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Getting Salesman to Write Reports

Will the real salesperson please stand up….Forecast

I have managed different types of professionals, but I can attest that no group is harder to influence than Salesperson.  A typical interraction might be:

  1. On Monday, “Joe, I need your forecast by Thursday End of Business”.  His response “Ok, I’ll do what I can” (Result: No report)
  2. On Friday, “Joe, you promised that forecast yesterday”.  His response “sorry Matt, I’ll get it by the end of today”  (Result: No report)
  3. On the next Monday 9am, “Joe, I have a board meeting at 2pm, I need that forecast by noon”.  His response “sorry Matt, I’ll get it right away” (Result: partial report by 12:45)

In fact, this chain of events is so predictable that I started to use this as an indication of future sales success.  Let’s look at each step in detail and I will try to explain this from the Salesperson’s perspective/nature and explain my insight.

Step1 (Monday).  A good Salesperson knows that he will never be fired for failing to do a reporting task so long as he brings in business.  Alternatively, good forecasters still get fired when the business in not realized.  We pay them commission and select them for their ability to focus on closing the deal.  It should not come as any surprise that they ignore admin tasks even when we initiated the task.  In fact, their job is to remove excuses for two companies making the deal– like a romantic match maker, we expect them to cheat a bit and violate some rules (on both buyer and seller side) for the greater good of the new couple (two companies entering into business together).  Any salesperson who sends the report when first requested is likely too focused on looking active and too focused on following the rules set by his employer and the company’s purchasing.

Step2 (Friday).  You see more of the same, but with more empathy and personal connection.  Still, a solid focus away from administrative tasks.  Hopefully he is still working through customers.

Step 3(next Monday 9:00) Here we see another indication of a good salesperson– they don’t hurt people.  Joe is sensitive to my personal position in the company– he is just not sensitive to my need for forecasting.  Any salesperson that could ignore the 3rd plea is unlikely to have the necessary sensitivity to work through complex emotions.  However, even this “management victory” is limited to just enough to not get me hurt.

A few tips when managing ‘real salespeople’:

1. Minimize the administrative activity (obviously)

2. Make sure your needs have a benefit for them.  Eg. paid commission faster if the deal details were in the CRM

3. Justify your needs through personal rather than process based explanations.

4. Results roughly correlate to talent, energy, and using best sales practices.  You can tell them how to do something or what result you want, but not both.


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