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Put yourself to the test before you test your people

Are you the manager? Manager of whom? Manager of what?

If you’re the sales manager, it means you have three primary responsibilities: lead your people, teach your people and coach your people. Your people want to be led, taught and coached. No one wants to be managed. If you want to manage somebody, manage yourself. Here are a few managerial hard thoughts and questions:

HARD QUESTION: Ever have a lousy boss that made you look elsewhere for a job?

HARDER QUESTION: What’s your turnover rate of salespeople?

HARDEST QUESTION: After you fire a salesperson, or a salesperson quits, how much does it cost you to hire, train and ramp up a new salesperson?

HARD REALITY: The cost of turnover (including lost sales, lost opportunity and even lost customers) appears no place on a company’s balance sheet. If it did, many sales managers (not you, of course) would be out of a job.

HARDER REALITY: Most sales leaders never find the truth about why a salesperson left, especially if he goes to the competition. So, to protect themselves, most employers use a non-compete clause that’s both punitive, and in many cases, unenforceable.

HARDEST REALITY: If your turnover rate is high, it may not be your people, Sparky.

Sales leaders often whine to me, “Jeffrey, there are no good people out there.” Or they say, “Good people are hard to find.” I say, “There are plenty of good people out there; they’re just not working for you.”

Here are a few things to think about as you try to build your sales force and grow your salespeople (oh yeah, and keep them):

1. Hire smart people. You CAN teach sales; you CAN teach product knowledge — you CAN’T teach intelligence.

2. Hire happy people. If your people start out with a great attitude, it’s likely they will meet with great success. Don’t try to change attitude — hire attitude.

3. Now that you have smart, happy people, you can begin teaching them. First, your product or your service. Not what it is, not what it does. You teach them how it’s used and how others produce more and profit from its use.

4. Make your people sales winners by NOT teaching them old-world selling skills. Why people buy is way more important than how to sell. Teach buying motives.

5. Eliminate traditional goals and quotas that talk to sales numbers and dollar amounts of sales. Focus on how much you want each salesperson to earn. Then let them set an earnings quota, not a sales quota. Salespeople will feel less pressured going after earnings numbers than sales numbers.

6. The secret to salespeople being more productive comes from encouragement. Threats and pressure detract from morale, not just sales. Threats and pressure cause turnover. Turnover that could have been avoided if you would just change your attitude toward sales productivity.

7. Create the law of attraction by being the best boss and by having the best workplace environment.

8. Create the law of attraction by being known as a company that compensates salespeople well and does not cut territories or commissions when salespeople begin to earn “good” money.

9. Top salespeople know other top salespeople. If you’re looking to grow your sales force or recruit more salespeople, look no further than your own sales team. If your salespeople are referring other salespeople, it’s the most powerful report card you can get as a boss. It means your employees are happy and productive. It means your employees are earning and that you’re fair in their commissions and their territories.

9.5 There’s no magic solution. Make yourself a great person first; make yourself attractive first. Be a leader, teacher, coach and encourager. Be the example. Then, train your people a minimum of every week — the same way you need to train yourself. If you train and inspire your people, there will be fewer turnovers.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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