Ridiculously Simple Sales Management: The Blame Game
(This post is one of 24 short and ridiculously simple chapters from Ridiculously Simple Sales Management. The book was written to help any sales or BDC manager quickly build and maintain a truly high-performing sales team. Each chapter concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises that make implementation ridiculously simple… and effective. Available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.)
Let’s level set right from the beginning of this chapter: It’s not about you. You are support, and they are sales. Salespeople create all the value for your company. You are an expense. Despite your lofty title, you’re no different than the admin clerk who processes sales orders and other paperwork. Your responsibilities may be greater, but your role is the same: Support the sellers.
As I wrote in the first chapter, successful sales managers take the blame when (in the rare instance) their team misses a goal; and they give all the glory to their sellers when they exceed these.
The opposite is, of course, the never-ending finger-pointing that will drive great sellers to work elsewhere and turn your good sellers into unhappy, mediocre timewasters.
Regardless of the facts, begin accepting the blame for everything that fails to go according to plan, for every goal your salespeople miss, and for every sale your team didn’t close. When you do this, you’re better equipped to uncover the real solutions needed to grow.
Think about it. As humans, we’re hardwired to not take the blame for failures. We’re hardwired to be victims, if you will, to the actions (or inactions) of others. When things go awry as sales managers, it’s human nature to believe it’s something outside our control. It’s human nature to believe it’s not our fault.
But it is your fault. It’s always your fault. This is why you make the big bucks.
With the title of manager comes the responsibility to drive results today and, in the future, regardless of the market, the competition, or the team you’ve been given to lead. When you point the blame of failure on anything or anyone other than yourself, you tolerate the failure because, well, it’s not your fault; it was something outside your control. Unsuccessful sales managers use the blame game to make themselves feel better about missing a goal. After all, “I did everything I could do to increase sales, but…”
Unfortunately, this prevents them and their teams from improving. If it’s not your fault, there’s nothing to fix, right?
By accepting the blame you’ll begin to see where the real obstacles lie and, more importantly, how and what to change to remove these obstacles this month and forever. Additionally, accepting blame has a tremendous impact on those above and below you on the organizational chart.
When you accept the blame for a missed goal, for example, and relay this and your plans for improvement to your boss, he or she gains confidence in your ability to lead. When you blame others, your boss only sees you as an excuse machine.
Here’s a hint: Owners, general managers, company presidents, etc. don’t want excuses, they want solutions. Accepting the blame and formulating a plan for improvement is seen as a solution because it is a solution.
For your team, accepting the blame builds trust in your sellers. Your great sellers understand that if they ever screw up, you’ll have their backs. Your good sellers begin to see you as someone who only wants what’s best for the team, making them more willing to work harder for you in the future.
As we’ll touch on a few times throughout this book, people sell with their hearts and minds, not their backs. You can buy their backs, but you must win their hearts and minds. Pointing your finger at others is the quickest way to lose their hearts and minds.
Of course, there’s nothing about taking the blame that’s meant to let your underperformers off the hook. Accountability is the foundation of successful sales teams; and if you’re genuinely doing everything you can to help someone succeed but they’re proving to be incorrigible, feel free to explain to them, “You’re not a bad person; you’re just not a fit for our team,” as you show them the door.
…and Give Praise
Congratulations, your team just had a record month! You worked long hours training and motivating your salespeople last month. You spent extra time with your underperformers, and you helped most of them record their best month ever. Your top sellers also set personal records after you made sure they had no obstacles to impede their growth.
You. Did. A. Great. Job! You genuinely deserve all the praise your boss will be heaping on you.
Deflect it. Deflect it publicly. Ensure your boss knows and your team knows it was the efforts of Bob, Mary, Jeff, and Janelle that led to the record month. Ensure everyone knows your salespeople worked hard to improve their results, and that their efforts paid off.
Loudly give all the praise to your sellers – individually and collectively.
When you do this (and mean it), you’ll enjoy a greater sense of self-worth because you increased the self-worth of others. It’s a crazy dynamic, but the more you give, the more you get. For truly successful sales managers, heaping praise on others becomes addicting. The more you do it, the more you want to do it.
For your team, they’ll not only like you, they’ll respect you. They will be infinitely more likely to try harder tomorrow because of what you did today. (More on like and respect in the “Like or Respect” chapter.)
“Yeah, but I want my boss to know how hard I worked, too!”
Believe me, everyone knows how hard you’re working. They always know. (Conversely, no matter how much you cover it up with busy work, they also know when you’re slacking off.) However, when a business owner, company president, general manager, etc. sees the humility that comes with deflecting well-deserved praise onto others, their respect for you grows exponentially.
- It’s not about you.
- Take blame – especially when it’s not your fault.
- Give praise – even if you did all the work.
- Today, and then for the rest of your working life, find a mistake, missed goal, or blown sale that was not your fault, and publicly take the blame for it.
- Today, and then for the rest of your working life, find a success (especially one you drove) and publicly heap praise on someone else.