I’m a Sales Rep who works in an office.
Back in May, one of my fellow sales reps asked our Regional Sales Manager if he would consider implementing “Summer Hours” for a few months over the summer of 2013. He smiled big and said, in front of the 10 or 12 of us who report to him, “Yes, I’ll consider it! Why not?!”
We discussed it for a bit, this Sales Manager and his reps. As Inside Sales Reps, we proposed to our boss that, during the summer months (of which there are few in Minnesota), each of us would work four 10-hour days a couple of times a month, then get one day off in that week. We would coordinate with each other so that our territories were always fully covered and no customer would ever wait for a response or a phone call. (Several other large companies in our area do this year round, including the largest company in town, a publicly traded insurance company that made record profits in 2011 and 2012). And the company I work for sells to schools, so June and July are real sleepers. We can call customers, but we leave voicemails. We can email them, but they won’t write back until after Labor Day. We can stop by their offices, which are either locked or empty, or both. I usually slide my business card & a note under their office door. Brilliant, huh.
We’re all salaried employees, so we sales reps should just be able to work when we want, but that’s not the way it works in my upper Midwestern town at this private company where our absent, long-distance owners think we’re all delighted to work there for a mediocre salary and crummy work environment. (It’s not their fault. Our Executive Committee tells them this stuff!)
Long story short, since though we are on salary and we are the top performing sales team in the company, my boss decided not to tell us “no” on the Summer Hours. Great . . . But he also didn’t say “yes.” He just said, “we’re looking at it,” the last couple of times we’ve asked him a team meeting. And he didn’t do anything about it, and now it’s the last full week of July, so clearly we won’t be doing anything different with our hours this summer. This poor Sales Manager, the guy who is great with customers and has worked for this company for 25 years, is afraid of confrontation, so he just chose not to even address the request.
NOTE: I sold $2.45 million for this company last year. I exceeded my sales quota.
So last week, one of my peers on the sales team asked our Manager about Summer Hours again, only this time in a one-on-one talk. Let me mention, first, that this particular colleague has been with the company for 16 years and has blown away her sales quota for the last few years, even in this crummy economy! She is an amazing worker! She’s a solid, knowledgeable, responsible, hard-working rep. Her customers love her. She has a warm, SWEET personality and is kind and supportive to everyone she knows. She is a wonderful human being. And she asked the boss again, since he’d not answered our requests. The conversation went like this:
Sales Rep (standing in the boss’s office doorway): I am going to be coming in early every day for the rest of July so I can leave at 4:00 sharp . . . It’s my way of implementing my own Summer Hours, ya know? (smile)
Sales Manager: (pause) Oh. (pause) Well, we have Summer Hours here.
Sales Rep: Oh. Hmmm. (pause) What do you mean?
Sales Manager: Yeah, we are offering Summer Hours here at work.
Sales Rep (confused but earnest): Oh. How so?
Sales Manager (smug smile on his face): Well, for our Summer Hours, the sun comes up earlier in the morning, and the sun goes down later in the evening.
(WHAT A JERK!)
Sales Rep: Uh-huh.
Yes. He really said that. And seemed to think he was being clever. Then he laughed at his own lame joke.
When my co-worker (“Sales Rep”) told me this story, we both laughed out loud at his idiocy and I said, “did you tell him to fuck off?” I don’t normally say crude things about the guy who allows me to have a job, but geez. I mean, fuck off.
Years ago, my best-ever Sales Manager, in a previous job, announced to our team that when we needed to bring him a problem or complaint, we should always bring along a suggestion or solution. So, Sales Managers, here are a few suggestions:
- If your Sales Reps respect you enough to come to work and bring in millions of dollars for your company and its owners (or stockholders), respect them enough to promptly and honestly address their concerns and requests.
- If the answer to their request is “no,” just tell them “no,” and why the answer is “no.” Your reps would rather hear “no” than nothing. (Remember, we sales reps negotiate honestly with customers every day. We have the hard conversations. Do the same for us on the rare occasions that your job requires the same type of dialogue with us.)
- Figure out what you can do to let your team know you appreciate them. Sales commission is great, but some companies pay more than others. Your reps would be motivated by commission, and then even more.
- While we’re at it, could you do anything to help motivate your reps that would not cost the company anything?
- How about switching up the hours so your reps can have a couple of Fridays off during a Minnesota summer? Your reps all back up each other in their work, so no customer would be neglected. Think of how it would boost morale and productivity.
- How about jeans on Fridays? C’mon. We are an Inside Sales Force. We don’t see our customers in person on a daily basis. (We are apparently required to dress up for ourselves . . . or for each other? For you? For the CEO who walks by our offices? Please explain this to us.) It wouldn’t cost you anything, and your reps would be so appreciative. People would show up to work excited and ready to work on Fridays, instead of worn out.
- STICK UP FOR US in front of your own manager! Advocate for us! It’s your job. As a Sales Manager, you are being paid to
push papers around your desk, suck up to your manager, make yourself look good, bring home a nice paycheck until it’s time for you to retire, be a Yes Personsupport the reps on your team and help us achieve our sales quotas. If 3 of your 11 reps have recently left to pursue opportunities at other companies, and all 3 of them will be making more money, think honestly and generously about what you can do to motivate your remaining reps. (Face it, morale plunked into the toilet bowl months ago.) If you can’t offer your employees more money, what can you offer them besides an encouraging 5-minute lecture imploring them to “find the connection” between themselves and their current employer? I know you can do better than that—I’ve seen you with our customers! You were fantastic!
- In short, be good to your sales reps. They’ll want to keep working for you if they feel rewarded and respected.
Here’s the thing, Boss. We want to work for you. You’re a good guy. We know you’re capable of great accomplishment. But we think you’re here to make our lives better and our jobs more rewarding. Help us out. If you continue to do the opposite, more of us will leave, and you can pay our replacements more money and spend a year or two training them to be fully up and running. What would be best for you, for our team, for this beloved company that you’ve given your entire career to?
Just a thought from my very limited point of view, on a very discouraging day.
Your Sales Rep