Can Your Sales Managers Answer the Critical Questions Burning in the Minds of Salespeople?

By Carl Eidson

In these tough economic conditions, it’s easy to believe that most sales forces are doomed to poor results and low morale until the economy turns around. But is this really the case? My informal observations across 10 companies and 8 industries would suggest—NO.

Over the past few weeks, I traveled to meet with more than 20 customers and prospects within 10 different companies from California to Maine. Organizations where sales managers lacked direction and struggled with coaching their salespeople were indeed losing market share and experiencing revenue declines. On the other hand, without exception, the companies that had highly engaged sales managers were growing and thriving despite the brutal economy. I believe your salespeople can overcome the downward spiral of “learned helplessness” and economic challenges through actions taken by their sales managers.

How to Help Sales Managers

You might be wondering, “How can I help my sales managers get better results out of their people?” The answer is to make sure your sales managers are able to respond to some key questions burning in the minds of every salesperson. Although sales managers cannot force salespeople to be highly motivated, research indicates that they CAN create the conditions necessary for a highly motivated and engaged sales force if they address those questions. Let me share two of them with you here.

1) Where are we going?

To be fully engaged, salespeople need to know the sales manager’s strategy and direction for how to gain market share, how to differentiate from the competition, and how the direction of the sales team is linked with the overall mission, vision, and values of the company.

2) What is expected of me?

Salespeople need and want a crystal clear understanding of what is expected. Most sales managers do a great job of setting a quota. However, revenue production is a “trailing indicator” of what has already happened. What’s missing are clearly defined, measurable goals around the “leading indicator” behaviors required for success (e.g., writing compelling access messages tailored to the unique critical success factors of each new prospect).

Our research shows that out of the hundreds of factors that influence sales revenue, margins, customer service ratings, and salesperson retention, an astonishing 39% of these outcome measures are directly attributable to how well managers answered these and a handful of other key questions. What would a 39% boost in any of these performance metrics mean to your organization?


Carl Eidson

Carl Eidson, PhD, is Vice President of Business Development for Wilson Learning. Dr. Eidson leads and coaches a virtual team of over 100 independent distributors stretching from Toronto to Bogotá and works extensively with clients. Dr. Eidson has coauthored articles on selecting top talent published in scholarly journals, including Journal of Applied Psychology, Human Performance, International Journal of Selection and Assessment, and Journal of Business and Psychology. He has also authored and coauthored articles on leadership, sales, virtual teams, and employee engagement in industry publications including CIO, Training magazine, and Sales Pro Magazine. Dr. Eidson is a frequent speaker at professional conferences on the topic of learning transfer and human performance improvement research and practices.