Spend long enough climbing the sales career path, and you’ll meet all types of bosses.
On one end of the spectrum, you have the legendary nightmare bosses who fire their bottom 90% of sales people every year, forcing employees to exist in a perpetual Hunger Games-style competition for their career. On the other hand, you have the softies, the kindly bosses who seem to want to be everyone’s friend rather than their boss, and who couldn’t fire someone if their life depended on it.
One extreme isn’t necessarily better or worse than the other. Sometimes I hear sales managers ask whether they should be kinder or more ruthless. There’s no easy answer; the truth is not black and white. Ultimately, you have to strike a balance, and apply your judgement to every unique situation that comes up, rather than living by some vague and overly simplistic maxim like, “You catch more flies with honey!” or “I’m not here to make friends, I’m here to play the game and win!” Well, sometimes you do catch more flies with honey, and what’s wrong with having friends, anyway? Friends are great!
Such sloganism is rife among certain members of the sales intelligentsia. But good advice rarely reduces down to bumper sticker-size advice. Unfortunately, even top sales blogs are filled with this kind of trite, simplistic advice. So how do you walk the middle road as a manager? How do you know if you’re being too cruel or too kind?
First, one of the most important things you can do as a manager is give the employees in your best sales jobs feedback and criticism. But if all you do is criticize all the time, then eventually your team will start filtering out all your feedback. They’ll think, “There they go again…” and nod until you stop talking. Then, at the end of the day, they’ll go home and complain about you to their friends. However, if you give criticism sparingly, only when it’s needed, your employees are far more likely to take it to heart. And rather than ignoring or complaining, they’ll feel guilty for letting you down, and work harder to make it right.
At the same time, you won’t be able to attract top talent to your best sales jobs if you have a terrible work environment with high turnover. You won’t be able to keep your top sellers in the first place. By fostering a friendly, professional workplace, you can help attract more skilled workers to your team. At the same time, being friendly doesn’t mean being a pushover. If an employee isn’t performing as needed, and if they aren’t showing improvement, then you need the ability to call them into your office and fire them. If you don’t have the hear to fire the weakest link on your team, no matter how much you like them, then you aren’t cut out to be the boss.
Ultimately, the people who get the best sales jobs know when to be cruel, when to be kind, and how to know the difference.