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  At what point during the superstar building process can management step in and provide support for their sales staff?
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by Dave Kahle
copyright (MMXII)

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Dave Kahle
"I hope you enjoy this article. We have lots of resources on this site, ranging from dozens of similar free articles, podcasts, weekly features, books , CDs and video training programs. Enjoy! "

This is a great question that came to me via a recent TGIF & K phone seminar. As some of you know, the subject was "Characteristics of superstar salespeople, and what you can learn from them."

Forgive me if I stray a little to the theoretical side of this question. These are the kinds of questions I think about. Thanks for asking it.

First, notice that the question is based on the assumption that there is a "superstar building process." Let me refine my understanding of what that means. I'm not sure that it is as cut and dry as this phrase would indicate. "Superstar building process" implies that you can put someone in the front end of the process, intervene in some ways, and pop out the back end of the process a finished superstar. Sort of like dumping chunks of granite in a machine, and having a reproduction of Michelangelo's David pop out the back end. It's just not that simple.

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ou have to have the raw material to start with. And that raw material primarily has to do with the individual's motivation. You must start with someone who wants to achieve at a superstar level, and is willing to pay the price in hard work and constant growth to do so. Most salespeople do not become superstars because they don't want to. It's not that they couldn't if they choose to, they just chose not to. They don't have the drive to excel.

What influences someone to choose to pursue excellence? Is it nature or nurture? DNA or environment? I won't solve that question here. But in my opinion, it is work that's more likely done in the family, as the person is growing up, than it is by a sales manager. You are more likely to hire someone who already has the drive to excel than you are to instill it in someone who doesn't have it.

Even so, a sensitive sales manager can be a tremendously positive force in the lives of some of his/her charges. I dedicated my first book to the memory of one of my managers who had a major impact on my life and career.

Having said all of that, let me rephrase the question. "What can a sales manager do to improve the likelihood that he/she will shape the development of a superstar?" That question I can answer:

  1. Hire motivated people who have a drive to excel. Look for a record of success in two or more endeavors and evidence of a self-image of being a highly successful person.

    Surround them with images of success and models of achievement.

    Coach intensively at first, and gradually move to intervention only when it's necessary. In your coaching, speak three words of positive reinforcement for every word of criticism. Support and encourage the positive behaviors, and ignore as much as you can the negatives.

    Expect excellence, and recognize them frequently and publicly for attaining it.

    Invest in their development. Spend money sending them to seminars, buying them books and audio programs.

  2. Keep in regular communication, and create a climate where your budding superstar can talk with you about what is on his/her mind.
If you do these things, your chances of developing a superstar will increase enormously.

If you have any comments or questions, email them to me.
I do, of course, reserve the right to edit.

Here are a few articles by Dave
that you might be interested in reading:

  • What's the Best Way to Find a Good Salesperson... Good question! It seems that everyone has a favorite response. Some people only use recruiters, and others swear by networking. But classified ads continue to be the most common choice. Almost everyone who hires salespeople will, at some time, search for prospects via the "help wanted" section.... {Read More}
  • Is it Time to Revise Your Sales Compensation Plan?... If you're paying your sales reps straight commission, you're using an obsolete formula. If you're paying your sales reps a straight salary, you're also using an obsolete formula. Read this article to find out a much more effective way to compensate your sales staff.... {Read More}
  • How to Deal with the Salesperson Who Has Leveled Off... Every manager has, or will, confront this troublesome issue. It's arisen in every workshop for sales managers or branch managers I've done. One or more of your salespeople has leveled off. Their performance hasn't improved much in the last few years. Where before you were able to count on significant increases each year, now you can not. You know that these experienced salespeople can do better, but they seem unable or unwilling to break out of a certain level of performance. You are scratching your head, frustrated, and loosing sleep at night wondering how to improve the situation. What do you do?... {Read More}
There are also many other action-packed articles for sales professionals that offer how-to solutions to every day sales problems that you can read online at www.davekahle.com/article.htm.
Dave Kahle has trained tens of thousands of B2B salespeople, sales managers and business owners to be more effective in the 21st Century economy. He's authored nine books, and presented in 47 states and seven countries. To access Dave's training, insights and tools online, visit The Sales Resource Center. Visit www.davekahle.com to check out a seminar near you.
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