If you are reading this then you’re probably guilty. Guilty of undermining your team’s credibility, and you weren’t even aware of your behavior. Many senior sales leaders and managers (in general) undermine the credibility of their teams with one simple tactic. Let me give you an example:
- Sales managers – picture yourself in an important customer meeting. One of your reps is leading the discussion with the customer. Every time your rep answers a customer’s question, you ever so helpfully chime in and add your two cents to everything. Of course, sometimes you need to correct him or add value to the discussion — the rep might not be doing a great job in your eyes, or you can explain what they said in a more eloquent way.
- Sales Reps/Account Executives – how many times have you been in the same important customer meeting with your VP of sales, CRO, or another senior team member. For every question asked by your customer, they jump in after you and add more color. How did this make you feel? Did you feel empowered? Or were you starting to wish they weren’t there?
The bottom line is that when two people answer the same question in a meeting it sends a series of negative subconscious messages to the customer. For one, it reduces the credibility of your sales rep in the eyes of the customer by communicating that they are not properly educated (or qualified to answer the question). It also communicates that the manager is not training their team well, and possibly not hiring great people. This behavior is a one-two punch: it undermines the relationship with the customer and damages your team culture. Now, instead of the sales rep seeing the sales manager as a powerful ally, they are viewed as being an annoying micromanager. If you’re a manager, ask yourself, when was the last time a team member happily invited you to tag along to a meeting?
The job of a senior sales leadership is to empower sales reps to be as effective as possible in the field and to back them up appropriately in important customer meetings. If you are in a meeting and one of your reps is faltering, unless they have said something truly terrible that puts the entire deal at risk, or puts the company at legal or reputational risk, I recommend keeping your mouth shut. Resist the urge to come to the rescue. Let them falter a bit, and then discuss the situation with the rep AFTER The meeting.
Prior to the meeting, the rep and sales manager should agree on the meeting flow, general talking points, and what questions they will each answer. For example, they might agree that the rep will handle the bulk of the meeting and answers all technical questions related to the deal, and the sales manager will handle the introduction, and answer all questions related to the company’s long-term vision. For example, maybe the meeting will go like this:
- Opening: the sales manager paints the big picture, thanks the customer for their business, tells them they are in good hands, and passes the mic to the rep (there’s no actual mic).
- The rep handles the main presentation, Q&A , and objection handling.
- Coach the rep to turn to you and say “would you like to answer that?” if a question arises that is better answered by senior leadership.
- The rep wraps up the discussion and passes the mic back to the sales manager to end the meeting and thank the customer again for their ongoing business.
With this type of flow, everything seems more in sync. The customer walks out of the meeting thinking “wow, these guys really have their %#[email protected] together.” The rep feels like they own the customer relationship, and the sales manager was a phenomenal wingman. Next time you haven’t been invited to a meeting in six months, reminder yourself: it’s not them, it’s you!