When one of your sales team isn’t sure what to do about something and they ask you for the answer, what do you do? It’s not a trick question, how do you handle it?
Many sales managers and sales directors I work with do what often comes most natural – they quickly tell the sales person what to do. The job gets done to the satisfaction of the manager – and the sales person gets the help they need. No blood gets spilled. Everybody lives happily ever after.
Got to make sense right?
Well, not exactly. It’s a trap! The 'Telling Trap'. Many managers and directors I've worked with fall into this trap of thinking that telling someone how to do something is the same as teaching them how to do it. Telling might achieve a short term win, but does the sales person actually learn anything? Probably not in my experience. And then the loop forms... you tell them the solution, they carry out your instructions but without thinking and actually learning anything, quite quickly they are asking you again and so on. You get frustrated. They don’t develop. They get demotivated, you get even more frustrated and... you can easily get a feel for where this is heading.
So If you've noticed specific people making the same mistake time and time again, my guess is that you could be continually telling them what to do and they're just doing it without learning anything, or just not doing it.
Frustrating isn't it?
Whenever you tell your people the best way to do stuff (and I know you're doing this with the best positive intention) you train them not to think for themselves. You create an environment where they will continue to feel the need to run stuff by you to confirm it's right.
What to do instead? Ask them! The very best way to develop your team is to ask them what they think they should do. This develops their mind to search for their own solutions. It gets their problem solving juices flowing. Then of course they will come up with their own solutions. My approach is to say something like this... ''I have some thoughts but what do you think?" Most of the time they come up with a perfectly good solution and I can reinforce their thinking by congratulating them and supporting them to get started.
Let them scuff their knees
If their solution gets the job done (even if mine is simpler, faster, easier) I let them get on with it. This is the only way they have complete ownership. They will learn from the process. Let them scuff their knees... it's a great way to learn.
If their solution is way off track, ask lots of questions that give them their own realisation of the potential consequences of their solution. Maybe a "What would happen if..." question or two will help them develop a better solution for themselves.
This not only develops your team to think for themselves, it empowers them, grows confidence, increases contribution and self worth and creates new pathways in their thinking.
Train them how to treat you
You might be thinking you haven’t got time for ‘mid-crisis coaching’ and that you and the sales person need a quick win – the learning will have to wait. But think it through. Spend that bit extra time working with them on problem number 1 – and you won’t have them back at your door presenting you with problems 2, 3 and 4 etc. How much time would that save?
You have enough to do without having to think for them too! Remember... you train your team how to treat you. What are you training them to do if you keep giving them the answers?
Until next time.
By Leigh Ashton, author of iSell, a speaker, trainer and coach, founder The Sales Consultancy She helps people incorporate psychology alongside technical selling skills – leading to positive changes in attitude, approach and sales results. Leigh has trained thousands of sales professionals and her findings remain consistent. Even when outwardly confident, people often lack the inner confidence and practical strategies to achieve great sales results on a consistent basis. She works with sales teams, business owners, directors and managers to identify and eliminate psychological barriers within sales teams and the reasons or excuses used to rationalise their lack of consistently great sales.