Q. I work with a number of people who have little sense of professional treatment and courtesy for internal customers. The behavior is now escalating to a higher level to the customers, and is giving our showroom a bad rap. How do I maintain a professional standard and prevent my co-workers from sabotaging my sales?
A. Welcome to the world of sales. Believe me, there may be a sales person out there somewhere who has not shared your same frustrations, but I have yet to run into him.
In other words, you are not alone. Frustration with co-workers seems to be one of the things that is part of the job of the field sales person, like sitting in waiting rooms for hours, getting slowed down in heavy traffic, and dealing with voice mail – it just comes with the territory. Every sales person has, or will have, a story about a customer lost because of uncaring and unprofessional behavior from a co-worker.
It being so common, however, does not make it acceptable. Let’s look at some options.
First, examine yourself. Are you creating standards that are just not attainable, and then judging your colleagues on the basis of those standards? In other words, is the problem you?
For years, I had a problem with this. Finally, one day I had an inspiration. They aren’t me! That sounds so simple, but it signaled a significant change in my attitude. Prior to that, I judged all my colleagues by my own standards. I expected them to be as driven as I was, as focused on getting the business as I was, as perfectionistic as I was. This attitude, of course, caused all kinds of friction and resentment on the part of the people with whom I worked. When I finally realized that each of them had a set of life experiences, attitudes, motivations and abilities that were different than mine, I began to see each differently. It made it so much easier to work with them, and them to work with me, when I changed my expectations.
This practice of casting your attitudes and expectations onto others is, I have learned, a particularly common tendency for field sales people. Changing your attitude may be all that is necessary to change this situation.
But, it may not be. So, what’s next? Speak to the offending person, privately and specifically, about the behavior that is the problem. Don’t talk about generalities – “You always do this….”. That just encourages defensiveness and denial. Rather, make sure that you have a specific incident to discuss. Limit your comments to that incident.
Secondly, make sure that incident has something to do with you — one of your customers, one of your projects, etc. That way, you have a legitimate stake in the outcome, and aren’t just being bossy.
Present the behavior that bothered you, the consequences of it, and then offer a suggestion about how it should have been handled, and the consequences of that revised behavior.
So, something like this:
“When you said to the customer that you’d get to it when you had time, the customer flinched, as if you had personally insulted him. If you had said, ’I’m sorry, it will just be a moment’, that customer would not have felt like you insulted him.”
Your attitude will go along way. Don’t be superior or arrogant. You’ll get resistance if your colleagues see you this way. Instead, try to be empathetic and humble.
Now, it may be that you have done this a few times, and you still don’t see any change. It’s time to bring your supervisor into the picture. Explain what you have done, the consequences of the other person’s behavior on your results, and ask the supervisor to intervene on your behalf.
At this point, you will have done about everything that you can do. If the situation doesn’t improve over a period of time you have the final option. You can always look for another position, with a company that has more of a sales culture.
About the Author:
Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written ten books, presented in 47 states and ten countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of sales people and transform hundreds of sales organizations. Sign up for his free weekly Ezine. Check out our Sales Resource Center for 455 sales training programs for every sales person at every level. You may contact Dave at The DaCo Corporation, PO Box 523, Comstock Park, MI 49321, or email@example.com