Change your words, change the outcome with independent sales reps

You are a hiring company, and you have an under performing independent sales rep. What are you going to do?

Option 1 – Let him know who’s boss. Be loud. Be clear. This is your company, and the rep better get in line and start producing right now. NO more of sub-par performance.

Option 2 – Meet with him and ask (sincerely) what’s going on. Don’t go in with a pre-conceived notion. Listen to the story. Then think about an answer. Listen first, respond second.  If the story in untenable then change the rep. If the story makes sense, and it’s one that you can help with, then provide the needed support to help the rep to become successful.

Most people know that option 2 generates a better response than option 1. And yet, lots of bosses still take option 1.

How can re-ordering your thought process from “Express dissatisfaction first, listen second,” to “Listen first. Then respond accordingly,” – does that really make a difference?

Yes. It does.

You don’t have to change the message. But if you’re prone to be an Option 1 type of manager, then definitely change the words. Here’s a short little video that shows the power of word-reorganization.

I have a friend who works with a retailer who contracts with independent sales reps. “The beatings will continue until moral improves,” seems to be that retailer’s mantra.

Independent sales reps don’t generally respond well to verbal beatings (not that anyone does, really. But salaried employees have less flexibility; it’s harder to change course). For the contracting company there was never a truer axiom than ‘You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’ It’s ok to have rules, tough policies, high standards. And it’s ok to make changes in representation when that is required.

But it is not ok – not ever – to try to use intimidation tactics to influence independent sales reps. Independent reps are intolerant of immature, bad-management-esque tirades. Independent sales reps vote quickly, with their feet.