Managing Salespeople with the Right Touch Blog Feature
Steve Bookbinder

By: Steve Bookbinder on July 16th, 2015

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Managing Salespeople with the Right Touch

Sales Management | sales managers

Sales managers run teams but they actually manage individual salespeople. Taking a “one size fits all” approach to the job might be convenient, but it will not optimize the performance of either the team in general or the team members in particular.

So it’s the sales manager’s challenge to develop a specific and often different approach for bringing out the best in each member of his/her team. No two people are quite alike and that should be reflected in how they’re managed.  

Here are four keys to accomplishing this critical objective:

Recognize individual strengths and weaknesses.


It’s impossible to craft a plan for managing a salesperson without doing this first. Sales managers know what’s needed for great results and should be able to gauge how each salesperson’s “toolbox” stacks up in that regard. Reinforce each salesperson’s strong points with praise and public recognition. Address their weaknesses with respect and private consultation. When a salesperson realizes that he/she is being treated as an individual, their response tends to be positive and engaged.

Set individual goals that aren’t “cookie cutter”.

These need to be different from the team’s goals. These goals should focus on what it takes to improve the salesperson’s own performance. As importantly, defining what they are should be generated by a serious conversation between the sales manager and the salesperson. It’s critical that the salesperson takes real ownership of them. That won’t happen if those goals don’t connect with the salesperson at a very personal level.

Communicate with empathy.

When speaking with a salesperson, sales managers should try to see the issue at hand through the eyes of that salesperson. Empathy should not be confused with sympathy. Sales managers aren’t supposed to “feel sorry” for their salespeople—but they ought to be able to relate to what that salesperson is dealing with at the moment. Almost all sales managers are ex-salespeople, so it’s not that difficult to do. Failure to empathize creates an artificial distance and cuts off the opportunity for a productive exchange of ideas and solutions.

Lead by example.

“Do as I do” remains more powerful than “do as I say.” A sales manager should never ask or expect a salesperson to do anything that the sales manager wouldn’t do. Salespeople instantly lose respect for sales managers who display hypocritical or inconsistent behavior. They respond positively to those who “practice what they preach” on a daily basis. Showing a salesperson how it’s done is more effective than simply telling them to do it. If respect is the “glue” that holds a relationship together, then being credible and consistent here is absolutely necessary!

Managing salespeople with the right touch is more art than science. There’s no magic formula that can be applied here. It comes down to the sales manager making a profound commitment to doing whatever it takes to bring out the best in every member of the sales team.

Once it becomes obvious that the sales manager is plugged into every individual’s improvement, most - if not all team members - will respond with more enthusiasm, more energy, and more respect for the sales manager. Call it a serious win/win and go for it!

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About the Author


Buff Parham is a widely recognized thought leader and outstanding coach in the media sales and sales management field. With 35 years of sales experience, Buff has worked at Univision, FOX, Belo, ABC and CBS. He believes that hard work matters and that raising the bar and having greater expectations tend to generate greater results. In his spare time, Buff finds cooking and playing golf to be two of the best therapies for a somewhat hectic existence!

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About Steve Bookbinder

Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.

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