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Friction…

I enjoy discussing and debating sales management “leading practices”.  Certainly, there are many opinions and many thought leaders that offer their knowledge and experience, too.  I suppose the opinions you align with are based on your context.

My context begins with sales managers and their sales reps epitomizing opposing forces.  I don’t mean we are enemies; but sales people and sales managers are often on opposite sides of things.  Lest your sales managers think they are “one of them” even if they used to be a sales rep, beware:

Coaches that worry too much about what fans think soon find themselves sitting with them in the stands. 

Unknown Sage

Now before going any further, permit me to acknowledge that my context and opinions about how things work may be very different than yours, and others’.  That’s OK:

Do not condemn the judgment of another because it differs from your own.  You may both be wrong. 

Dandemis

I remember many interactions where manager-rep “friction” occurred.  My first Presidents Club sales year as a “District Manager” (aka a sales rep) I worked for an “Executive-in-Training” (meaning he was hired from the outside vs. being promoted from within).  That created an opportunity to test our wills.

He ran Tuesday evening sales meetings and the rest of the week the District Managers worked out of sight, “managing” our districts.  We would come into the office periodically to file our paperwork.  (I know – the Dark Ages right?)

My manager fell into a pattern that every time I came into the office he would greet me with, “How’s your week?”  He wasn’t asking how I was doing; how the weather is; and was the family good…  He meant, how much business have I closed this week.  Friction.  I rebelled.

One day I asked him (told him, really) to stop.  I said, “Hello” is the greeting I would appreciate.  His approach made me feel that he thought of me only as my number.  I told him, “I am not my number”.

Years later I was on the sales manager side.  Walking a mile in his shoes was quite eye opening.  My Director and the VP above her were pounding on me for an updated forecast from my team.  “You-know-what” rolls downhill.  A rep of mine rebelled putting it this way, “Gary, no matter how much I sell it’s never enough.  You keep pushing the more button.”

Today, many sales managers have remote reps and as a result they have fewer face-to-face encounters which can cause additional anxiety.  And just when we thought the friction between managers and reps couldn’t get any worse, along came CRM.  Today, sales reps want to spend their time selling; sales managers want everything documented in the Customer Relationship Management system.

There are other examples … reps want “quality”; managers want “quantity”.  Many sales reps are conservative, sometimes to a fault, portraying pessimism about their forecast (aka “sand bagging”).  Sales managers push for optimism, and a higher commit!   Sales reps like building relationships; sales managers want to get in front of the prospect; close the deal; and move on.

I don’t know; maybe these opposing forces actually balance each other out.  Maybe it is the friction that actually drives an organization to sales success:

The highly successful use anxiety and stress to spur them on to achievement. 

Tom Hopkins

But balance is the key – too much friction on one side or the other can burn out the rep; or the manager; or even both, true?

GAP

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