“If you will be hard on yourself, life will be easy on you.  But if you insist on being easy on yourself, life is going be hard on you.” -Zig Ziglar

“Discipline weighs ounces; regret weighs tons.” -Jim Rohn

1: Performing at the highest level requires discipline.

“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you should do, whether you feel like it or not,” Elbert Hubbard once said.

If we feel like doing it, it doesn’t require discipline.  “But it takes a lot of discipline when you would much rather be doing something else,” Brian Tracy writes in his book Sales Management.  

“It takes discipline to do things that require hard work, persistence, and determination.  Self-discipline is the only way to build character and personal excellence,” Brian writes.  “Discipline is the key to building a peak performance team of any kind, especially a sales team.”

This week we are looking at the key drivers of being a sales leader.  These lessons apply to all types of leadership.

Yesterday, we explored the importance of high expectations.  

“When we set high standards and discipline our sales staff to meet those standards on a regular basis, we are doing each person on the team an incredible favor,” Brian writes.  

“Many people look back in their lives to a tough boss who was demanding in terms of performance,” he observes.  “This person changed their whole attitude toward themselves and their work.  As a result, they were more successful working under that boss, and later in other jobs and endeavors, than they ever would have been without that discipline.”

Once we set expectations and establish clear metrics, we must check in with each salesperson on a consistent basis.  We want to be “persistent in measuring both sales results and activities,” Brian recommends.  

We must inspect what we expect.  

“To maintain discipline in our organization, we must review performance regularly, at least weekly and often daily,” Brian writes.  The metrics we’ve established are not “voluntary or arbitrary.  They are not a matter of choice or discretion on the part of the salesperson.”

2: One of our most important responsibilities is to coach, counsel, train, and be of service to each member of our team.  

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions,” Ken Blanchard says.  

One important rule: “Praise in public and appraise in private,” Brian writes.  “There should only be the two of you present when you give negative performance feedback to another person.  This saves the person from embarrassment and makes it far more likely that the individual will take action to improve after that meeting.”

Getting our mindset right is critical before we meet with our salespeople.  Our role is to help each salesperson improve their performance.  Let’s start with what we don’t do: Criticize and demand.  

“The turning point in my management life came when I realized that the real purpose of performance appraisal is not to punish, but to improve performance,” Brian remembers.

How do we improve performance?  

“The only way that we can do it is by helping people feel more confident and competent about themselves after the meeting than they were before,” Brian notes.  “Whenever we criticize or condemn poor behavior, we actually increase the likelihood of it occurring again.  We make people so nervous and afraid of subsequent criticism that they actually decrease their sales efforts and activities, not increase them.”

If someone isn’t hitting their numbers, Brian recommends we “use ‘I’ messages rather than ‘you’ messages,” We say, “I am concerned that your sales numbers are not where I expected them to be at this point.”

When we take this approach, the focus is on the numbers rather than the salesperson.  

We “evaluate the sales numbers objectively and unemotionally, mutually seeking a way to get them to improve,” Brian writes.  Doing so “allows the salesperson to discuss ways of improving the numbers without becoming emotional.”

Whatever the issue, be it “poor time management, lack of prospecting activity, or failure to close the sale,” he notes, we “agree on a plan to improve performance in that area.

“Ask specifically what the person is going to do more of, or less of,” he recommends.  “What is the salesperson going to start doing, or stop doing?”  

What are the most powerful words we can use?  

“Next time.” And “In the future.”  

If the individual’s sales performance is below the established metrics, we ask whether “in the future,” the person might do this or that.  Or we say, “Next time this happens, why don’t you try this?”

Why does this approach work?  Because the future is something people can do something about.  Which results in hope, confidence, and optimism.  Contrast this approach with criticizing someone for past performance, which often makes someone defensive.  Or even angry.

We offer suggestions about additional training, support, and coaching.  “Very often a salesperson is lacking a particular skill that is sabotaging the entire sales process,” Brian notes.  “Very often a single audio program, video training program, or a live seminar can transform a salesperson from a mediocre performer to a sales leader.”

We take notes and summarize what has been agreed upon.  Then, we continue to follow up, checking in on a regular basis, daily if necessary.  

“Discuss with our sales team what they have done, how it worked out, and how they feel about their experience.  What did they learn?” Brian writes.

We are firm.  And fair.  Kind.  But strict.  This is what our salespeople need from us.

More tomorrow.


Reflection: How might I use the practices Brian recommends to improve how I provide feedback?

Action: Experiment with one of Brian’s suggestions.  Today.

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