Fable Friday: The safe-cracker has a great management training tip for you!

If you patiently followed the story of the bank safe-cracker in my last two posts, I’ll tie it together with a useful management training workshop tip for you today.

Gregory at Medtronic 10-2010 CroppedRemember that my story ended in glorious fame, achieving a reputation as one who could open any safe or vault.  But if you were my manager, it would have been dangerous for you to assume that I was competent. Aren’t we often fooled by the impressions people make?

Next time you train sales managers, pose this question to them: “You are told on Friday night that on Monday morning you have to cut your sales staff by one person. Someone has to go. You have the weekend to think it over. What criteria will you use to determine who you will keep?”

I let them work in small groups to make a list of criteria, and as each group reports back, I scribe the criteria on a flip chart, which looks like this at the end of the exercise:

“Sales Results

Team Player

Liked by customers



Hard worker

Charismatic personality”

And so on.  You get the idea.  Perhaps your list would look the same.

Now I make a new flip chart and I make three column headings on it, as follows:

“Impressions                     Skills                      Results”

And I tell the group, “Each of the criteria you listed falls into one of these three categories.  Help me put each one where it belongs.”  So we do this and you can see that “Sales Results” goes in the “Results” column, and all the others go into the “Impressions” column.  They rarely have any criteria in the “Skills” column, which you now tell them is called “The Missing Middle.”

Now make this point with the group:  “If as a sales manager, you are not in the field making calls and coaching your team, then you have no idea how skilled they are, and no opportunity to help them develop or succeed even more.  If all you look at is results and your impressions of your team, then you are not doing a thorough job as a sales manager, and in response to the hypothetical question I asked you, you might make a dreadful mistake.”

This exercise works every single time, and helps you get the group into a rich discussion of the best practice behaviors for a sales manager, which includes skill development at sales meetings, direct observation of sales performance, and specific, one-on-one coaching, which are currently the weak spots in many sales organizations.

Now when you introduce the modules for these activities, you’ll have the group’s buy-in, and your training will be well-received. Help your participants develop skilled salespeople, rather than a bunch of safe-crackers.

Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

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