SYNOPSIS: By common
personal example, author relates the problem with a manager having
to continually motivate sales people and solve their problems
for them. Also, an alternative is offered to the reader. 740
Here's a common management experience. I used to have a salesperson
who would come into my office in the morning and sit down looking
"Bob, what's wrong?" I'd ask.
"I dunno," was the answer.
I'd probe, get a little information, probe further still. What
he was going through happens to everyone who ever sold for a
living. He'd get tired, lose motivation, lose perspective and
incentive. Every sales manager has had the experience of dealing
with the fall out. We'd talk about what was wrong, why sales
were down for him, what could be different and how he could effect
that change. I'd work on him, talk about the challenges of sales,
about how important the contribution was that people like him
made to the company. Without sales, there's nothing to administrate
nothing to account, nothing to manufacture, develop, ship, service
or train. Without sales beyond the average, there was no growth,
no move to bigger facilities, no corner offices, no extended
vacation plans like the UPS drivers get.
Thirty minutes later he would walk out of my office with a spring
in his step. Bob saw his place in the company and the industry.
He could work with a vision, seeing each call as another stepping
stone to the bigger plans we all had for tomorrow. And I felt
good because I had just made a difference. Isn't that a sales
The next morning, he was back in my office, dejected. "What's
wrong?" I asked. "I dunno," came the answer.
So I'd start all over again. Couple of lefts, a few rights. I'd
roundhouse him with his importance in the company. I'd uppercut
him with his value to our customers. Like warriors sitting around
a campfire, I'd quick-jab him with a re-telling of his recent
successes. With a big punch to his chin, I'd send him back to
the phones with a solid commitment to make a difference in the
world. Then I'd get a cup of coffee because I needed a pick-me-up
after pouring all my energy into him. He left full but left me
Next morning: "Bob, what's wrong?" This has got to
Three, four times a week this went on. By spring, the best I
had done was to get our thirty-minute routine down to twenty
but the problem never got solved. I was doing patchwork. This
was just rubbing a bar of soap around the grinding edges to ease
The problem wasn't mine. I was just taking responsibility for
his responsibility! Bob was upward-delegating his problems to
me. "Boss, I'm not feeling so good. What are you going to
do about it?" - and I'd start jumping through the hoops
like a little circus dog on the Ed Sullivan Show. The real problem
was that I had taught him to expect it.
Finally I learned to say things like "Bob, you need some
fresh air. Get out of here. You've got five minutes to walk down
to Mission Blvd and back. Don't come back in here without a better
attitude. Take a walk and decide what you're going to do differently."
There's a magical, invigorating effect to a walk, getting all
that oxygen to the right brain cells. Later, I would tell him
I didn't want to hear about what he was going to change. "Just
do it. After you're done, let me know how it worked out."
Certainly, it's better to put salespeople into a position of
learning to solve their own problems. It makes them stronger,
more independent and self-reliant. Managers no long need to be
chained to their desks in case a crisis breaks. The stronger
people are, the bigger they think. Mere contacts become steps
toward full marketing plans. Single clients become elements of
a client base. A client base becomes a team moving together toward
a common cause with a common sense of direction. Any client who
doesn't fit on that team should probably be traded away least
they hold this team back!
The answer to "Bob, what's wrong?" was Bob. And me.
By solving his problems for him, I had prevented a grown man
from growing up professionally and discovering what he could