This is the last in our series this month about connecting in the workplace. In our previous posts, we examined how to make the most of sales meetings, ways to improve interactions with support team members, how to focus your individual and team efforts externally instead of competing internally, and the importance of managing up instead of kissing up.
In this post will be tackling some of the questions that come to us on CONNECT! Online Radio for Selling Professionals. These questions from listeners illustrate common subjects sellers grapple with as they position themselves for workplace relationships.
Several of these questions also indicate the significance of time pressures on sellers. In fact, at CONNECT! Online Radio many listener questions pertain to time allocation and how to juggle the many and varied roles and responsibilities for sellers.
Question 1 – My manager expects me to train new sales reps. Why should I have to spend my time doing that?
There are really two parts to this question. First, is the business case. That would be a good conversation to have with your sales manager. Open with exploring the benefits to the company when veteran reps like you mentor and train the newer team members. In sales, it’s not uncommon to see models like this. The prevailing thought maybe that classroom training doesn’t give the same level of practical application and accelerated ability that live demonstrations will provide.
The second part of the question is why should you invest your time and take away from other selling activities to support someone new when it may, in fact, compete with you for resources and attention.
There are many good reasons for you to position yourself as a mentor and leader in this way. If you have future plans to move up in the organization, this is one of the best ways you can demonstrate your capability to motivate and train others. Even in your current role, becoming a trainer hones your own abilities and pushes you to better understand the choices you make and the techniques that work best. And then there’s the benefit of positioning yourself with buyers. When you are accompanied by a newbie, it immediately conveys the faith your company has in you and your more senior-level experience. This can transfer into a higher degree of trust and confidence from your buyers.
Question 2– My manager sets goals based on what we report in our pipelines. To keep my goals more manageable, I don’t feel I should report what’s speculative. What do you think?
I’m treating this as a workplace relationship question because, first and foremost, that’s what it comes down to. Your trustworthiness is partly measured by accurate reporting. If you sandbag your projections or fail to represent all you are working on, your manager and others may become suspicious of your intentions. This can seriously damage your relationships and even your career.
Try to understand this from your manager’s perspective. Managers also make forecasts, and they base those on what they hear from individual sellers on their team. If you do not make accurate projections, you put your manager in the awkward position of being unable to provide the information expected on up the line. This can have business consequences. Companies cut expenses, for example, based on low sales projections. The impact is much further reaching than you may imagine.
If you feel the goalsetting process is unfair, talk to your manager. Build your business acumen to understand the methodology behind how goals are set. With that deeper level understanding, you will have more insight regarding how to create your own forecasts. You will be better able to meet the company’s needs as well as preparing a forecast that enables fair goalsetting for you, too.
Question 3– Should I socialize with my coworkers?
It surprises me how often we get this question. When it is asked by members of the sales team who are peers with other sellers the answer is “definitely yes!” Who else understands your day to day pressures and can offer better ideas about how to navigate the internal politics and pressures?
However, when this question is asked by a sales manager, the answer is a bit more measured. Socializing with your direct reports can help or hurt depending on the level of socialization and your intentions. As a general rule, be selective about how frequently you interact. Be sure you are choosing social settings where all members of the team are present. Avoid creating the perception of favoritism by socializing with some team members more often than others. And be sure to give members of the team time without you. After all, they might want to talk about you and you have to be okay with that.
Question 4 – My company pays a bonus for anyone who recruits new employees. But what if the people I recruit get fired or cause problems?
Recruitment bonuses are inefficient way for companies to tap into their employees’ networks. Although you may be paid a bonus, you do want to take precautions when you make recommendations. You are correct in realizing that the people you bring in are are a reflection of you.
Be sure to consider what makes a seller successful in your organization. Evaluate those you might make referrals for based on how well they fit these criteria.
When you make the referral, start with your manager and be honest about any concerns you have that ought to be probed in the interview process. Then, step back and have a little faith. Your manager and others who make hiring decisions now have the obligation to make a good choice.
Just be sure you set it up this way. Do not over promise your friends that you can get them in the door. Likewise, do not over-promise or over-sell the capabilities of your referral. Keep it balanced. Then you can make a clean hand-off and know you’ve done what this bonus program intends. You’ve made a solid introduction.
Question 5 – How should I handle meetings between my customers and people inside my company?
Just be sure that every introduction you make is purposeful. Be clear about the roles and responsibilities each internal partner will have for your customer. Also be sure that you remain the point person, the one your customer can always come back to if there are any issues to talk about. Ideally, there will be a similar dynamic in your customers’ business with introductions made beyond the buyer you are most connected to. Strong relationships with multiple connections leads to higher levels of customer retention.
Don’t be afraid to make these introductions and to share the relationships. After all, you are only one person and you have limited time and bandwidth. You serve your company, your customer and your self better when you branch out the connections.
As a general rule, when it comes to relationships in the workplace, just treat others the way you would like to be treated. Respect has not gone out of style. Be open, trustworthy and team oriented and you will succeed in navigating through any relationship.