Are You Managing an Adult Day Care Center?

By Barry Deutsch

As you read through this article, keep asking yourself — could the reason I seem to be managing an “adult day care” at the office have anything to do with the way I hire people for my team?

In a discussion with a candidate, we were discussing a search assignment I am conducting for a senior sales executive. This particular candidate has a very strong sales background and was then promoted into management, where the focus of his time shifted from selling to overseeing several project managers and salespeople. When I asked this candidate why he wanted to get out of management and instead sell on the front lines, his reply to me was, “To be honest with you Mike, I am tired of running an adult day care center.”

In my 14 years of recruiting, having interviewed thousands of sales candidates and managers, I have never heard such a funny and sometimes accurate description of managing a sales force. Can you picture what this candidate’s job is like from day to day? It was more than obvious to me why he was looking for a role change and how he felt about being in management.

I’m sure that not all managers feel this way about managing their sales forces — but I would bet that more do than most people would expect.

What about you? Do you feel this way about the group you manage?

Too many sales managers are thrown into a management role because they were top-performing salespeople, and the executive team then assumes that a top salesperson is the best fit to manage a sales team. While this may be true in some cases, it is more often an erroneous assumption that has drastic consequences for the new manager, the reps that work for them, and the entire company.

Here are some indications that managing your sales team is like running an adult day care center:

1. Whining and Complaining: When you listen to your salespeople, do they see great selling opportunities in front of them regardless of the competition, economy and other factors that are completely out of their control? Ask questions and listen carefully.

2. Being Asked Too Many Times to Do Something: Does the performance of your sales team go down when you are not present and spending personal time with the reps? I am not saying that managers don’t need to spend time with their people. What I am saying is that really good salespeople don’t need anyone to prompt them to take action and make things happen. They are confident in themselves and responsible enough to get the job done by themselves. They are self starters and can hold themselves largely accountable to themselves.

3. Poor Attitude: Do your salespeople have an optimistic attitude regardless of circumstances? Are they the type of people who fill your bucket or drain it? Do they see the water in the glass no matter how full it is or is not? Attitude is much like water on top of a mountain: As soon as it hits the ground, it impacts everything in its path. So too, a person’s attitude, good or bad, will have a direct impact on anyone in their presence, including peers, managers, and customers.

4. Excuses and Explanations: When your sales team is not performing to expectations and sales are not going as planned, is there always a reason or explanation why this is the case, or do your salespeople look you in the eye and say, “Yes, it is my fault, and here is what I am going to do about it”? Too many salespeople blame customers, vendors, the economy, competitors, or anything else besides themselves for poor performance. As a manager, do you let them get away with it — or do you push back and help your people take full responsibility for their results?

5. Selfish Behavior: How much do your sales team members go out of their way to really help others? What about going the extra mile for a customer even when the salesperson will not get paid for it or won’t get “credit”? Yes, I know that salespeople are driven to make money, and if they don’t spend enough time building their own business, their income and results will suffer. However, world class salespeople can still find a way to drive their own business, get results that exceed expectations, find time to help others, and go out of their way when there is a real need to do so.

What are other symptoms in your sales organization that might lead you to the conclusion you’re running an “adult day care center?”

Do you have standard questions to screen out these candidates? When staff members exhibit these behaviors — how do you coach them out of the “day care syndrome?”
Originally published: Sep 9, 2011

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