Anyone who has ever gone through sales management training has probably heard the following more than once: It is never a good idea for the manager to step in and take over a sales call from a sales representative.
The theory behind this statement is valid. As a sales manager one of the worst things you can do is crush the confidence of a young sales representative. A sales career is one full of big egos and to a certain extent this is a necessity. Blatantly taking over a sales call, whether in person or on the phone, can send a negative message to the rep that he or she isn't competent enough to get the job done. Thus, sales managers are trained to not change the course of a bad sales call but to let the meeting run its course and consult with the rep afterwards.
Taking over a sales call also puts the sales manager in the role of serving the member. While everyone in an organization is there to serve the customer, the objective is to make the sales rep the focal point for members. Stepping in on a call teaches the member that he needs to go directly to the supervisor in order to get his needs met. The sales person becomes at best a go-between or at worst a nuisance. As a sales manager you want to avoid having a myriad of members calling you every day. This defeats the purpose of having a sales staff in the first place.
Is there ever a reason or good time to step in? As they say, never say never. There are a few scenarios when the sales manager needs to take charge. The key is recognizing those situations and keeping them to a minimum. Here are three instances when taking control makes sense:
1) During the initial training period the new sales representative needs to observe the right way to make a call.
As in the playoff scene in the movie "Any Given Sunday," the seasoned veteran quarterback played by Dennis Quaid teaches the young up-and-comer Jamie Foxx by example. The young QB learns more from watching the veteran play a gritty first half of football than he had when starting the prior three games. Foxx takes over the playoff match in the second half. When he's faced with a critical 1st-and-goal play with 0:04 left in the game, Quaid tells him, "See it before you do it!"
The rep, as the up-and-coming quarterback in our movie example above, needs to build an image in his mind of how a successful sales call is run. He needs to visualize it mentally and then carry through what he sees. In order to form this image, the rep needs to see it done the correct way first, probably a few times before it becomes ingrained.
Some managers accomplish this by pairing new reps with top seasoned veterans. However, when the manager plays a player/coach role, the sales manager can ensure that the rep is learning what he wants him to learn. By teaming the new sales person with a veteran he or she may learn how to sell but also learn some bad habits. The veteran, through years of experience, may easily overcome these bad habits but they will be additional obstacles for the new rep.
When the sales manager leads the sales call in the presence of the rep, he or she needs to let both the rep and the member know what's being done ahead of time. Let the rookie know that you're doing this to train him with the intent of him taking over at some point. Once that point is reached it is important for the manager to just observe and comment after the sales call. Also make the client aware that the new rep is the rep and will be the main contact in the future. This makes it clear to the member that he will be working with this new individual. It also may give the client some confidence that his rep is being trained properly and that he will know what the manager knows.
2) To save the sales person and organization from an embarrassing situation.
The sales manager generally knows more about a member or client than a new sales rep. Therefore, the rep should be briefed extensively before a sales call. We're all human, however, and sometimes key points are forgotten. So at times sales managers may find the need to kindly jump in and steer the conversation in another direction. Some examples include a rep talking about the Christmas holiday to a Jewish client, speaking about parents when the member's mother recently passed away, or simply when the rep begins talking about golf to a customer who dislikes the game.
3) When the sales person has one foot out the door.
Either for disciplinary or performance reasons there are always reps that have been given the proverbial one-last- chance. If even after all of the pep talks and mentoring you see a call going down in flames it may very well be time to step in and salvage the relationship with the client. Odds are this will be the last straw for the rep anyway so there is little reason to let the opportunity go by the wayside. It may be time for the sales rep to look for a new profession, or at least try to sell for another organization.
Ken Bator is president of Bator Training & Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com, or at 630-854- 6380.