Leadership is not a Popularity Contest

Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose

As a manager, it is more important to be respected than popular. Yet, bosses often relinquish their leadership responsibility to ensure their employees are answerable for their actions because they want to be liked.

There are significant consequences when employee accountability is low. The most important, individual and corporate productivity fails to reach its true potential. These organizations are easy to spot because plans never get off the ground, agreed upon actions are not completed or commitments are not fulfilled.  If people are not carrying their weight, others feel the burden of picking up the slack and begin to resent it. As a result, employee motivation and initiative is severely lacking, morale drops creating a culture that rewards mediocrity.

Human beings are teleologic—they are target seeking individuals. Working toward goals gives our lives meaning and purpose. Therefore, people (especially salespeople) inherently want to learn, grow and contribute to something meaningful. They even desire a healthy environment of discipline where they are held accountable reach their goals and those of their employer. When business professionals are not held to certain performance standards—effort relaxes, productivity declines and expectations are not met.

Managers are often unclear on how to hold people accountable—they tend to be too harsh or too soft. As a result, they tend to shy away from demanding their employees keep their commitments because they are afraid or want to avoid confrontation. They believe, if they press — people will quit or undermine their efforts. The most common reason managers fail to hold their people accountable is they value popularity over being effective.

Somewhere along the line, bosses adopted the misconception that good management means being “friends” with subordinates. They believe that if they can get their teams to like them enough—they will work harder for them. Yet, this could not be farther from the truth. The most effective leaders are trusted first then respected. How much would you trust and respect a supervisor for allowing you to get away with mediocrity when you were actually wired for greatness?!

Frankly, it is much easier to let employees off the hook. It takes a lot of time to monitor, follow up, guide, correct, advise and help people stay on track.

A Better Way to Reach Sales Goals

An Action Plan for Sales Managers…

The New Year is a season ‘fresh starts’ and renewed resolutions. It is also a good time for reps to review and renew their annual sales goals. Some may be quite adept at goal setting, but it’s rare to find salespeople who remain focused on their professional goals throughout the year without some managerial guidance. And, it’s even more rare to find reps that are good at implementing plans over an extended period of time. Salespeople get busy and are easily distracted while trying to work a plan throughout an entire year. Reps will be far more successful achieving their goals with the support, direction and guidance of their manager.

Promote the Power of Planning

Salespeople already know that goal setting is important, yet many tend to reject planning as busy work that gets in the way of their selling efforts. It is the necessary groundwork required to improve the attitudes, accuracy and accountability so many sales teams lack. Educate your team to view planning as critical step in obtaining the results they desire and the goals aspire to. Many sales managers make the mistake of including sales plans as just another report due at the end of the year. The better you are at getting your team to view this tool as a critical component in getting where they want to go, the less you will have to work at getting them to create and use it and more important—reaching your company’s objectives.

Success Follows Structure

One of the fundamental reasons people don’t achieve higher levels of performance in sales is the lack of a structured, organized way of achieving them. It is here that sales managers can offer invaluable support to their reps and results by teaching and coaching effective goal setting tactics.

Most sales people will embrace ideas that will help them achieve better results with less effort. Therefore, your challenge is to assist reps to recognize that goals are met faster and better when preceded preparation and planning. A Strategic Sales Plan is a written tool that outlines the specific tactics and strategies necessary to meet annual sales and key performance objectives. It paves the path with milestones and markers required to reach intended outcomes.

Every Strategic Sales Plan should be as unique as the territory and representative who creates it. A good plan will guide reps through important considerations needed by this territory, during this year, given the specific market conditions that exist at this time in this territory. The sales plan itself, as a deliverable document, isn’t the most important element. More beneficial to results, is the process required to research and analyze the elements and trends a Strategic Sales Plan exposes. Provide your reps with template or topic outline to guide their considerations that will lead them to spot bigger and better opportunities for growth. If you would like a copy of the SSP we routinely use with clients, click here for our Strategic Sales Plan Template.

Encourage reps to customize their Plans to meet sales goals and the needs of their territory. Ask them to take into account a distributor or customer requiring special attention or different strategies. Build the template to view each market or territory at a higher level than the ground zero view they have on a daily basis when their feet are on the street. This exercise will help to strengthen rep research, data analysis skills and strategic thinking while preparing these plans. The more reps put their unique thumbprints to the Sales Plans, the more they will commit to and own the results.