Sometimes, there are 3 things leaders do to hurt sales rep relationships and most times, they do it unintentionally. This is especially hard because sales leaders and sales reps spend a lot of time together. A bad leader can negatively affect how a sales rep makes his sell. While a good leader helps how sales reps can improve their sales.
Marc Levine founded his ImprovMySales business four years ago. The company is dedicated to creating wonderful and profitable places to work. Before this business venture, Marc was part of a sales team as a national account executive and technology and professional services. For the last 16 years, he has been developing leaders and teams, teaching people communication skills, selling services to certain companies including Citibank, Prudential, and Best Buy.
3 things leaders do to hurt sales rep relationships
There are probably more, but let’s focus on just the three things for now.
- A leader does not create a psychologically safe environment
- The leader forgets about humanity
- The leader is emotionally unintelligent
August has been a leadership month and people have been talking about the important things to become a good sales leader. This involves setting a vision and becoming a good coach. It’s about creating a culture where sales reps can thrive and succeed.
When a leader fails to create that safe environment, the sales relationship takes a hit.
By definition, psychological safety was a term coined by the social psychologist, Amy Edmonson. Google did a two-year study and analyzed the qualities of its most effective teams. The results of the study have shown that teams promoting psychological safety produced better revenues and their team members stayed in the work longer than others. Psychological safety is a team norm that says it’s safe to take risks, to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to disagree with the rest of the team.
When you do, you won’t be ostracized for disagreeing but instead, you’ll be honored and validated.
An environment where sales leaders can thrive
As a parent, when your kid doesn’t understand something, you want your kid to feel safe to come to you and ask for help without getting embarrassed. The same is true in sales. As a leader, you need to develop a team where your members can be honest and can come forward when they don’t understand something.
You want your team members to come to you about their problems early on in the sales cycle rather than at the end of it where the deal is falling apart. This is the essence of psychological safety.
It’s an environment where people can ask for help, be vulnerable, take risks, and be supported
Create a psychologically safe environment
This doesn’t happen overnight. It happens when your sales reps come to you asking for help and instead of reacting, you validate and support them. Do it a couple of times for the team members to realize that you want to help them.
Sales leaders also need to stop blaming the team members. Blame and accountability are two different things.
Blaming makes the blamed feel bad and threatened. It’s when sales leaders bombard the reps with questions like:
- Why didn’t you hit the quota last month?
- What are the reasons why you lost that sale?
- Why aren’t you doing this?
These questions foster negativity. Accountability helps you raise the team’s standard without making the reps feel bad. It’s more like saying, “Hey you didn’t hit your quota last month and I know you’re disappointed. Let’s talk about what happened that may have contributed to this and let’s figure out the solutions.” Build an environment where your members can be comfortable in having a dialogue.
As a sales leader, you also need to admit your own mistakes. Research shows that when you admit your mistakes, the people around you will come close and will open up about theirs as well.
There’s power in vulnerability and when you use that power, you will see your sales team come closer and open up to you.
Leaders forget about humanity
The next in the list of the 3 things leaders do to hurt sales rep relationships is forgetting about humanity.
Salespeople are like stand-up comedians. We go out there showing confidence knowing that we’re going to be rejected. We are a fragile group. When sales leaders remember the humanity of the people on their team, the members tend to go above and beyond. The members put in incremental efforts.
Sales leaders also need to stop making the team members like little versions of themselves. Every member is unique with their own set of skills and strengths. Forcing things that you do well onto them will make them feel resentful. Instead, honor their strength. Validate the things that they do well to make them feel excited and engaged. Make them feel heard and understood.
Remember that you are working with human beings who have hopes and fears. and get scared. Honor that part of them.
Build strong relationships with your sales team
Sales leaders need to build strong relationships with their team and practice emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman wrote in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence that people with emotional intelligence are more successful in their careers than those who are just relying on pure intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and regulate your own feelings to understand and empathize with the feelings of others. As a sales leader, you need to be aware of your emotional triggers to be able to manage them. If you fail to develop that, you can easily be overtaken by your emotional triggers and start to judge your team.
These triggers tend to show up again and again and these are no surprises.
Some of the triggers are when your sales rep didn’t hit the quota or when someone in your team isn’t adapting to the new technology, and when someone’s not putting something into the CRM.
So, list your triggers and think of all the situations and the people that trigger the fight, flight, or freeze responses.
The sales team and all its members are the backbones of an organization. We want them to feel empowered and we can’t make that happen if we don’t provide them an environment where they can thrive and if we keep blaming them. Have conversations with them and make them feel good so that they’d want to produce for you.
“3 Things Leaders Do To Hurt Sales Rep Relationships” episode resources
Connect with Marc at improvmysales.com or reach him at (718) 637-7890.
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