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Viewpoints
from Systema

Part IV: Rep Resentments

Profiles in Sales Management
By Jack R. Snader

Perception gaps are always a puzzle. One type of perception gap is the first impression vs. the long-term picture of an employee. When a top performing, superstar quality representative is promoted to the sales management position, you expect him or her to continue to excel. Superstars expect it of themselves. With the kind of drive for achievement and standards of excellence that are second-nature to this kind of individual, it would be unusual for management not to anticipate a superstar's success with any promotion given. Yet sometimes, superstar performers turn out to be neither loved nor even liked by their people.

How is it that some individuals can look so promising to management and then become so clearly objectionable to those who work for them?

At Systema, we understand that transitioning from the world of selling skills to the world of managing skills tends to offer a rude awakening to the superstar type. The sales management position makes even the most legendary star performers suddenly vulnerable to the opinions of others...including those who have not always been so quick, so gifted, or so fortunate.

Leo the Legend

Tall, handsome, and confident, Leo began his career in sales at a large corporation by putting forth tremendous energy. He was determined to generate enough income to live well and retire young. Using his intuitive grasp of how to influence others, Leo learned to make each of his customers feel he was extremely interested in all that they had to say--whether he was or not. He also became an expert in their eyes by asking them intelligent, pertinent questions and leading them to solutions that seemed to fit their needs.

Leo was "on" when he was selling, and usually two steps ahead of his customers. He won respect through his expertise and air of professionalism. He worked long hours planning and strategizing and rehearsing and making sales calls, set on achieving his financial dreams. And he was extremely proud of his accomplishments.

Being a former college basketball star and all-around top achiever, Leo fully expected to rise up in the organization, win friends and influence people. His promotion to DSM after only two years of selling was no shock to him, although for his company, it was unusually fast. The rep who took over his sales territory felt fortunate to inherit Leo's happy customer base, and Leo's new manager was glad to have him.

Shocking Change

The shock came once Leo had assumed his new position. Born and raised to be a winner, it had never dawned on Leo that not everybody around him defined winning in the way he did. Steeped in his passion-for-excellence lifestyle, he had neglected to step back and find out why most other people weren't behaving like he was.

Maybe he assumed they were lazy or dull, or maybe he thought they weren't inspired or motivated. Maybe he thought they didn't have high values because they didn't have his value system. Or maybe he was so absorbed in beating the competition that he never stopped to ask himself what made others tick. But he had no doubt that his superb management and leadership would naturally make his reps into winners, too. That's why it struck Leo as odd when many of his reps responded to his managing efforts rather negatively.

"Why don't they copy my style?"

he thought. Frankly, Leo could see that most of his reps were not very good salespeople. To help them out, he offered them plenty of advice, gave them the benefit of hearing about his own experiences often, and offered his best nuggets of wisdom whenever he sensed that his reps were having problems or could do better. He sincerely wanted them all to improve.

He tried listening to his reps talk about their selling problems, but he couldn't help disregarding most of what they said because he did not agree with their attitudes. He felt they needed to adopt his attitude in order to be more successful. When Leo went out on a sales call with one of his reps, he frequently took over the call and showed the rep how "the pros" do it, thinking this would give him or her the role-modeling needed to improve. Leo always made the sale for his reps. But instead of gratitude, Leo got resentment.

Why weren't the reps responding to his helpfulness? Leo knew he was far better than they were at selling, ...why weren't they anxious to learn the secrets of his success?

Comments of His Team

Let's listen to some of the comments of his team:

  • Leo doesn't give us a chance to learn; too busy being the star of the show
  • Highly critical of the approach of others
  • Overly competitive, impatient; doesn't appreciate my learning curve
  • Needs to be more helpful rather than focusing on how great he is and how much he knows
  • Thinks his way is the only way; doesn't consider that I need to do it my way
  • Does not understand the problems in my district; does not listen to me
  • Why doesn't he coach me instead of taking over my sales calls?
  • I know he's trying to help me but his advice comes across more often than not as a put-down
  • I have to hand it to him, he's very hard-driving, but I wish he would stop trying to drive me and just listen to me more often; I can drive myself once I have mastered the sales situation at hand
  • I'm tired of hearing about how hot he is; he's like a big kid, stuck on himself
  • Leo is a "legend in his own mind"; as a manager, he's not very good
  • He's a "know-it-all"

Managing the Manager

Leo's new manager went from having "great expectations" to suddenly recognizing Leo's extreme self-focus and lack of versatility as a coach. Once that perception gap was bridged, Leo's manager began to persuade him to stop advising his reps and start listening to them more. Leo, a man who had driven himself to excellence all his life through self-criticism, drive, and discipline, a man who found it easy to spot the flaws in others and "help" them realize their mistakes, a man who had proven all his life that he was a superstar beyond reproach, was absolutely floored that he was being criticized by his boss.

How would you manage Leo? For proven techniques in sales management development that you can apply your way, Systema can help. Contact us at systema@systema.com

Energizing Sales Performance World Wide Since 1969



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