CCO Insights

The Dangerous Sound of Silence in Sales Meetings

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The message has been communicated. It is understood – clearly and unequivocally. Silence is the response, in many cases. It follows dialogs that include phrases such as “whatever it takes” or “get creative” or “no excuses.” Make your numbers.

The sales manager has spoken. He or she is doing what they need to do. And part of that role is a periodic “rallying of the troops”, particularly if the manager has received even harsher admonitions about the failure to “make plan” from management at the next level. But the message, if not qualified or tempered, can lead to misinterpretation and possibly larger compliance-related problems.  It’s when the voice of ‘get the business done’ speaks louder than ‘how you get the business done.’

In a recent FCPA Blog post, Richard Bistrong appropriately calls attention to the various issues associated with a sales person’s yearly performance plan involving “stretch goals” (new, higher sales targets that invariably follow a successful sales period, even if the specific conditions that produced that success were aberrational.) In the scenario above, a sales meeting where the team is given instructions with seemingly few (if any) boundaries, they are similarly being placed in a difficult “stretch” situation. This time the goal may be verbal instead of in writing and the performance period is compressed, but the pressure is no less real.

There are better, more prudent ways for all parties to conduct themselves in these situations. The sales manager could preface his or her calls to action with “Don’t do anything stupid, but [get out there and produce”] – or equivalent, and thereby not create that awkward silence in the first place. A senior sales rep could defuse the meeting’s tension and bring attention back to the larger issues with something along the lines of “but nothing that would cause you to wear stripes, right boss?” Or, having line sales personnel comfortable enough to speak up and say “Last quarter was a one-off, it’s going to take some time to put those kind of numbers on the board again.”

All businesses periodically experience short-term pressure to generate revenue. In these cases, it’s important to remember the more important consideration that applies at all times, in every quarter: business needs to be done in clean and sustainable ways, or not at all. Silence should not be allowed to confuse that message.

Image courtesy of Bold Content Video.

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