“What happens when salespeople begin to think for themselves?”
If you believe you are the best strategic thinker in your organization, then you have a problem. If you tell your people what and where the opportunities are and then nudge, encourage, insist or demand they pursue them, then who owns the idea? You do. When you tell your people how and where to sell, you rob them of the opportunity to think for themselves.
When I asked former GAMA president Bob Baccigalupi, of Genworth Financial, who does the best thinking in his company, he responded, “I do the best thinking in my agency, but that’s a problem. I don’t need to have my agents think like me. I do, however, need to have them think about their job as an agent as a business, not as a job! I need to have them think as frequently and as hard about their business as I do.”
Instead of giving your sales force a detailed road map of where to find opportunity, ask them these questions: “From where you sit, what do you see? What and where are the opportunities you want to pursue? What steps would you take to pursue these opportunities? What would you measure to know if you were successful?”
Notice these are open-ended questions, questions that require thinking. If these probing questions cause people to stop and reflect on what their business is, who they enjoy working with and why, you have just done them and yourself a giant favor.
What happens when salespeople begin to think for themselves? They begin to think about who they know and the issues they are concerned with. They begin to watch and listen to what is happening around them in a new way. They become learners, hungry for information, curious about how they can make a difference.
When salespeople are curious, they also become fearless. They will ask almost any question to anyone. If they learn of an organization that interests them, they will pick up the phone. If they want to meet a particular individual, they will begin to think about who they know that might know that person … and pick up the phone.
If you think about it, your top performers probably already do this. Wouldn’t you like everyone in your firm to do the same? It all starts with encouraging everyone to start thinking about their business as hard as you do!
Want to Get Your Whole Team on the Same Page? Download “The Future of Planning and Performance Management – An Executive Briefing”.