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Maximize Strengths, Manage Around Weaknesses

We have the honor and privilege of working with great sales managers every day. Last week during our first-ever Leadership MasterClass, a question that regularly comes up is: “How do I get my seller to (fill in the blank)?”

Sarah was one of the best sellers with which I had the opportunity to work. When she was in front of a client, she would make magic happen. She went deeper into accounts than most sellers I’ve seen. She cultivated relationships. As a result, her clients spent more, they enjoyed more success and Sarah made more money. To put this in perspective, Sarah billed $1.2 million a year consistently in a “small” radio market that was ranked in the 130s.

Sarah was less than great at details, paperwork, order entry and keeping the CRM up-to-date. She was working so fast, that her ‘busy work‘ would pile up. This caused headaches for traffic, for billing and for me. I could have spent hours – no, likely years – coaching Sarah on her paper trail skills. This would have been very costly and quite frustrating for both of us. It was a skill she simply didn’t possess. Rather than trying to “fix” Sarah's weakness, I hired a part-time sales assistant at minimum wage and dedicated her to Sarah.

Too often as managers, we think our role is to “fix” the weaknesses of our teams. In my experience, trying to change weaknesses is frustrating, expensive in terms of time invested and ultimately shows very little improvement. Instead, if you focus on what people are good at naturally, and coach them to be even better, everybody wins. The seller is more motivated because they are getting better at something at which they are already good. The manager is more motivated because she is able to see immediate growth and impact.

Are you spending time, frustration, energy and money trying to improve the weaknesses of your sellers? Why not focus on their strengths and manage around their weaknesses? You might find the investment in the “manage-around” to be far less than the investment in trying to fix them.

In Sarah’s case, the cost was a $12,000 per year assistant. The return on that investment was an increase of over $100,000 in billing – consistently. If I tried to fix Sarah’s weakness, not only would I have cost myself the increase, I would likely have caused her billing to go down because I would have been forcing her to spend time on something at which she just wasn’t very good.

Do you have a seller that you’re trying to fix? What would happen if instead you focused on what they do well and help them become better? Maximize strengths and manage around weakness.

Jeff Schmidt is SVP-Professional Development at the Radio Advertising Bureau. You can reach Jeff at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. or follow him on social media: Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB