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Business Journal

Be a Buffer

Great sales managers bind top performers to their companies

by Benson Smith and Tony Rutigliano
Excerpted from Discover Your Sales Strengths

Your role as a sales manager puts you smack in the middle between the company and the salesperson. At times, even the best companies make decisions or take actions that are difficult to understand. You might find yourself disagreeing with a given strategy or decision, yet it is your role to support and sell the company's position as best you can.

Poor managers tend to fault the company rather than support a decision that makes them uncomfortable. It is often easier to blame the home office and join in the chorus of naysayers than to take on some of the ownership for an unpopular decision. Yet when you play the "blame game," you might actually be increasing the odds that one or more of your sales representatives will leave the company. The way managers accept and help their employees manage through change can help to increase loyalty to the organization. When times get tough, poor managers seem to experience an erosion of employee loyalty and engagement, while the very best managers actually enhance it.

In the same vein, you must distill all the comments you get from your salespeople and represent their concerns back to the home office. Will changing the products really help them sell more? Is the territory really getting weaker? You must filter out legitimate reasons from all-too-common excuses and then, as diplomatically as you can, fight for the issues that are important to your team members.

Serving as a buffer is especially important for your star performers. Simply because they are selling many times more than others are, they might need that much more support. Internal people might resent how often they call them for favors, not realizing just how much more they are selling. Sometimes stars can leave more than a few corpses in their wake after visits or calls to the home office. You might need to follow up to repair the damage.

You are the glue that will bind a good performer to the company. In many instances, you will also need to be a shock absorber.

Tony Rutigliano is coauthor of Strengths Based Selling and Discover Your Sales Strengths.
Benson Smith is coauthor of Discover Your Sales Strengths.

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