We’ve all seen it. The slump in the shoulders and the tired eyes of your once bushy-tailed & bright-eyed rep. Perhaps it was one of your top reps from the last few quarters. They had everything invested in one deal, but it didn’t come in. Or maybe it’s just the constant quarterly grind. The painful truth is that working in sales is difficult; it requires reps to hustle every day, to keep their energy levels up even when they are slapped in the face by a rude customer and to stay motivated even when they bomb a quarter or lose a big deal.
Everyone who has succeeded in sales has had to bounce back from situations like these, which turn out to be defining moments in our careers. We learned how to push through the grind, to pick ourselves up and to dig deep for motivation.
On the other hand, there are those that never recovered. The ones that couldn’t be saved from “New Quarter Depression”.
Conquering “New Quarter Depression” or other types of sales burnout, is something that is learned and for sales leaders, it’s something that should be pro-actively taught and transferred to our teams.
The simple truth is that not everyone is cut out for a career in sales, and that’s okay. But, for those that have the ability to make sales a long term career, it’s important to realize that they are fighting to learn the same skills that you and other sale leaders fought to learn early in your careers.
For those of us on the other side, the best thing we can realize is that our personal experiences don’t have to be the same for your team. You can help them do better. Although, I don’t think what we went through is always completely avoidable; I do think that it’s duration and effects can be mitigated. Here are some simple practices that can help.
Best Practices for Successful Leaders
Be Authentic and Vulnerable
Authentic and vulnerable are scary words, but they’re the basis for real relationships. As sales leaders, we are too often guilty of creating fear-based relationships. Sales team members are well aware of the reality that they need to perform, or you’ll find someone else that can do it. So how do you mitigate this? By being authentic and vulnerable.
When I first became a manager, my mission was to help my team eliminate as many of the difficulties I had to overcome the hard way. That looked like weekly one on ones and me asking questions and digging past the first surface answer. If found something I could relate to, I didn’t hold back, I was vulnerable. That meant being honest about my own history of toxic self-talk, self-doubt and ultimately shame. As leaders, we need to eliminate shame from our teams.
Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
If you’re not sure how to identify shame personally, just listen to your self-talk when you lose a big deal or something bad happens in general. It’s natural and healthy for your self-talk to be, “that was horrible” but for a lot of us we hear, “I’m horrible”, For info on shame check out Brene Brown’s Ted talk.
Your story is powerful. How you got to where you are is intriguing to your team. Your story can light a path and cast vision to what is possible for them, but this is where we too often fall short. Our culture tells us to only speak about our successes and triumphs and to avoid vulnerability about the external and internal obstacles we had to overcome to get there.
Develop your EQ
I can’t stress EQ or Emotional Intelligence enough when it comes to being a successful leader. If you’re not familiar or need a refresher here is a quick article by author Travis Bradberry on Forbes. EQ is split into two competencies, personal and social. Personal competency is important for understanding yourself and has immeasurable value but your social competency will help your team.
Travis splits Social into two categories;
“Social Awareness is your ability to accurately pick up on emotions in other people and understand what is really going on.”
“Relationship Management is your ability to use awareness of your emotions and the others’ emotions to manage interactions successfully.”
These skills are invaluable, develop them continually. Once you can identify what you and others are feeling, you’ll know how to interact with them in a way that gets the results you want.
Acknowledging Your Team’s Effort.
One of the more frustrating part of sales is that a rep can work extremely hard on a deal and do everything right just to watch it fall apart at the end. Working hard for that commission check just to watch it go down the drain is hard enough. It’s best practice to learn from lost deals, but when you’re speculating and criticizing the effort that the rep put into the deal it’s a spirit breaker.
Instead of shaming the reps that weren’t able to close even though the hustle was evident, take a moment and acknowledge the hard work that was put into the deal. By acknowledging the hard work you reward that characteristic and oftentimes motivate reps to carry that energy into the next opportunity.
Staying Out of “The Box”
Anyone who leads a team, big or small, can easily find themselves boxing people into a set identity. For example on your team you might have the guy who can’t close big deals or the guy who never preps for calls, maybe even the guy who has the dirty desk. Whatever the issue might be, it’s important to keep the issue separate from the person.
The book Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute does a great job of explaining this concept in greater depth, and I would highly recommend it to every sales leader. The key point is that by keeping issues separate from the identities of those we lead we allow ourselves to relate to and connect with people even when things are difficult and have grace for the fact that we don’t know everything happening in the lives of our team members.
As a sales leader, these are the things you can do to avoid rough patches from your team. It’s not easy. It takes effort, it takes time. If someone would have written you off in your time of need would you be where you are today?
Reward effort. Create a culture of killing fear and shame. Keep issues separate from the identities of those you lead. Don’t just share your story but be vulnerable and authentic. Know your EQ proficiency & deficiencies, develop them, and use them.
If you want an awesome team culture that improves both the company and the lives of the people that work there, it starts with these things. It starts with you.