Written by Hamish Knox; President of Sandler in Calgary, Canada
Creating accountable, sales focused organizations in Calgary
Salespeople play games with their managers to get their emotional needs met. They may not even realize they’re playing a game or the underlying cause of the game, but the end result is both they and their manager burn mental and emotional energy on playing the game that could have been used on productive activities.
There are a plethora of psychological games salespeople can play with their managers. Below are four that come up regularly in coaching conversations with the leaders I work with who are frustrated with their salespeople.
- If only – if only I had a better list, better comp plan, better prospects, better products
- If it weren’t for – the time of year, the upgrade taking so long, the economy, our competitors
- Why don’t you, yes but – manager makes a suggestion and salesperson counters with a “but” why that won’t work
- Cops and robbers – salesperson ducks accountability until they want to be “caught” then offer excuses and guilt you into absolving their bad behavior
Awareness that a game is being played on you happens first at a sub-conscious level. Afterward you’d say that “something didn’t feel right” or “your Spidey sense was tingling” or “your gut said something didn’t make sense.” When you get those feelings stop and listen because you may be able to end the game before it goes to far.
Let’s pretend a salesperson asks to meet with their manager to “discuss my compensation.” The real issue is this salesperson has been slightly under performing (80-90% of target over the past quarter) and feels like they’re letting themselves and their company down.
In the meeting their manager can avoid the game by restating (instead of paraphasing) what their salesperson says because a) Sandler Rule – they can’t argue with their own data and b) humans tend not to hear what they say the first time it comes out of their mouth. (e.g. salesperson says, “I feel like I’m underpaid for my role.” Manager says,” you feel underpaid. Tell me more.”)
This salesperson’s manager also avoids being sucked into the game because their mindset is “leadership isn’t a place to get your emotional needs met” so when they ask their salesperson a question it comes across as genuinely seeking information instead of setting a “gotcha” trap.
If this salesperson is stubbornly continuing with their attempts to play a game with their manager, their manager could say, “if you were me, what would you do?” This isn’t a magic bullet that will get this salesperson to end their game, but it sets an end game in motion because their manager will use this salesperson’s response (e.g. “so if you were me and I was asking for a raise despite being under target for the quarter you’d approve it?” “How would you justify that to the VP?”) to bring about a moment of self-realization for their salesperson.
By staying emotionally unattached an reversing back their salesperson’s data onto them their manager stays out of the game and gives their salesperson an opportunity to end the game saving their rapport and negative impacts on this salesperson’s motivation.
Until next time…. go lead.