Ep 46: New Sales Leadership Shouldn’t Cost You Sales People

BuzzSprout Audio

“You could be the best apply stand in town. People could come to you because you’ve got the best apples in the world, and you’ve got this tremendous business. And then, a customer comes to you and says “I like some oranges.” and then, for whatever reason, you say “alright, I can do that, I can do some oranges. And then you do that, and all of a sudden, what happens? Now you’re just another fruit stand.” – Taylor Barnes



Josh Sweeney: Hi, I’m Josh Sweeney, joined by Taylor Barnes. Taylor, how are you today?

Taylor Barnes: I’m doing well, Captain, my Captain.

Challenge Illustration

Taylor Barnes: Speaking of Captain, my Captain, I sort of get lost in my own metaphors here, Josh, sometimes —

Josh Sweeney: That’s a good one.

Taylor Barnes: — bear with me. Captains, yeah. So, does your captain change? Does your general change? Have you ever had a change at the helm as a sales leader, as a sales manager? Has your boss changed or your manager changed? Well, then you know a lot of times how salespeople feel and the idea is how do we not lose people during times of change?


Challenge Follow up ( I too have been through this… )

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, so, I mean, that’s a good question, and, you know, how do we do it so eloquently and poetically as a captain?

Taylor Barnes: That’s right.


The leaders challenge/purpose

Josh Sweeney: So, what are the reasons this happens? So, the first reason, you know, we lose people during times of change is a new manager style. You know, we’ll bring in a new manager, there’s a changeover, and that style is completely different than the style of the last manager and that just creates all kinds of work for a sales rep. It creates uncertainty. Maybe they don’t, you know, they don’t jive, right? Just the attitudes and things that they’re used to. They don’t want to deal with it, with the new manager. So, just changing over in the management style is going to have a big impact and if you don’t know what I mean by manager style, you know, go take a look at one of our old podcasts on the five types of managers because, you know, if you’re looking at making that change, if one of ’em is going from one type to another type, you can bet that it’s going to cause some challenges in your organization. What are some other things you see, Taylor?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, you nailed it, Josh. The new manager style is one of the biggest. I mean, it’s as simple as, “I had a manager that was very low touch and now I have a manager that calls me every day to ask what’s going on.” Just that kind of change is a massive “disruption.” Whether it’s for good reasons or bad reasons or bigger strategy or no strategy, it’s a change and change is painful, especially at the salesperson level who, most likely, all they want to do is get on the road, get in front of customers, and not have too much change in the backend. They just want to go, go, go, right? You know, another reason that I see a lot is perception here. So, let me give you an example. If there was a change at the helm and potentially someone in your group is promoted to sales manager and that used to be a peer, potentially, and now that is a superior. That could be Josh perceived negatively. You know, not necessarily a demotion but it could be perceived just a little bit negatively if what was once a peer is now a boss. That’s one possibility but, in general, the perceived demotion is kind of what a lot of salespeople feel once there’s a change at the helm. You know, maybe my group’s not performing well enough so they have to make a change. I’m not performing well enough, that’s why they’re making a change. Whatever the reason for the change, you know, that kind of is what it is, but the perception from a salesperson’s point of view could possibly be negative and that’s why that would relate to somebody losing a salesperson potentially during times of change.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely. I mean, I know I went through this early in my career, kind of learned this lesson where, you know, it wasn’t in sales, it was in another role and there were people that were already in the organization, I was hired and came in, and then, within about 90 days, I was promoted to a team lead and a number of other people apparently thought they should have gotten that role and they were better and they were there longer and whatever other, you know, reasons that they wanted that role and, you know, those were the people I went to lunch with until I became team lead and then, all of a sudden, I had to find a new group to go to lunch with, you know? It’s like wow, I never knew that, you know? Kind of a life lesson, so, you know, I think — like you said, when it comes to promoting somebody from within, you know, there’s always going to be some sort of challenge, you know, that person — they used to go to lunch with that person, they used to do different, you know, interact in different ways and now that’s the same.

Taylor Barnes: You know, I’m laughing to myself right now because I’m remembering an episode from Friends when Chandler from Friends had the exact same thing happen. He became the boss and he would walk on the water cooler and say, “Hey, guys, what’s going on?” and they would say, “Nothing. Not much. Sir.” He says, “Why are you calling me sir?” and they were like, “’Cause you’re Boss Man Bing now. You’re Boss Man Bing. Chandler Bing.” That just made me laugh thinking about —

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. It’s, you know, a different air up there, right? Like it’s a —

Taylor Barnes: It is.

Josh Sweeney: — it’s a lonely place. It can be a lonely place.

Taylor Barnes: It is. It’s a lonely place. Well, that’s what management is, man. It’s more responsibility, less pay. I mean, guys and girls, if you haven’t learned that by now, you will soon learn that. And speaking of which, I think another reason why that happens a lot, Josh, just at a human to human level, a lot of people like their boss. A lot of people like being around him or her and a change just in general just doesn’t sit well. I mean, gosh, this happens in sports all the time. This happens in corporate enterprise all the time. You love your manager, you want to fight for your manager, you know, they’re a mentor, not just a boss, whatever the situation is, they’re a friend, not just a boss, and when there’s a change, well, you lose — you don’t necessarily lose a friend but you lose somebody that you’re really, you know, compassionate about, really close to the vest, and so I think just generally speaking, if they like their previous manager and they’re concerned about the unknown, “No one’s going to be able to fill the shoes of this guy or girl that I used to work for, that I just loved and admired and respected so I’m going to leave.” That’s another reason I think why people maybe don’t leave but they really consider it during that kind of change, you know what I mean?

Josh Sweeney: Yeah. Oh, totally. I mean, I had a similar situation, even though it’s not story time with Josh today, but, you know, I had somebody that early in a previous business that I had, it was one of our early salespeople and so they reported directly to me and then we added a few people and I was like, okay, this is too much, I need a sales manager. I’m the founder and owner of the company, I got all these things I need to be doing so I need a manager to manage this team and so, you know, we posted the job and this person came up to me and they’re like, “So, what’s gonna happen with my role?” Like, what do you mean what’s gonna happen to your role? Like your role’s not changing, you know? And I said, “You said to me you wanted to be an enterprise sales rep and you didn’t wanna be a manager. Is that still true?” ’Cause, you know, I want to make sure he didn’t want the role. “Yeah, that’s still true, but I don’t wanna report to somebody else.” I was like, “Huh?” I didn’t really think of that. Like I didn’t think that would be an issue, you know? So, yeah, there are different just nuances like you said with human behavior.

Taylor Barnes: Absolutely, yeah.



Taylor Barnes: So when we start talking about some of the, you know, the solutions relating to this, you brought up a good one, that you said that you posted it out there in that example and then you didn’t try to hide it, I guess, is what I’m saying. So, a lot of times, when there’s a change needed like that and an opportunity to promote from within, if that’s possible, great, then maybe that’s a really good solution to making sure that your folks stay in place and, you know, that they’re happy or potentially supporting of the change but a lot of this just comes down to communication, Josh. You have to be able to communicate as a sales leader why a change is taking place and, you know, the when is the natural substitute — not substitute but another, you know, add of that, when this is happening, but here’s why this is happening. You mentioned, look, we are growing, I’m the founder, I need to make sure that I look at the strategic vision of our organization and make sure that we’re going in the right direction. I need someone else to make sure that the business development efforts stay firm, the go-to-market strategy holds the line, and that, you know, that we’re basically making sure that all opportunity management is handled, so that’s why I am hiring somebody because I need to go do all this. And if you communicate that properly and effectively, then you should be able to gain support for the change.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, definitely, and I think, you know, that kind of leads into another thing of like communicating it once isn’t communication, right? We —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, well said.

Josh Sweeney: — all probably know that as sales managers like, “Well, I told them that.” Yeah, well, you know, until you’re blue in the face, they might not have heard it, so, you know, some other solutions around communication is to be ready with the management —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — the questions that are going to come to management about that change, especially major changes, right? It’s one thing for one or another people but, you know, major changes at the helm, higher up and, you know, changes that roll down, you know, there’s all kinds of options there. So, I mean, we can do an FAQ. You know, before we make the change, we can think about what kind of questions we’re going to get. Everybody on the team can know, you know, on the management team can know what the answers are, how they’re going to address it, ’cause you’re probably going to have questions outside the sales team too. You know, that manager may have had relationships with the marketing manager, the delivery manager. You know, those teams are going to have questions. You know, you have live management chats so, you know, you could do a session where you have live feedback and let everybody — give everybody a chance to explain their challenges. I think you brought up, you know, during our brainstorm on this, the war room. Tell us a little bit about the war room.

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, so, if anybody needs to hear that again, well, I’m going to tell you whether you need to hear it or not. So, I will say this to all sales leaders out there and I could not be in more of agreement with this statement. You must be ready for questions about the change. You can rest assured that everybody, from sales to sales support to inside sales, what have you, is going to ask questions, and many of them will be the same. So, when you start talking about, you know, this to your other executive leaders or your partnership group or other heads of departments and you’re gaining their support, most of the time, I will say, you know, in small businesses this might not apply, but a leadership group is typically in the know before, you know, potentially some sales folks are in the know. That’s just basic management, right? So, you have to be able to hold a united front, a united message on why this change is happening, because I’ve seen this, Josh. I’ve seen one leader say one thing about why we did this, another leader say something else, and then you know what happens with those sales folks, they start gossiping, “Oh, I heard this is the reason,” “Well, I heard that’s the reason,” and whether you want to think that’s happening or not, trust me, men and women, it’s happening. So it’s so, so, so important that you are ready for those questions, that you have a united front in terms of a lot of the answers. FAQs, I think, are a great idea, live management chat during the sessions. The war room is a big one that we do a lot of times where we, you know, we will literally sit there, invite everybody up to just barrel us with questions, live, and that gives them the kind of — the comfort of talking to us as humans versus, you know, someone that’s sitting in an office and putting out a memo that says, “Here’s the change. I’ve got plenty of time to rehearse this note out to you. This is the change, this is the why,” or like a recording session or whatever it is. It gives the people the ability to talk to you at a human level on why the change is made and I think that’s a really popular one and a really effective one. We do that, Josh, I don’t want to get off topic here, we do that any time there’s a big change, let alone a change at the helm.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, the war room?

Taylor Barnes: Yeah, the war room status. If there’s a big comp change, if there’s a big directional change, if there’s a pivot — whatever it is, we always want to make sure that everybody has got access to us in the middle of that. Again, it kind of goes back to communication but that, I think, is a tremendous hack to take away from this is have the leadership group united front, be available for questions, and make sure that you don’t hide in your office with a memo because if you do and you remove the kind of human element from it, well, you might be setting yourself up for something that you’re, you know, that’s going to be pretty negative.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, most definitely, and I mean, some of what you’re talking about with the war room and, you know, thinking through the FAQs and what are the questions is really being prepared for pushback. Know —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — that there’s going to be some pushback from certain people, from the organization, and what I like to tell people also is not only know that there’s going to be pushback but get rid of the ego around the pushback —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — with management. So, you know, one of the challenges I see sometimes is like, “Hey, this is the way it is, deal with it,” you know? And it’s like, you know, well, it’s not really the 50s anymore, you know? Like there’s a lot of jobs out there other people can get and so —

Taylor Barnes: Sure is.

Josh Sweeney: — I do get some interesting answers sometimes where it’s like, well, we’re making this change and you just need to deal with it and that may be true, right?

Taylor Barnes: True, yeah.

Josh Sweeney: And that may be true and that may be the way that you address it behind closed doors, you know, but, really, I think we need to be a little more understanding and, you know, this does affect the lives, the personal lives of the people that work for us, right? You need to know, you know, there is something else behind their concern or their fear or something else and if we want them to continue to be impactful salespeople, we have to address those, you know? We have to understand where that pushback is coming from and address it in the right way.

Taylor Barnes: Absolutely. Being ready for personal objections like you just said is absolutely huge, ’cause we as leaders must be empathetic to the people that work for us. We hear about the reverse pyramid, right? Where the CEO is in the bottom and he serves everybody at the top of the pyramid. It’s an upside down kind of a servant leadership model. Well, that’s great if you have that on a fancy little picture but this is a really, really great opportunity to illustrate that. So, if you’re prepared to handle personal objections, remember, these are the people that support us. These are the people that support not just us but have personal lives, support their families, so being empathetic to their questions is not the same as making this an objective topic. The change can be made. The change will be made. That is already set in stone, it’s already in motion. That’s fine. It doesn’t mean that you have to give people the option to object to it with the potential opportunity for a change. All that means is that you are there as a sounding board explaining the why, explaining how this relates to the business and what’s important to you and the organization, but being empathetic and making sure that you know that these people, they have an agenda that’s very important to them and, as leaders, we need to be empathetic to those agendas and make sure that we’re able to handle some of those personal objections. So, a lot of this comes down to prepared, like as you mentioned, Josh. Be prepared for the pushback. Take some time, you know, open it up to, you know, your steering committee or your leadership group to say, “What would be some possible objections here during this change from salespeople? What would be some possible objections from sales support, from people in inside roles and outside roles that have these comp plans or those comp plans?” and if you really prepare for a lot of those, it’s going to make this meeting, whether it’s in a war room or on a one-on-one scenario, it’s going to make this so much easier. Be prepared for the pushback, phenomenal solution to the problem.

Josh Sweeney: Yeah, and I think, you know, all the solutions really roll up to preparation and communication, so —

Taylor Barnes: Yeah.

Josh Sweeney: — you know, preparation, communication, preparation, communication, keep it going.


Final Question

Josh Sweeney: So, what are you doing to ensure the best outcome during sales management changes?

Taylor Barnes: And this has been Purpose-Driven Sales with Barnes and Sweeney. Now, go lead with purpose.

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