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Squirrel Spotting: 10 Things Not To Do To Your Salespeople

ColumnistsSep 08, 2020

Squirrel Spotting: 10 Things Not To Do To Your Salespeople

From not micro-managing to not making them managers, Peter Smith lists 10 things retailers should avoid if they want to hold onto their top salespeople.

Peter Smith is president of Memoire and Hearts On Fire. He is author of two books, “Hiring Squirrels,” and “Sell Something.” Connect with Smith on LinkedIn or at dublinsmith@yahoo.com.
I’ve written plenty about how to hire and manage salespeople.

So I thought it might be interesting to compile a list of what not to do when it comes to them.

Here’s a list of 10. Let me know if you have any suggestions to add; you can email them to me or leave them in the comments below.

1) Don’t Subject Them to an Up System
Your most talented salespeople should spend as much time as possible in front of customers.

Forcing them to take a number while less capable salespeople engage customers is frustrating for them and bad for business.

They give your company the best opportunity to make sales, and they give your customers the best opportunity to have a great experience.

2) Don’t Deny Them a Meritocracy
No matter what plan you use for compensation—base, commission, bonuses, etc.—make sure your best salespeople make the most money.

Compensation plans designed to create a level playing field (i.e., we don’t pay commission but we all share the rewards equally), however well intentioned, miss the point entirely. It’s a great way to lose top salespeople.

3) Don’t Load Them Up With Non-Selling Duties
Great salespeople should be in front of customers at every opportunity. Activities and tasks that remove them from your customers will cost you money.

It’s called lost business. Hire non-salespeople to do non-selling tasks and let salespeople sell, as that’s what drives business forward.

4) Don’t Inflict a Bad Manager on Them
Clichés are clichés for a reason. Good people don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers.

If you inflict a bad manager on a good sales team, you’re telling them you don’t really care about their welfare, their productivity or their job satisfaction.

5) Don’t Try To Change Them
Nobody is perfect and top salespeople are no different. They are, however, perfectly suited to sales and that’s what they should be celebrated for. Don’t waste time trying to fix their non-selling imperfections.

6) Don’t Paint Your Whole Team With the Same Brush
There is nothing more demotivating to top salespeople than a well-intentioned but misguided manager criticizing the entire team for under-performance.

You are, in effect, telling the best performers they are responsible not just for their own results, but for those of less capable coworkers that you hired.

7) Don’t Burn Them Out 
Even top performers need to switch off every now 
and again. They put tremendous pressure on themselves to perform, but they need a break every so often to avoid burnout.

That could be, for example, an occasional late-morning start, or a paid half day when they least expect it.

8) Don’t Micro-Manage Them
Good salespeople wake up motivated. They spend most of their time engaged in behaviors designed to make sales, and they spend most of their waking hours thinking about your customers.

Let them do what they do best and don’t try to micro-manage them.

9) Don’t Make Them a Manager
It is a rare case where salespeople step easily into a manager’s position.

The very ego that is necessary for their sales success often drives them in that direction, but they are fundamentally different roles. When making this change, you’ll more than likely be losing a top salesperson and gaining a poor manager.

10) Don’t Offer False Praise 
One of the greatest traits of top salespeople is their empathy—their ability to read people and situations. They see through false praise and inauthenticity as quickly as anyone on your team. 

Keep it real. 

Great salespeople are precious cargo and they should treated as such. 

They make up about 17 percent of all salespeople and the really good ones, what I describe as hybrids, account for about 4 percent of all salespeople. 

If you’ve got any, handle them with care.
Peter Smithis an industry consultant, speaker, and sales trainer, and author of three books, “Hiring Squirrels,” “Sell Something,” and “The Sales Minute.”

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