Part V: Rep Disappointment
Profiles in Sales Management
By Jack R. Snader and Marsha Wells
They say that balance is the key to success--and nowhere does this axiom
apply more than in sales management. If you manage sales managers, you
understand that these professionals have to balance their task orientation with their people skills. They need to get their own work done while getting things done through
others, to keep a clear focus but still be available to trouble-shoot and
counsel, to be friendly while sticking to business, to meet deadlines through
others but avoid pressuring them.
The demands of the career juggling act are constant, yet a balanced approach
demands that sales managers offset the stresses of work by interjecting
leisure or work-related leisure activities: golf, fishing, spectator sports,
meetings at resorts, breakfast meetings, business lunches, and dinner events.
To be a top sales manager requires commitment 24/7...leaving very little
room for a personal family life. Which means, in the big picture, an incredible
Balancing Family with Work
Of course, there are ways to attempt to balance family with work, and most
sales managers, like everyone else, are busy trying. Many create quality
time with their kids, go to at least a percentage of their kids' sports
or school performances, meet their spouses part-way and offer reassurances,
let their families know that all the work they're doing is to help the
family. Then they take off for work or the home office and spend most of
their day focused on their other family-their representatives, who also
depend on them in many ways.
But what happens when a sales manager doesn't keep the family or personal
side of life in balance? As a corporate executive in charge of sales managers,
how do you handle the top sales manager who is literally living through
work, ignoring serious problems in his or her personal life, and heading
down the road toward a family and/or personal crisis that promises to drain
vitality and sap productivity? While showing appreciation for all his or
her good work, is there a way you can help to keep this kind of sales manager
from self-destructing over time?
Margaret the Magnificent
Articulate, attractive, and highly ambitious, Margaret won many sales early
in her career. Her polished sophistication as a sales rep swiftly catapulted
her into the corporate limelight, and to satisfy the itch of her ambition,
she vied for a promotion. The competition was tough, but Margaret was promoted
to District Manager. Margaret quickly recognized that this was a position
in which a new skill-set was demanded. She reached into her reserve capacity,
learned the ropes, and excelled once again.
Privately, Margaret was married shortly after her DM promotion. Her husband,
Richard, was a physician, and they were happy together for the first few
years of marriage while she continued to build her career and he built
his private practice. Their only problem seemed to be a shortage of time
together, but Margaret attributed the problem to the nature of modern society
and not to any personal issues.
After a while, though, Richard became tired of Margaret's demanding schedule,
and he felt she ought to leave her job to be there for him during the small
amount of free time he had. Margaret, on the other hand, was tired of being
left alone so much during her free time, and she didn't feel that she should
have to give up her career for him just because she was a woman. She refused
to quit her job. More and more, Margaret buried herself in her work to
avoid confronting Richard with her resentments, and Richard began staying
out more, without explanations.
Spending More Time at Work
...didn't mean Margaret was accomplishing more. In fact, while her performance
was still good, her energy level and efficiency slipped significantly.
It now took her seven days a week to do the same job she had previously
done in about five-and-a-half. Her mood darkened, and the charm of her
attractiveness faded. Margaret tried with all her might to focus on her
work, but the negative emotions percolating within sometimes caused her
to behave erratically.
When she went on sales calls to coach her reps, Margaret began to show
an edge to her attitude. Reps who had been helped by her in the past began
to feel let down by her new disposition, and wondered why she wasn't her
old self. From their point of view, Margaret wasn't really "there"
for them anymore, and many of them wanted a new manager.
Managing the Manager
From a management point of view, Margaret appeared to be a highly dedicated
worker putting in seven-day weeks, doing conscientious work, and remaining
loyal to the company. Yet reports from her reps confirmed that there was
some sort of an attitude problem that needed to be handled.
If you were Margaret's manager, what would you do?
Would you let the problem slide, thinking that Margaret's personal life
was none of your business? Do you feel that if Margaret wants to dedicate
all her time to work, why stop her? If Margaret wants to burn herself out,
do you consider it her problem because she can be replaced anyway?
Or do you recognize that without balancing career and lifestyle, Margaret
will become a more limited contributor as time goes on? Do you think that
good coaching means taking Margaret aside and listening to her talk about
her personal problems, then gently guiding her to make some tough personal
What if you ask her to deal with her personal issues, and then she decides
to quit in order to comply with her husband's request? Then again, how
will you feel if you don't deal with the problem at all, then witness her
gradual demise? If you deal with the problem indirectly by making a rule,
keeping the building closed on Sundays, for instance will Margaret get
around the rule somehow? If you deal with the problem directly, will Margaret
be offended and quit the company?
At Systema Corporation, we understand that good management sometimes means
taking big risks when those risks are taken for good reasons. We stress
the concept of balance to achieve maximum success, and believe that the
best way to help sales managers change when they've gotten off-course is
by giving them honest feedback. If a work/life balance issue exists, subordinates
will be among the first to notice a problem, and managers who listen to
their subordinates' subordinates are in the best position to help their
That's why Systema believes in a self-development process. With our confidential feedback systems, executives are in a position to
help sales managers like Margaret find ways to identify and face up to
their personal challenges, look at their options, and take necessary actions. With that kind of executive leadership, sales managers who are out of
balance will have the best opportunity to reemerge as top performers, or
at least to get their lives in order and sing the praises of your company
for the help you've given them.
For information on Systema's sales management development systems, e-mail
us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Energizing Sales Performance World Wide Since 1969