When I think about sales and business, I often relate it to sports analogies…and today we’ll talk about the best ways to handle adversity. Think about two very successful coaches in NCAA Men’s Basketball history, Bobby Knight and John Wooden. Both won multiple National Championships…3 for Knight at Indiana and 10 for Wooden at UCLA. But there are significant differences in style and, I’d suggest, the amount of success they had and their lasting legacy. Knight was a screamer, a chair-thrower, and a very abrasive personality. Wooden was the epitome of class, incredibly poised and calm during the game, and his legacy was a coaching and life philosophy that continues to be influential today. Knight was eventually fired from his job and Wooden retired after winning his last championship game.
When I think of both of these types of temperaments, I ask myself, “Which coach would I want to have played for?” For me, these two examples of coaching personalities directly apply to how to respond to adverse situations both as a salesperson and a sales manager.
Responding to Adversity as a Seller
Your $400,000 sale which was confirmed with an IO was just cancelled. You had received public plaudits from both your manager and senior management and you now feel like you want to scream. What do you do?
A natural reaction might be to go back to your customer and grill them as to what happened…or, even go above them to their supervisor to further question why this decision was made. You may even get loud in your office and assign blame to everyone else for your predicament. I actually behaved this way once when I was a new, inexperienced salesperson. That was huge mistake on my part and definitely hindered my career growth.
I’ve learned that the proper response to losing a sale, or any outside factor negatively impacting your business, is keep your cool and go back to basics. Also, don’t be so quick in blaming others before looking inside yourself and determining if there’s anything you could have done differently.
The best salespeople know that relationships with their customers are long-term and that any lost sale should be put into the context of the bigger relationship. Salespeople should never appear ‘desperate’ with their customers for business…the smart thing to do is look at the bigger picture.
Responding to Adversity as a Sales Manager
Sales managers face adversity both externally and internally. When sales are not pacing to goal, senior sales managers understandably want to know how the sales managers on their teams are working to solve this challenge. Conversations between senior sales managers and their sales management teams can often be more candid than those with the salespeople themselves. Sales managers are going to get an earful from their managers when sales are bad. That comes with the territory and should be expected by sales managers. I believe, however, that the best sales managers view themselves as a ‘filter’ between their own senior management and their sales teams. Salespeople are remarkably attuned to changes in the ‘tone’ of their sales leadership. When their immediate managers keep calm and methodically handle adversity without ‘losing it’, my experience is that sales teams will have a greater opportunity for success. Sales managers will hear the pressure from above and they should calmly explain the situation to their teams without causing any additional distractions from their teams’ sales efforts.
The best sales managers work very hard to keep the extraneous distractions from their salespeople so that their teams can concentrate on selling. From internal politics to unnecessary meetings, sales managers know that all of these can cause their teams to lose focus and create ‘water cooler’ conversations. Sales teams need to be able to trust their managers and know that the manager is looking out for them.
The ‘tone’ surrounding your sales team is incredibly important. Teams are more effective when they believe that their managers “get it” and understand the challenges that the salespeople face. It is important for sales managers to get out of their offices and join their teams at appropriate customer meetings. Both salespeople and sales managers have greater business and personal success when they prioritize the team’s needs before their own.