Difficult Sales Conversations

The sales rep was shocked. He did not see this coming. And leaving his manager’s office, he looked like a man whose house had just burned down.

And, in a way, that’s exactly what happened.

What his manager told him was that he was on Double Secret Probation. His sales were disappointing and he had 30 days to turn things around or he’d be gone.

The devastation and shock that he felt was not due to the fact that he had 30 days to turn his sales life around but rather that all this time his manager gave no indication that he was disappointed. To the contrary, in fact. Judging by the comments that were made, the only conclusion that he could draw was that everything was fine.

But that wasn’t true. Within 30 days, the sales rep was fired for not meeting expectations. The real crime here was that it didn’t have to go down this way.

People see my height (6’6”) and always ask if I played basketball. I didn’t. I moved into East Longmeadow High School in western Massachusetts for my senior year back in 1977, and almost immediately noticed that every picture ever taken of the basketball coach showed him yelling and angry.

No thanks.

I joined the swim team and came under the tutelage of a coach with a rare quality: He passed along subtle critique and occasional criticism but did it in such a way that you knew he only wanted the best for you.

Still, Coach was never afraid of having a difficult conversation. You always knew where you stood because he delivered information honestly, directly and quickly.

Sales managers and company presidents could learn a lot from him.

The difficult sales conversation is intended to gently correct the path of the wayward and/or underperforming sales rep. What makes it difficult is complex. Most managers avoid conflict. Often times, they are so out of touch with their sales staff that all they know is that things aren’t going well but if challenged with specifics, they can’t deliver so they don’t speak.

As a 30 year sales veteran, Bill has the perspective of a been-there, done-that sales rep in the commercial print arena. Following sales fundamentals and giving unapologetically "old school" advice, he writes and speaks in an entertaining fashion to make his points to sales people and owners who sell. "Bill Farquharson will drive your sales momentum."
Related Content
  • Joe

    Good article! In my experience many of the sales managers are not trained to deal with sales personnel and how to review, address, or implement plans for inprovement. Getting in someone’s face is old school. There could be many reasons for poor performance. You just can’t wait to address these types of sales issues, they have to be reviewed weekly and maybe daliy. I have been in the position of not making my numbers and have had good and bad manager input/direction. I feel for those reps who are setup to fail because they weren’t directed or coached correctly.