Many sales managers don’t like having the difficult conversations—who does? But as a leader, it is part of your role.

You’re a top sales producer that has been rewarded with a promotion to sales manager. You’re excited about the opportunity to grow your leadership skills and help your sales team improve.

Then reality sets in.

You realize that holding people accountable to sales metrics is difficult. When asking for reports, you find yourself fielding excuses such as, “Do you want me to sell or generate reports?  I’ve been selling a long time…. don’t need to be micromanaged…”

Or in a one-on-one coaching session, you make great suggestions to improve productivity and sales results.  You get a lot of head nodding and no change.

It’s time to have the tough love or truth telling conversation. If not, you’re on your way to creating a mediocre, status quo, don’t rock the boat sales culture.

Many sales managers settle for this type of culture because they are conflict avoidant.They don’t like having the difficult conversations—who does?  But as a leader, it is part of your role.

So what can you do to embrace conflict and be a more effective sales manager?

  1. Make Time for Emotional Awareness

    Apply a healthy dose of emotional self-awareness. Schedule time to reflect and ask yourself a few questions:

  • What makes you think conflict is bad thing? Change your perspective. Challenging a salesperson to do better means you care about them–otherwise you’d just let them flounder.
  • Is your need to be liked greater than your need get sales results?
  • Do you simply need more formal training and coaching on giving feedback?
  1. Practice Reality Testing

    Apply a healthy dose of reality testing. The reality is the most effective sales managers, leaders and coaches stretch their teams. They teach and instill new habits, thoughts and skills.

One of my first jobs was in retail, where I was sportswear buyer. Talk about accountability. Every day a set of reports would land on my desk informing me of how my merchandise was ‘turning.’  (Or not turning….)

It was not unusual for my boss to come into my office and start drilling me on numbers. He expected me to know what was selling, what wasn’t selling and my plan to course correct.

By today’s standard, the conversation wouldn’t be regarded as emotionally intelligent because of his demeanor and approach. However, this tough boss taught me to know my numbers and my business.

Today, I have a better appreciation for that “awful boss” who didn’t avoid conflict. His high expectations helped me in future positions as a salesperson, sales leader and business owner. Be that boss and be that sales leader.

About the author

Colleen Stanley

Colleen Stanley is president of SalesLeadership Inc., a business development consulting firm specializing in…

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