One of the least enjoyable aspects of sales management is the need to have difficult conversations. If you’re not able to find the right words to use in these conversations, you may be asking if your employees hear what you are saying. If employees don’t change the behavior you address in your conversations, you’ll need to change your approach.
Why Managers Avoid Tough Conversations
Some sales managers shine when praising team members and helping them with difficult clients. But when it’s time to talk with a rep about unacceptable behavior or poor performance, otherwise great managers find reasons to delay the conversation. Their reticence is often all about wanting to be liked. If that’s what is holding you back, get over it. Your job is to help your reps achieve greatness and to maintain a supportive culture. When one individual engages in negative behavior, like dissing the folks in the customer service department, they’re bringing down the whole team.
You may also hesitate to engage in a challenging conversation because the team member has emotional outbursts regularly. Be mindful of that tendency. In these cases, ask questions. Their answers will help you understand their mindset at that moment. Then you’ll be able to guide the conversation toward your goal: changing their behavior.
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to speak with the rep who needs to hear some tough talk. Set a deadline to schedule a chat. Review what you plan to say and stay positive during the conversation.
Some managers believe they are getting their message across to the rep. Whether it’s the need to make more sales calls or to stop arguing with a co-worker, your rep may not understand what you’re saying. To ensure that they get the point of the conversation, “Ask them to repeat their understanding of what you’ve shared,” suggests Joel Garfinkle. Listen to their words and the inflection in their voice. If they haven’t heard you correctly, restate your message.
The Right Words
Using the right words can make an impact. In her analysis of power words, Judith Humphrey emphasizes the danger of peppering your phrases with ‘think.’ This weak word doesn’t communicate confidence. Instead, use a phrase like, “I’m confident you can manage your time efficiently in order to make five more customer contacts every day.”
Your team members may also be subconsciously blocking your message because they feel threatened. Throughout your conversation, keep your tone upbeat and focus on the desired end result. Frame that result in the context of improving the situation for everyone in the department. If your rep has been putting off a tough negotiating session, give them the necessary pep talk. But stay away from using a phrase like, “I hope you can close the deal by the end of the week.” Hope, says Humphrey, is another weak word. Get in the habit of say something like, “I know you will do your best to close this deal.” That phrase indicates your confidence in the rep’s ability to get the job done.
Do Your Employees Hear What You Are Saying?
Nobody looks forward to having difficult conversations. But you must have them to improve employees' performance and to maintain work culture. When you stay positive and use the right words, you have a better chance of resolving the problem. And you’ll likely only need to have the conversation once.