady five year relationship will destabilise you; and this is not something to be ignored by the manager, but explored through discussion. And this calls for building trust.

Build trust

Unfortunately, personal problems are not freely shared; the more when it’s with the boss. The seller must feel sufficiently close to him to do so. And it is the manager’s responsibility to create that enabling environment. Perhaps the fastest and most effective way to break barriers is to visit the seller at his house to understand how he lives; having invited him to your place first.

But building trust is not an event but a never ending journey. I know of an effective sales manager who can be found in a pub on a Wednesday morning with a salesperson whose performance has suddenly inexplicably slumped. Sacrilege? Not at all. This sales manager knows that this salesperson is freest in this environment. But what about corporate image?

Corporate Image

In case you are thinking ethics and corporate image, then you are not in Sales. Most high-performing sellers have quirks and oddities that would make the desk job holder shudder. For instance, there’s one who takes pride that he sweats profusely and insisting that he uses deodorant could impede his performance.  The effective sales manager seeks to understand these habits, wisely correcting them when necessary with the intention of growing the seller and his performance.  And, like a priest with confession, effective sales managers jealously guard these idiosyncrasies from prying eyes, defending them whenever necessary. This adds to their credibility.

Desk job sales management

There are no (corporate) systems and structures in the field. Not even (corporate) rules and regulations. The sales manager that expects to manage like a desk job manager deludes himself. And his team quickly disconnects from and disrespects him.


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