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Jeff Schmidt

Got A Minute?


Sarah was a great seller, probably the best Ive ever worked with. Not a week went by that Sarah didnt show up at my door with a gentle tap and say, Got a minute? If I said yes Sarah would come in, take a seat and we would have a 30-minute meeting. The topics ranged from rate negotiations with a client to developing clients strategic direction. A got-a-minute meeting never lasted just a minute. That is until I became a better manager.

Add up how many got-a-minute meetings you have in a week. My guess is you invest more than a few hours in got-a-minute meetings. As a manager, nothing is more important than investing time in the growth and development of your sellers. The challenge is, you have to do it properly or youll never have time to do anything else.

When I was an inexperienced manager, I used to love got-a-minute meetings. The sellers needed me and valued my input in their process. How cool is that? So of course I would put on the superman cape, save the day, and answer each and every question posed to me in a got-a-minute meeting.

Then Chris Lytle told me I was being an ineffective manager. Not only was I constantly being distracted, I was teaching the sellers only that I knew how to sell. As I became a more experienced manager, I learned a priceless principle.

My role was not to show the sellers that I knew how to sell. My role was to help them discover that they knew how to sell.

Holly Green wrote an excellent article in Forbes magazine. Here is how she describes the differences between a manager and a coach:

"Managing involves a more directive, task-oriented style that should only be used under certain conditions. It usually produces the best results in a crisis situation, when someone has never done the task before, or when they have little or no confidence in their ability to get it done.

"Coaching works best for developmental purposes, especially when you have a team of competent professionals already performing at a reasonably high level. Once you define winning for your organization, team members may need your guidance and support. But in most cases they shouldnt need direction."

As a sales manager, you have to be both manager and coach. They key is to know what role you should be playing and when. One of the simple things I learned about got-a-minute meetings is to say no. When a seller came to my door and asked if I had a minute, I smiled and said, Im sorry I dont right now, but can you come back at 3? Eight out of 10 times, at 3 oclock the salesperson had already solved the problem she came to you to fix. Meaning, you helped her begin the process of discovery by finding out she can solve her own problems.

In Chris Lytles book The Accidental Sales Manager, he points out the difference between training and coaching:  "You can do one-on-one training or one-on-one coaching. You can solve problems for your salespeople or you can coach them to come up with their own solutions."

Chris Lytles coaching rule is: When a seller presents you with a problem, ask her a minimum of seven questions before giving her an answer. She will come up with her own solution and own it. 

As a new sales manager, youre caught in what we call the paradox of sales management. You get paid for doing less of what you got promoted for doing more of. Your role changes from being super seller to developing super sellers.

Instead of got-a-minute meetings, Sarah and I scheduled regular meetings. This saved us both time. Our relationship grew from a manager that solved her problems to a partner/coach that collaborated with her on more significant issues. Sarah became much better at solving the simple problems, and left the complex issues for our collaboration meetings. Sarah was always our top biller over a million dollars in sales each year in market #134.

If youre interested in learning more tools like this, consider signing up for The Radio Sales Success Expander. We have two more live sessions left. The first two sessions are available for on-demand viewing.

Please take two minutes and go here to learn more. Wed love to have you on the next session.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and Partner with Chris Lytle at Sparque, Inc. You can reach Jeff at:
Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

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