Making a sale is all about positively influencing people about how good a product or service is; however there is a fine line between influencing and being pushy.
When it comes to managing a team the same rules apply and a vital skill all sales managers need to lead their teams successfully is to be able to influence people in such a way that makes others follow and act willingly, as opposed to complying because of their position or bestowed authority.
Some managers struggle to exert their authority without coming across as unapproachable and old-fashioned, whilst others try so hard not to come across like this that they actually give the impression of being too laid back which undermines their leadership.
A survey carried out by Censuswide last July showed that employees associate particular qualities with being a ‘modern manager’ – with being approachable (32%), having respect for colleague’s opinions (29%) and working for the good of the team (29%) coming out on top. In contrast almost a third connect being hierarchical and separate from staff with being an ‘old-fashioned’ leader.
So how do sales managers get the balance right and remain approachable and friendly without losing their ability to influence?
Identify different personality types
One of the best ways to influence people in a positive way at work is for a manager to tailor their behaviour to different styles of people in the company.
Everyone sees and hears things in a unique way, filtering what they hear according to their own preconceptions. This means that even if a manager thinks they are communicating something very clearly, it can be interpreted in a number of different ways depending on the type of person they are talking to.
For simplicity, consider that there are four main characteristics of people:
• Driver: Direct and results-driven
• Expressive: Outgoing, creative and sociable
• Amiable: Dependable, easy-going and sensitive
• Analytical: Systematic and logical
By assigning one of these character types to each employee, managers can tailor their approach appropriately for each individual making their communication much more effective and achieving greater influence.
Those who fall into the ‘Driver’ category can be impatient and tire quickly of long-winded conversations, so the best approach with this type of person is to be direct and to the point.
The ‘Expressives’ on the other hand respond to social interaction and crave recognition, this type of person is best influenced by asking for their opinions and including them in the decision-making process.
Those who fall into the ‘Amiables’ category can struggle to get their ideas across and so patience is required when dealing with them, they will be concerned about how changes will impact people and value an environment without conflict.
People who are ‘Analyticals’ can lack the personal touch when dealing with people and appreciate strong fact-supported arguments.
To increase their influence, managers should also seek to develop their personal power rather than overuse power derived solely from their position of authority in a company.
There are two types of power: positional (bestowed) and personal (innate). Positional power is bestowed by the role but should not be over used. The over use of positional power will undermine someone’s personal power which comes as a result their presence, knowledge and inclusiveness.
Someone’s power is made up of relationships, as well as their presence and expertise. A lot more gets done when people like each other – we are social animals and relationships are essential. The Censuswide survey stressed this point. It showed that a quarter of respondents who have a good relationship with their manager say it makes them work harder as a result.
Another important factor for sales managers who want to influence people is to demonstrate active listening which shows they respect their employee’s thoughts and opinions. Ensuring good listening skills and giving feedback on employee’s concerns or ideas will help to strengthen relationships.
Effective influencing also requires great communication skills and persuasive arguments. However, managers must be authentic. Employees want real from the heart expressiveness and will be able to detect any hidden agendas. Body language helps but storytelling is even more powerful. Storytelling in business can be used to communicate and connect with employees and effective stories can change opinions and help create a personal connection between the audience and the outcome of the story.
Storytelling can be particularly effective when a manager is communicating change. Change is an inevitable part of work life but resistance to change is all too common. A story can motivate people and capture their imagination, and help people understand that change isn’t always bad. Understanding the reasons for resistance to change is key to overcoming it.
When crafting a story about change a manager should ask:
- Do people understand the consequences of inaction?
- Do they understand the benefits of change – especially to them?
- What sacrifices and risks are they seeing from change?
- What would minimise their worries?
By addressing these fears and uncertainties in a story a manager can help their audience craft a new more positive view. Instead of focusing on the ‘what’ of change, choose a story that explains the ‘why’ – the implications and consequences, why change is important and why it is important to those involved.
A simple, memorable universal truth story about a person who solves a problem by taking a certain course of action is usually most effective. Compared with other persuasion methods a story allows the audience to come to the desired conclusion on their own.
For most sales managers success comes not from what they sell but how they sell it. It’s the same when it comes to managing your team. How you manage your team and learning to influence rather than using authority to get what you want will ultimately bring greater success.
By Stephen Archer, Business Consultant and Director, Spring Partnerships, specialists in the sales, marketing, communications, brand, leadership development and employee engagement to organisations seeking change to higher performance.