Ghosting, Texting and Conflict Management: The New Sales Management Challenge

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I was catching up with one of my oldest friends and the conversation moved from business to personal. She shared that her husband, a business owner, was frustrated with the number of candidates that were ghosting interviews. She also shared that her lovely 20-something-year-old daughter’s boyfriend recently broke up with her. His method of communication: a text.

Who does that? Man up! Woman up! What candidate doesn’t have the courage to call a company and tell she is going a different direction? Who breaks up a relationship with a text?

After hearing both of these scenarios, it really hit me: Sales managers of the future will need to equip their sales team with conflict management skills, the ability to hold difficult conversations. Otherwise, they’ll end up leading a bunch of ‘ghosters’ and texters!

The reality is the sales profession requires conflict-management skills and the ability to conduct difficult conversations. Those conversation might entail:   

  • Meeting with a customer about a scope change he requested—but now doesn’t want to pay for.
  • Price increases.
  • Resetting of expectations to ensure the business relationship is still a true win-win for both parties.

I am guessing your best customers will not appreciate that kind of a conversation being held through a text message or not at all.

What can sales managers do to improve their sales team’s ability to effectively deal with conflict and to hold the difficult sales conversations?

#1. Raise your sales team members’ awareness of their response to conflict. That which you are not aware of you cannot change.

Hold a candid discussion with your sales team members about their beliefs and experiences around conflict. Many people believe conflict is bad because of what they’ve seen modeled in their homes or work. What a person believes becomes their truth, which dictates their actions. In the case of sales, it means avoiding difficult conversations at all costs. Work on the right end of the problem by raising your sales team’s awareness around such beliefs.

#2. Improve your sales team’s assertiveness skills. Assertiveness is the ability to state what you need nicely. Without the EQ skill of assertiveness, salespeople can default to passive-aggressive selling behaviors. They go along to get along and avoid charging customers for scope changes. Or, they default to aggressive selling behaviors.

Oh, they state what they need, all right – to the point where no one wants to do business with them again.

Sales managers, teach your sales team the skills needed to hold the difficult conversations with prospects and customers. Make sure you aren’t leading a sales team of texters and ghosters.  

Good Selling!

SalesLeadership can help your team with sales training and sales management workshops. Check out our programs here.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Colleen: thanks for bringing this up. Expressing opinions and values are vital skills for any corporate role, particularly for salespeople. Unfortunately, internally, managers send opposing messages to their teams. For example, “I don’t to hear why you can’t sell, I want to hear why you can, and “Quit whining and sell what we’ve got!” Translation: “talk to the hand, because the face isn’t listening.” It becomes easier to understand why in many instances, reps get frustrated and find it futile to assert themselves, including with customers.

    Asserting values and needs requires constant practice and encouragement, and managers don’t do enough to help reps prepare for conflict situations they are certain to encounter. Planning matters. Consider what those situations are, or are likely to be, and rehearse with reps how to respond. The more comfortable and familiar the rep is with responding, the more likely he or she will be able to hold a conversation that comes across as thoughtful, measured, and fair, and improves the odds that the right thing gets done.

    I just wrote about a related topic in a recent article, Giving Voice to Values: Essential Nutrition for the Fiscally Fit Organization. (Please see http://customerthink.com/giving-voice-to-values-essential-nutrition-for-the-fiscally-fit-organization/).

    A book I’m using for my client and partner workshops is We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter by Celeste Headlee. I think you will find it useful.

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