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December 17, 2014


It never ceases to amaze me. I recently spoke with a young sales manager in a large organization that complained that he was too intense. To Joe’s credit he really wanted his sales reps to do better, and was adamant about coaching and teaching. He was overly focused on correcting mistakes and reaching the numbers. However, it came across as too demanding. The turnover rate increased and sales fell. Instead of motivating, he was de-motivating his sales representatives.  The fault is not just with him.

Recently I was rereading portions of “Thriving on Chaos” by Tom Peters. He devoted a chapter on Supporting Fast Failures.

There has to be an atmosphere where people can make mistakes. Best Sales Management practices must allow sales people to take risks and through repeated failure and introspection, you grow sales.

From the sales side as Sales Managers, we get so obsessed with correcting mistakes that nobody wants to admit them. The sales team and the sales manager make suggestions so quick instead of listening and jointly coming up with collaborative solutions that the typical sales representative will avoid the discussion.

Tom Peters suggests giving awards for failures. Fun ones like a bent golf putter, or an old tennis shoe. Have an annual “Hall of Shame” lunch for the fastest most useful mistake that everyone learned from. Send thank you notes to people who make creative mistakes and what the company and people learned from the mistake.

Realize that the way things move today, you do not always have time to do things right the first time. It is a risk to try things and fail. Yet, taking an action and making a mistake is a lot better than sitting on your hands and worrying about whether it will be a mistake. Can you think of all the mistakes that big companies like Microsoft, Apple, and auto companies have made? Think about how they have recovered and made mistakes opportunities for the future.

There are many small mistakes and failures in the course of the year that really are not very significant. I will bet that there are no more than 5 actions, mistakes, or decisions that really can cost significant revenue and profit. Yet we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying, fretting, and correcting our people instead of celebrating and embracing the failures and learning from them.


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