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RAB Research Archive

Why salespeople lie to their managers



As a new manager I made lots of mistakes. One thing I did, unintentionally of course, was to suck the motivation right out of my sellers with what I thought was a typical and harmless question: “What did you sell today?” This was a question sellers became used to as they passed me in the hallway. I also started off our Monday morning sales meeting by doing a quick “whip-around” the room asking, “What did you sell last week?”

As I matured as a manager and got better, I realized how damaging that question was to my sellers, their morale, and their motivation. Sales is a series of rejections and advances. Each day your sellers are being rejected by some and advancing the sales process with others. If the only thing you measure is the end result, you are not building up the motivation and morale of a seller; you are actually killing it. They get beat up on the phones and the street every day. The last thing they need is to be beat up by their manager when they are in the office.

When you ask, “What did you sell today?”, you force your sellers to either feel like a loser, lie, or on rare occasions, they have a truthful answer. If they didn’t close a deal, they are not likely to look you in the eye and say “nothing” when you ask that question. If they do, the look on your face says it all. You know the look. It’s the look that says, “You’re a loser, why did I hire you, why am I paying you, and why aren’t you better at this?” If you truly feel that way about one of your sellers, we have bigger issues to talk about.

Salespeople want to be successful. They crave it; they are driven by it. That passion and energy is what helps them become more successful. When they are forced to answer a direct question that might make them feel less than successful, they may lie. Here are some common lies that sellers give in the face of the question, “What did you sell today?”

• I had a great meeting with a client today; they said yes to the proposal but need a few days to get the paperwork approved.

• It was great presentation; all we have to do is finalize the copy (details).

• I had a great meeting scheduled but the client had to cancel.

All of those answers are at best “skirting the truth” that a sale was not consummated that day.

W. Steven Brown’s book, 13 Fatal Errors Managers Make and How You Can Avoid Them, provides this:

"In all of industrial history, we have developed only three approaches for getting employees to produce more. Every motivational scheme falls into one of these three broad categories: Fear, Reward and Belief Building…"

As a sales manager, “belief building” of your sellers is critical. Belief in the product they are selling, but also belief in themselves. Plenty of things happen to them on the streets in the sales process that might cause them to lose faith in their abilities.

Belief building for me was simply changing the question. Instead of asking, “What did you sell today?”, I began asking, “What successes did you have today?” This also affected our Monday morning meetings. The “whip-around” was about the “greatest success” that a seller experienced the previous week. I defined success as an “advance” in the sales process. A seller lands a meeting with a prospect they’ve been chasing for weeks -- that’s a success. A seller gets a return call from a prospect that they’ve been trying to set up a meeting with -- that’s a success. At RAB our training is based on the 7 steps of the sales process. At last count among those 7 steps there are about 16 places that provide an opportunity for success before a sale is made.

What did you sell today? vs. What successes did you have today? Two simple questions, two dramatically different results that can impact the morale of your sales team. The second question also transfers YOUR belief in your sellers. You expect them to be successful or you wouldn’t be asking.

You want the truth? Start asking questions that allow sellers to stay motivated and feel like winners.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB





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