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.
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.