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SPIF Tip #3: Sales Manager's Assumptions That Kill Improvement

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m415-bcd69e7c-e9e1-4cb5-ae4e-cf85c6a8b0e1-v2Years ago, I sold

minicomputers and software to local businesses.

My territory was very small, and I had cold called everyone in it several times.

It was really hard to find enough sales opportunities. Seeing some post card mailers with clever headlines gave me an idea.
 

 I spent time creating a short mailing campaign with humorous headlines. This would keep me in front of my prospects by offering something of interest. Calling them on the phone every three months was getting really old.  

Later on, I learned my boss had discussed my invention with the corporate HR department. They told him it was a bad sign. I was obviously not wanting to just "get out there and sell."
 
I was lucky. Larry, my boss, didn't agree with them. 
Over the years I've heard from many salespeople who came up with creative ideas to solve their problems. Often, their managers and the companies they worked for were not as supportive. Not all the managers i worked for were either.
 

 For instance as a 24 year old I led a team of four people selling business forms. The company gave each of us these really difficult quotas for certain product lines. The presence of a local competitor gave one of my salespeople big problems with one of these specialized products.     

I went to my District Manager with an idea.

 "Hey, Denny!" I said. "Would it be OK if I reallocated the stock tab quota across my team? I think we can make quota as a team if we do that. Otherwise, John in Missouri is gonna get creamed and won't make his product mix quota on stock tab." That meant he wouldn't get all of his bonus.   

Denny lowered his head and looked at me over his half-moon reading glasses. He leaned back in his chair and said, "Webb. Just go sell something!"

Classic sales boss thinking. Just focus on results. Get the results any way you want. Just get results. 
 
Needless to say, I didn't bother to tell Denny much about any ideas I had after that. After it happened enough, I started looked for another place to work. 
 
Sales managers who are looking for results rather than improvement will destroy improvement in all sorts of ways, both more blatant and more subtle than these examples.
 
Change in the market over the last 20 or 30 years have obsoleted many sales practices. Yet I still hear about executives demanding their salespeople use cold calls instead of social media, and pushy sales tactics instead of respectful ones. 
 
The only antidote is for company's senior executives know that they need to be explicitly interested in the methods people intend to use for improvement. 
 
I'll bet you too have seen the myopic focus on results screw up improvement efforts. I'd love to hear your sales stories.
 
Michael Webb  

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