“One of the sincerest forms of respect you can have for someone, is to actually listen to what they have to say.”
When I first walked into what I believed was my dream managerial job, I knew that to be successful it was imperative that I took the time to listen.
There is a misconception that if one who has served in the military in some leadership capacity that all you do is spend the day barking orders and people just do what they’re told, no matter what. This is one of the worse misconceptions about the men and women who served in leadership roles in the military.
Yes, I like many others served with distinction in the US Army, with over 30 jumps, two being night jumps with an operational unit that ended in an airborne assault. Earning Master Jump Wings, Ranger tab, and CIB. Significant as that was to my military career, only one thing I learned in the military prepared me to step into a civilian role and lead men and women in a sales driven organization. And that was my ability to listen. I cannot tell you how significant it is to listen to your team.
There are two intangibles in life and I must say in sales, in my opinion, one is Listening and the other is Attitude. One without the other, a person won’t fair well.
When I meet with my boss I asked him to give me his perspective on the team I was inheriting. He informed me that it was important that I talk to the top salesperson first. And there were a few salespeople underperforming. But two stood out, the first being the top salesperson and the 2nd was a rep I was told couldn’t sell their way out of a paper bag.
It just so happens the top sales person was in town and I invited him to lunch. and after our pleasantries, I asked him to honestly answer three questions from his perspective. “What are we doing right?”, “How can we improve?” and “What would you do first if you were in my shoes?”.
As he was talking all I did was take note and listen. I thanked him for his insight and honesty. But I wasn’t listening for him to gripe about the organization. Rather I was more interested in the level of pride he had in his ability to overcome obstacles and continue to charge through difficulties. And his overall Attitude, because that to me is everything.
My second meeting with a salesperson, whom I mentioned above and I just came right out and told them, we have a perception problem. I’m sure it didn’t sit well with them. The good news was I knew how to fix this and we did.
I asked them to schedule three face to face client presentations in their territory. In one, while they were presenting, I took out my iPhone and begin recording the meeting. Now they begin to get nervous, they later told me. But the good news is it didn’t show to the clients. I praised them for how well they did, how they first sold themselves, secondly they sold the benefits of our solution and lastly price wasn’t a factor in the meeting.
When I got back to the office, I was asked how well the salesperson did? I told my boss, I have a better idea I’d like to show you their presentation. I played the video from the meeting and then informed my boss and the naysayer “by the way, they closed the deal.” The comment was never brought up again in my presence. Today, this person is one of the top salespeople in the organization. Meeting revenue targets quarter after quarter. Hitting KPI’s. Before I left the company I remember giving them a bonus check for their efforts in growing their pipeline.
These two salespeople are an example of the importance of listening to your team.
Never forget this maxim, salespeople are the most important members of the team. Without what they do every day, no one has a job. The company doesn’t exist if nothing is sold. If you’re not doing so start giving your sales organization the respect they deserve, listen to their feedback. And don’t be afraid to ask them, as your boss, “What am I doing right?” “What can I improve”, and “What would you do if you were in my seat?” Don’t be afraid to listen. Leave your ego at the door.