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COUNTERPOINT: No One Wins When the Sales Manager Sits Idly by While a Sales Rep Torches a Prospect

August 19, 2010

The following is a counterpoint by Howard Berman, President BCA Management to the recent post by Mike Ross about sales management.

The wrong thing to do in such situations is nothing. And there is no reason whatsoever not to step in and by doing so to:

  1. Save the sale;
  2. Preserve the prospect;
  3. Develop the sales rep.

When an energetic and informed sales manager sees a sales rep destroying a sale the right thing to do is to step in and to do so promptly. This is also very easy to do. The sales manager can simply say something such as:

“One minute if you please everyone, I have a question”

Having entered the conversation the manager can now get the discussion back on track by:

  • · Getting the prospect’s real need or problem clearly identified;
  • · Asking the prospect for their views on what they have heard so far;
  • · Dealing effectively with whatever comes up.

With this information to hand the manager, in concert with the salesperson, can now complete the discussion to a successful conclusion by:

  • · Demonstrating to the prospect that their specific need or problem has been understood;
  • · Recommending a solution consisting of products, services, or both that are specifically, designed to give the prospect what they need or to solve their particular problem;
  • · Verifying with the prospect that this is indeed a proper, practical, and effective solution.

Compare the above with just sitting there while a poorly trained or misinformed sales rep turns a closable prospect into hamburger. And please remember that a prospect so mistreated is also very unlikely to give your firm a 2nd chance. So does it really make sense to sacrifice a firm’s potential business when there is no logical reason for doing so?

As far as the salespeople are concerned, they will be a lot happier earning a commission on a deal the sales manager saved for them rather than coming away empty handed. And turning to the training aspect of this situation, all the manager needs to do immediately after the appointment is to:

  1. Sit down with the sales rep in a quiet place;
  2. Explain why he intervened;
  3. Indicate exactly what the sales rep was doing wrong and why it was wrong;
  4. Review exactly what actions the sales manager took to intervene and why these specific actions were undertaken;
  5. Make totally certain that the sales rep understands the above and why the actions taken by the manager were the right ones.

When this is done the goals as illustrated above will be achieved namely:

  • · Saving the sale;
  • · Preserving the prospect (and his sanity);
  • · Developing the sales rep.
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jason Iacovelli permalink
    August 20, 2010 1:12 pm

    Well said. While, I agree with Mr. Ross’s general theme of “Just keep swinging the bat.” as sound advice on persistence for all sales reps (or anyone trying to do anything, ever, for any reason), the answer is flawed.
    At some point, the game is over and you don’t get another chance to swing. No playoffs and no title bid = no more team full of strike out artists and no more general manager.
    Finding qualifed opportunities to swing your bat is often an overlooked task and far too difficult to let the World Series slip your finger tips in effort to allow someone to learn.
    I’m all out of baseball analogies. The trained sales rep will have his chances to fail and reflect and learn on days the manager isn’t there. In the meantime, business is business.

  2. Mike Ross permalink
    August 30, 2010 5:20 pm

    Dear Mr. Berman,

    If I was a buyer and the other “manager” jumped into the discussion, I would feel overwhelmed, confused, intimidated, and probably end the meeting, while thinking how these folks better get their act together.

    The only purpose for an observing manager’s silent appearance on the call is to develop the sales rep! Jumping in as the knight in shining armor whose self-perceived role is saving the sale or preserving the prospect is hardly the manager’s responsibility, and to the best of my knowledge, has never appeared in a job description.

    Furthermore, whose fault was it, in the first place, that a “poorly trained or misinformed sales rep” was allowed to talk to a prospect / customer? Is it beginning to look like the sales manager needs a little coaching?

    By the way, my original comments made reference to “manager,” not specifically sales manager. What if the “manager” riding with the rep was the Operations VP, the Chairman of the Board, or a stockholder? Yikes! It’s time for the sales manager to either head for the hills or learn what to do differently.

    No one wins when the Sales Manager sits idly by …
    –not properly accessing whether the sales rep has the talent to conduct a sales call or having allowed him to be hired in the first place,
    –not hearing the rep’s pre-call plans and how those plans turned into objectives for the sales call
    –lacking an understanding of what training is needed
    –how to handle problem sales calls as they unfold, and …
    –not taking full responsibility for sending an incapable company representative out in the field when it’s obvious the rep was not ready.

    Mr. Berman might want to refer to the “Power vs. Power on Joint Calls” blog response on the subject.

    P.S. The job of sales manager may be the toughest job in the company.

  3. Steve Berkson permalink
    September 1, 2010 12:31 am

    Mr. Ross,

    While you are right that the job of sales manager may be the toughest in the company…you seem to be confused about that role. The sales manager must wear many hats and look good wearing them. He must wear a:
    • Management hat
    • Administrator hat
    • Product/service expert hat
    • Corporate culture promoter hat
    • Sales trainer hat
    • Client/Customer care hat
    The sales manager is responsible for all that happens within his sales department. The sales manager is an extension of the company, upper management and/or the owners of the company. The sales reps are extensions of the sales manager. As extensions, their clients/customers are in fact his clients/customers.

    It is absolutely the sales manager’s role and job description to save the sale and preserve the prospect. It is also his role to continually evaluate the sales reps and decide when and if they need more training or a new job.

    As a sales manager I have been on many calls with my sales reps where I needed to step in and “help.” A good sales manager can do this without overwhelming, confusing, intimidating, or making the client/customer feel that “we don’t have our act together.” He can “step in and help” in a way that does not diminish the sales rep in the eyes of the client/customer. If done right they can come across as a great team.


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