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Manage like a sales pro

Borrow sales techniques to lead your team

by on
in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

You’re a manager, not a salesperson. But that shouldn’t stop you from applying tricks of the sales trade to sharpen your management style.

Star salespeople must organize their pitch, communicate it enthusiastically and anticipate objections. Similarly, the best managers must map out their instructions, speak dynamically and prepare to handle their employees’ complaints and fears.

Here’s how to incorporate sales skills to your full advantage:

Listen before you lecture. If you want to educate employees, watch your timing. If you jump right in with do-thisdo- that lecturing, you may not have a captive audience. But if you stoke their curiosity with questions—and then guide them to search for answers—you can increase their retention. In sales, this is akin to identifying a prospect’s need.

For example, rather than rush to explain a complex accounting procedure, begin by asking, “How can we protect ourselves from delinquent accounts?”

Confirm an agreement. Just as successful salespeople must “ask for the order,” strong managers must tie down employees and get specific commitments from them. Vague directions or indirect hints won’t suffice.

This is especially important when you’re disciplining a worker. Rather than just harping on the problem, you must agree on clear, measurable terms for a solution. Describe acceptable behavior in detail and ask, “Will you commit to performing at this level?”

Plan for resistance. Salespeople can often predict what objections they’ll hear; managers can usually guess what excuses their employees will give. Don’t let these complaints take you by surprise. Consider your workers’ likes and dislikes before you try to persuade them to do something.

Make “cold calls.” Hungry salespeople don’t just wait for customers to walk in the door; they constantly seek new business. Similarly, managers should initiate contact with their far-flung employees to stay informed, rather than sit in an office and expect workers to provide progress reports.

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