Sales Managers as Empathetic Leaders

Article Contributed by Guest Author Pam Watson Korbel

As an interim sales manager, I have developed a new-found appreciation for Empathy and believe it may be the most under-utilized tool of business leaders.  My conclusion results from first-hand observation.  We expect our sales executives to show empathy to both clients and prospects.  Unfortunately, as sales managers we often do not display empathy to become role models for the employees we supervise.  Here are some examples:

  1. I heard a sales manager report that he told his staff directly, “If you think you’re a top sales person, then I don’t want to see you in the office.”   A better approach might be to provide a guideline to sales staff on how many hours a week to spend outside the office and what those activities should include.  Consider saying directly, “A top sales person spends 20 hours a week meeting with prospects and clients and attending networking meetings.”
  2. Some sales managers keep their staff on the telephone cold calling until they find success the same day.  In my experience, this backfires.  A pattern of no response from prospects leads to low energy for the sales person and becomes a negative cycle.  I give permission for my staff to change gears and work on a different activity in these situations to regenerate their energy.
  3. Too many sales managers focus on pushing paper and measuring numbers and don’t put enough time into ‘partnering’ with their staff.  Making sales visits with your sales executives provides opportunities to be a role model and a teacher and promotes trust.

Showing empathy to your sales staff is not weakness.  It shows strength.  Most sales managers walked along the same paths and could engender stronger performance from their staffs by being more empathetic.  Being a role model and a teacher are the productive methods to show empathy.

2 Responses to “Sales Managers as Empathetic Leaders”

  • This is an interesting article and I really appreciate your perspective here. I do believe that there are many old style leaders who view any type of emotion to be a sign of weakness. I certainly don’t believe that to be true.

    Certainly recognizing and understanding the feelings of others is an important leadership tool. It helps you understand how to react and what next steps can be taken. Perhaps the challenge lies in the confusion that somehow empathetic leaders will allow their empathy to override their business sense and allow people to make excuses for a lack of performance. I certainly believe that good leaders can have empathy and still hold people accountable for results.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Dave Meyer
    Author: The Engaged Manager

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