likable_sales_peopleDo you have someone on your sales team who is “so nice”? He is the guy or gal that everyone likes. This individual gets along well with everyone. The service staff likes him, the customers like him, he is a team player. He is great. Except for the fact that he wastes too much time on opportunities that never seem to close. He isn’t meeting his goals consistently.

This is the sales manager’s plight. We like some people that don’t produce and we obsess and stress over those that do produce if they have difficult personalities. I see it all the time. Unfortunately, many managers allow the nice salesperson to underperform ─because they are so nice─ ultimately allowing underachievement for longer than they should. This reduces the revenue growth of the company and in turn diminishes the value of the company.

Generally, the root cause is that the likeable salesperson needs to be liked. His self-esteem is fed by the fact that everyone likes him. Never mind that he might not be respected by the customer. He might just be viewed as another peddler. He is too concerned with offending or being pushy because he is too worried about what others think of him. He lets deals linger because he won’t challenge the prospect. He wastes time making nice with customers who do not value him or the services he provides. Frequently this person will fight on behalf of a client more that they will fight on behalf of your company! But, they can be helped. We call this a “Need for Approval” type. Unfortunately, left unchecked it can be very detrimental to a salesperson’s success.

In fact, through Objective Management Group’s research, it has been determined that people who are not afflicted with Need for Approval close 35% more business than those that are. 

How to Manage the Likeable Salesperson for Maximum Benefit:

  1. First, remember to manage and guide individuals, individually. Addressing these issues collectively in a group meeting will pay no dividends.
  1. If you can accept that the likeable salesperson gets their self-esteem from what others think of them, you can help this individual grow. Get him to care what you think of him, first and foremost.  Be very clear in your expectations. Be firm but kind.
  1. Practice with the individuals to help them use language that will benefit them. Teach them the art of the “pre-cursor”. Comments made at the beginning of a statement to enable the likeable salesperson to more easily say difficult things.  When a likeable salesperson needs to deliver an uncomfortable message they can say “This is uncomfortable for me to tell you this…” Or, “You might get angry with me for saying this, but I feel it is important to…” This will enable the salesperson to say the thing that is hard for them to say.
  1. Encourage them to recognize their behavior and the damage it does to their positioning with the client. Help them see that their desire to be liked is getting in their way of being efficient and effective in closing business.
  1. Pre-brief sales calls with them. Help them practice what they will say when the conversation becomes difficult or uncomfortable.
  1. Encourage them to get a prospect to say “no” to them. Show them that not every prospect is right for them or the company, and to focus on getting the truth from prospects, even if it is a “no.” After all, a quick “no” is far better than a slow “no.”

Salespeople suffer frequently because of their missing Sales DNA, including through their beliefs and head trash. It isn’t always their actual sales skills that trip them up.  Remember that coaching salespeople is messy, but is critically important to their success. To improve effectiveness as a sales leader, embrace their human failings and coach them individually and intentionally.