This is always a sensitive topic with our sales training clients in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.  No matter if you’re a Salesperson, Sales Manager or Business Owner, you’ve dealt with pressure on either side of the desk.  Sales targets need to be reached and when they aren’t, questions get asked and people are placed under the microscope.  Here’s why for the most part, pressuring Salespeople doesn’t work and my suggestions for a better approach.

Our sales training company seldom gets called when companies exceed sales targets.  It’s usually the opposite and sometimes can be a stressful situation.  The Business Owner or General Manager is frustrated with declining sales and can’t explain it.  The Salespeople are busy trying to do the best they can to solve the problem.  If this has been going on for a long time, there will even be a disconnect between Senior Management and the Sales Team.  Since nothing seems to be working, there appears to be no choice but to apply pressure and start using the “a” word – accountability.

The Definition of Accountability

I can vividly recall how one Salesperson defined it.  The brave soul, with his manager present in group sales training, called accountability the word your boss uses when you’re in his office explaining why you’re missing your sales targets.  In the infamous words of Dr. Phil – and how’s that working for you? The Salesperson would say it’s not and the Manager would reply so what else am I supposed to do if everything else has failed?

Here’s why pressure doesn’t work

Making a Salesperson feel worse about non-performance seldom brings about sales results.  It usually makes them cocoon in the fetal position and go into self-protection mode.  This is commonly where the term micro-management comes into play.  After all, we all know that the lack of sales comes from a poor sales funnel with low activity levels.  Now, the Salesperson in question is being monitored in their levels of prospecting, appointments, presentations and closing rate.  It’s even worse when the Salesperson feels he or she has no choice but to exaggerate the real numbers just to survive the scrutiny of the Manager.

Not many survive this situation

There is a very high probability that one of two things will happen if the Salesperson’s performance continues to fail meeting expectations.  The Manager may elect to let them go or eventually the Salesperson will leave the company.  No one likes to come to a job where they feel that are consistently not good enough and are dragging  their team down.

Here’s where the disconnect occurs

It’s motive.  The Salesperson feels that the Manager is pressuring them to make targets that the company needs them to reach.

It’s agenda.  The Salesperson knows that the Manager is being held accountable by his or her boss for top line revenue growth.  Everyone’s bonus is dependent on performance.

It’s interpretation.  The Salesperson feels that the Manager is solely focused on their lack of sales results and why it’s happening.

It’s technique.  The Salesperson is told “Here’s what needs to happen for better results to occur.”

This top down approach fails miserably for most Salespeople – especially Millennials in their 30’s and 40’s who can remember a parent coming home from work, frustrated and stressed out too many days in the week.  That’s not how they intend to live their lives.

Why not try the bottom-up approach?

The only true form of accountability is self-accountability.  That same brave soul in group sales training told me this when I asked him to add the word self in front of the “a” word.  Self-accountability is looking in the mirror and holding that person responsible.  Now, we’re getting somewhere!  So then…

It’s motive.  The Salesperson feels the Manager is trying to help them feel successful by making their sales targets and contributing to the performance of the team.

It’s agenda.  The Salesperson knows that the Manager is focused on increasing the Salesperson’s personal income and enjoying the lifestyle that goes with it.

It’s interpretation.  The Salesperson feels the sincerity and authenticity of the Manager as they spend extra time going into the field with them to assist and guide based on personal experience.

It’s technique.  The Salesperson is asked for their opinion and buy-in throughout the process to see what expectations are realistic in their mind.

Every Sales Manager has missed a sales target

I can remember telling a struggling Salesperson years ago that I will never forget what it felt like to miss a quarterly target.  I had missed more than one in my career and I wanted them to know that.  I also told them that I was prepared to give them personal coaching and assistance in the office and the field because their success was something that I couldn’t put a price on.  It was another form of payment that was very important to me.  Their guard totally dropped and it became the start of a partnership of working together to solve the problem.

Now what Salesperson wouldn’t be inspired by that?

What do you think?    I’m always interested in your opinion.  If you liked this post, share it on your favorite social media platform.

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Dave Warawa – PROSALESGUY 

Author of SHUT UP! Stop Talking and Start Making Money available on Amazon in paperback and kindle