Sales Management Story

When working as a sales manager a number of years ago I realised one of my researchers was, shall we say, being creative with his numbers to meet his KPIs.

I realised something was off when he wasn’t yielding the expected conversion rates. So, I dug a bit deeper and discovered an electronic trail of deceit! Upon closer inspection I realised this ‘sleight of hand’ required just as much effort as actually going through the sales process.

An urgent conversation was needed and after my initial reaction of seeing red, I knew that a heated meeting wouldn’t achieve anything. I had to understand the root cause of this, and so a few denials later, the truth started coming out.

He felt the KPI’s were unrealistic and so decided to try and get around them. Upon closer inspection it was clear they were not so challenging - the issue at hand was him feeling under the cosh and demotivated. It was frustrating as I knew he could be a high performer and as his manager I held myself personally responsible.

I asked where his passions were, which turned out to be horse-racing and football. He would bet across both and loved nothing more than the feeling of winning! I asked him why he didn’t feel the same with this role and so it transpired, after a lot of digging that, 1) he didn’t feel particularly valued, and 2) he felt the leadership (me included) did not believe in him.

So I decided to put him through a weekly trial. If he could visualise pitches and deals coming in as winning horses, or as Chelsea scoring, how much more effort would he put in? Furthermore, how much extra money would he have to bet on the weekend!

It doesn’t matter what you are working on, I said, just see it as a vehicle to be the very best and find the fire in your belly to win. To channel this, anchor in your passion - in this case horses and football - and watch what happens. You will start to care, to believe and to work with conviction like never before.

The next few weeks were astounding. I have never seen such a turnaround in both demeanour and drive. It taught me the valuable lesson that to lead someone effectively you need to understand what makes them tick, have an open and honest working relationship, believe in them and be there whenever they need you.

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