Why Your Dog Stopped Barking (A Note to the Sales Manager)

I am the proud of father of twin girls. Being part of a big family, I wanted to keep the twins together in school, so they could look after each other, like my brothers and sisters and I did when we were children.

My plan was working well (or so I thought), until I went to their kindergarten parent’s day. During parent’s day, the kids all show off all that they have learned. Their teachers ask questions, and the children proudly blurt out the answers. But in the case of my twins, something went horribly wrong.

The older twin, to whom every task comes easy, was responding with the right answers to every question. But when the younger twin, who had not yet come out of her shell (a shell I have failed to squeeze her back into), was asked a question, she looked to her sister and waited for her sister to give her the answer.

It was clear that she was so used to her older sister answering the questions for her, that he she had come to rely completely upon her. We separated them immediately.

The Sales Manager’s Role

In sales management, we say: “Don’t buy a dog and bark yourself.” It isn’t a derogatory remark about the role of the salesperson. The reason?

If you do all the barking, your dog will never bark when it needs to.

The role of the sales manager is to achieve results through your sales force. It is not to be the super-closer. Even though the sales manager’s role includes accompanying their salespeople on sales calls, in all but a few exceptional cases, the sales manager is not there make the sales call.

It is extraordinarily difficult to learn to not take over the sales call, especially when you have just moved from sales to sales management.

You know what needs to be done. You were good at it (damn good at it!). You can make the sale. You need the win. Your sales rep needs the win. The client needs you to win.

But if you take over every sales call, your long-term potential for success will suffer. You will never see how your salespeople perform, and, because this is true, you will never know how best to coach your salespeople and on what. You will not have any reliable way to gauge their effectiveness at achieving the outcomes that you need them to achieve and that are captured in your sales process.

Over time, if you make enough calls with your salespeople, they will come to depend on you to make the difficult sales calls, and you will come to depend on them for the opportunity to feel as if you are making a contribution. But this isn’t the contribution you were hired to make.

If you buy a dog and bark yourself, your dog will never bark.

There Are Exceptions to the Rule

If you have a must win dream client opportunity, you may need to lead or participate on the sales call. If it is a particularly difficult sales call to make, and one for which your salespeople are unprepared, you may need to participate or lead the call. If it is a huge prospective dream client and you are in the boardroom with a well-defined role that you will be limited to playing, you may need to participate in the sales call.

If you believe these things to be true more often than it isn’t, you are doing a lot of barking.

Exceptions are not the rule; they’re exceptions.

Learn Together

If you want your salespeople to learn, then you have to let them make mistakes. If you want to learn what they do during sales calls when you are not present, you need to watch them do it. If you want to see what they do when you aren’t there to do it for them—and you won’t always be there to do it for them—then you have to let them run their own sales call.

Doing something for someone isn’t coaching. Can you imagine a professional athlete watching while their coach runs the plays for them again and again and again? Of course you can’t. The coach is the observer. It is his job to know and understand what he is observing so that he can coach and train his player, improving their individual performance and his team’s performance.

Now you know why your dog stopped barking. And you know what to do about it.

Questions

  1. Are you doing all of the barking?

  2. What is the role of the sales manager? What part does a sales manager need to play on a sales call?

  3. How do you separate the outcomes that you need to achieve when you accompany your salespeople on sales call? How do you ensure that you get to evaluate and assess their performance on sales calls so that you can coach, train, and develop your salespeople? How do you contribute on must-win sales calls?

  4. What do great coaches do for their players? How do they do what they do for their players?

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