Managing Up, Part 2: Good News, Bad News, and Truth-Telling

The relationship between you and your manager can not only determine your job satisfaction, it can also ‘make or break’ your career with your company. A healthy, positive relationship will ensure you have someone who will support you with your customers and also internally with more senior management. When there are job openings within your company, unless you have your manager’s support, you won’t be considered for the role. Finally, when you have a good relationship with your manager, you won’t be dreading coming into the office.

There are two important topics that are important to building a strong relationship with your manager: Managing expectations and how much candid conversation your manager wants to hear.

Managing Expectations

New salespeople are understandably excited when they make a big sale…and they should be. In fact, their entire sales team should be very happy for them. Where the new salesperson often runs into trouble is by being enthusiastic, and overly optimistic, when describing that big sale to their manager. Or worse, when describing that big sale to their manager’s manager. Senior sales management always seems to have the unique auditory skill of ALWAYS remembering the high-end estimate of whatever sale you just made. For example, if you made a sale and it’s pretty likely to be about $500,000…but it has a possible chance of being $750,000, your senior sales management will only remember that you sold a $750,000 deal…and that it’s a done deal. It doesn’t matter if you’re still finishing the final negotiations or working out the deal details, because every time you speak with that senior sales manager, they are going to ask you about your $750,000 deal.

The point to remember is to be conservative when reporting a big sale until the IO is signed and the deal is done. You will create continuous ‘landmines’ for yourself if you are always over-estimating your sales. There is no valid reason to do so and no manager is ever going to be upset if a sale comes in larger than you thought.

These conservative estimates are not the same as ‘sandbagging.’ Sandbagging is when you know for a fact that a sale is $500,000 and you consciously under-report the sales as $300,000. Sales management needs accurate sales estimates to report to their managers and continuous sandbagging give them, and you, a bad reputation.

Does Your Manager Want to Hear Your Candid Comments?

One of my pet peeves is when I have a salesperson only telling me things that they THINK I want to hear. Our team’s business won’t be successful unless we all know the reality of the marketplace, both positive and negative. If customers aren’t responding to certain of our products or, more importantly, there is something seriously negative about our product or company being heard amongst our customer, I want to know that as soon as possible. Salespeople on our teams know that they have the freedom, and obligation, to be honest with me about anything. If you’re a new salesperson on a team, you need to find out quickly if your manager wants to hear your perception of reality or if they only want to hear “good news.” I’ve made the mistake in the past of not answering this question early and, as a result, I gave my perception of reality to a manager who only wanted to hear good news…or THEIR perception of reality. It took me some time to repair the initial damage to my relationship with my new manager.

“Telling the truth’ means giving an honest estimate of whatever question you’ve been asked by your manager. The best managers I’ve ever worked with have wanted to hear their team members honest and candid thoughts. I’d recommend having these types of conversations as 1:1 meetings with your manager. If the team isn’t hitting their revenue goals, public conversations should remain positive and upbeat. You will have a far better opportunity for a genuine dialog when it is just your manager and you. These conversations should not be gripe sessions or consist of you complaining about certain things. No manager, myself included, is interested in having a chronic complainer on the team. But, honest feedback and thoughtful comments should always be considered.

Make sure and determine what type of manager you have before considering the “truthful” approach.

Author: Tim Hand

My name is Tim Hand, and I am a digital media, sales & marketing team leader, and I have a real passion for partnering with companies, publishers and agencies to help drive client growth and bottom-line revenues.

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