You are in a meeting with your boss. The questions are fired at you, pelting you non-stop: “Are you going to make goal or not? What do you have in your pipeline? How sure are you of that business? When are you going to close? How much? Why not? Why?” And finally, the fatal shot: “You are making me look bad!”
That stuns you. I am making my boss look bad? Right now, I feel like I look bad because of the rapid-fire questions that seem to come out of nowhere! Do I care about how my boss’s higher-ups feel about her?
The truth is, you probably don’t care, but perhaps there are reasons why you should. We all know in media sales that "s**t runs downhill." The pressure you are feeling is due to pressure your boss is feeling, which is due to pressure your market manager is feeling, which is due to pressure from the home office, which comes from the bank wanting to know how much cash will be available to pay off the bills and the loans.
I would say that your manager made a poor choice of words. Making your media sales manager look good probably isn't your primary source of motivation. But understand why these words were used and take a bigger picture approach, rather than let those particular words sting you. If s**t runs downhill, shovel it out of the way and send good things back up!
- Be prepared! My colleague and mentor Chris Crawford wrote a great article about how to anticipate what your sales manager is going to ask you and to be ready to fire back during a one-on-one (Transform that One-on-One with Your Media Sales Manager into a Win-Win). Know where you are, what you have coming in, and be ready to discuss key projects. I once had a seller who came into our one-on-ones without a pen, paper, or notes – only her Big Gulp Diet Coke. Her approach was, “What do you want?” not “Here is where I am, this is what I am doing, and this is what I would like your help with.”
- Be honest. If things aren't going well, be open about it, but be prepared to discuss what you are going to do to get things back on track. When you tell your manager that such and so account will come through just to get her off your back, if it doesn't, trust between you will be broken. And, your manager will have to eat crow if, after telling the higher-ups that good things are coming, they can’t make their budget.
- Be self-aware and honest with yourself. Are you on Facebook for research or to update your status? Are your client lunches with your client-friends, or is there a calculated business reason underlying that shared dessert? Have you planned ahead for accounts that were on last year but may have fallen through the cracks, or have you been looking only at your current commissions? Are you consistently prospecting, or are your calls just for service and renewals?
- Be empathetic. Again, if you are doing the right things and are still getting pressure, hard as it may seem, try to understand the pressure your boss and your boss’s boss must be feeling! Forgive poorly chosen words spoken out of frustration and pressure, unless, of course, you have never misspoken…
- Be realistic. If negative feedback is a consistent theme with your manager, you might not be a great match. If you are prepared, communicate the ups and downs, ask for and accept coaching and are really doing work you are proud of, you don’t deserve consistent criticism or barbs. If, after giving it your all to work through your problems, your manager is more concerned about how THEY look than about coaching you, then it may be time to find a coach who understands what you bring to the table and is focused on YOU.
Make yourself look good and your value, and your paycheck, will increase!
Here's another great read from Kitty on whether or not managers need to be jerks in order to get the most out of their sales people.