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3 Secrets That Set The Context For Sales Success

In today's competitive environment, every organization is trying to improve sales results. In every company, the most important ? and vulnerable ? link in the success chain is the performance of their people. As a sales management trainer and coach, I see that managers across every industry fail to take a hard look at the capacity of their people to provide the service -- whether it's to internal or external customers ? that puts them in a league apart from the competition.

As a sales manager, you can set the context for your team to pull ahead, or 'breakaway' from the competition. Context sets the tone and often determines the meaning of events and actions. In business, context affects our vision, motivation, ambition, and follow through.

Some aspects of context are outside of our control. Things happen. Markets rise and fall. Yet some people thrive even in hard times. While these people are the masters of context, I would also argue that the 'climate' in which they work could contribute enormously to the difference between success and failure.

Here are three ways you can take charge of the context in which you create an environment where 'breakaway' results can happen:


Some people use much stronger language to describe the people I'll politely call bullies. You may call them: tyrants, egomaniacs, jerks or unprintable. These are the people whose behaviour leaves you feeling badly about yourself, and feel free to use whatever profanity you want to describe them, because they are real trouble.

Many 'stars' shout, belittle, and make unreasonable demands of support staff and colleagues, while ingratiating themselves with the higher-ups. How people treat both the powerless and powerful is a good measure of human character and the "bully" quotient.

One bully can destroy your team's morale. You and your colleagues will spend inordinate amounts of time and energy dealing with this person, instead of focusing outward on breakaway performance.


- Protect your people. If you are in a position to do so, aim to nourish a culture of decency in your organization. While you may not have a 'no bullies here ' policy in writing, you can have it in spirit. If the superstar you're about to hire has a reputation for being difficult, don't hire!

- Set this ground rule for sales meetings: focus on the situation, issue, or behaviour, and not on the person. This rule translates into not placing blame on people. It safeguards the self-confidence and self-esteem of all meeting participants, and provides a process for regulating out-of-bounds behaviour.


We all do better at work if we regularly hear that what we do matters, that it is valuable, and that our presence makes a difference to others.

Nearly every organization or team I've been privileged to spend time with under-communicates the genuinely positive and admirable achievements of its members. I can understand wanting to avoid conflict, but avoiding praise is puzzling.


Make space at the beginning of a sales meeting for any expressions of appreciation or admiration that anyone may wish to deliver. I recommend that the leader not deliver any of these kudos during the first few meetings so team members get used to practicing 'ongoing regard.' If no one has anything to say, so be it (although I've never seen this happen).

You may find that sharpening your capacity to express genuine appreciation or admiration is vitalizing. It will remind you of why you want to be on your team, and why performing at your peak is important.


How many times have you said that you were going to do something and then not done it because nobody else would know the difference? Try spreading the word. Just the simple act of telling your plan to another person raises the stakes. Most of us place a high value on doing what we say we'll do. There is something profound about taking our commitments seriously when we profess them to another person or when we join in a pact to reach a common goal.


If you are a sales manager, allow your people to tell you how they plan to reach their goals, rather than you telling them how to proceed. Create time, regularly, for them to report what they have been doing and learning. Useful questions to help the discussion are: - What worked?
- What didn't work?
- What happened?
- What would you do differently next time?
- What assumptions are you making?
- When will you do the tasks you propose?
- How will I know you have started the tasks?

If you are a team member, seek out someone you trust and check in regularly. Declare what you intend to do and watch what happens!


Establish the practice of 'ongoing regard' at the start of each sales meeting. The purpose is to recognize people whose performance and integrity helps the team achieve goals and objectives. Acknowledge that their specific behaviour, and the personal qualities that led to that behaviour, had a positive impact on you, on a customer, or on the team.

For example: "Lee, by delegating paperwork to the summer students and making more face-to-face sales calls you are helping us have a great second quarter. You are resourceful and creative."

It may take a number of sales meetings for the practice to feel comfortable and meaningful. Stick with it.

This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express written permission from Nicki Weiss. The reprint must include the section "About the Author".

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.

Nicki guarantees increased sales performance when sales managers become better sales coaches. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, Something for NothingTM, which has powerful tips and techniques for sales managers who are ready to make this transformation. Sign up at

You can email her at or call 416-778-4145.

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