My family and I are fortunate to live in a lovely suburb with lots of trees and plenty of greenspace. Not only do we enjoy taking walks in the neighborhood and enjoying the peace and tranquility, the deer do as well. Sometimes the neighborhood feels more like a deer sanctuary.

Lessons from a Mama Deer

As I was walking my puppy dogs the other day, I came across a mama deer and her three fawns. I know mama deer can be somewhat fierce if their babies are threatened so I always keep my distance.

That day, I noticed that the mama deer was too. She was standing maybe 20 to 30 yards away, letting the fawns have their space. They were nibbling on neighbors’ plants, walking around the various front lawns and in general figuring things out.

The mama was very observant, and intently engaged, but she wasn’t actually doing anything for the fawns. She wasn’t showing them anything. She wasn’t “rescuing” her fawns from oncoming cars. Yes, “mama” was ready to pounce in the event a dog or other creature attacked the babies, but she allowed the fawns to learn on their own. It’s then that It struck me – many sales managers could learn something from this mama deer.

Managing Sales in a Deer-like Way

What do deer have to do with managing sales you might ask? Well, there are many traits that effective sales managers possess and a whole host of them comprise the “Coaching Competency.” Not only do sales managers need to help salespeople plan and debrief their sales meetings, they need to teach them a repeatable sales process and how to conduct effective joint sales meetings.

Here’s where the mama deer lesson comes into play. In a sales meeting, allow the salesperson to do their thing. You as the manager are the observer and should think like the mama deer. Bite your lip and sit quietly You have helped the salesperson prep, now let them follow the process and control the conversation.

As the “expert” you can pounce if called upon for something specific, like the mama deer would pounce if her babies were in trouble, but otherwise let the salesperson run the meeting. Even if it means running it into the ground. If the salesperson slips up, let them recover. If they totally flub it, you can always connect with the prospect separately later, thank them for their patience and ask that they allow another chance to earn their business.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Of course, this requires that salespeople have ample opportunities to practice with less than high-value prospects, and if not, then they must practice and role-play on a regular basis with, yep, you guessed it, their manager. Here is a great progression to follow:

  1. Plan the call thoroughly. Get the salesperson to think about the questions they will ask. What might be asked of them and where they will take the conversation.
  2. Have the salesperson schedule sales calls/meetings for the manager to run with the salesperson observing. Be sure to have the salesperson provide feedback to the manager about what they learned and suggestions they would make.
  3. Have the salesperson run smaller opportunity sales calls as the manager observes – the key word being observe, not rescue.
  4. Encourage the salesperson to run sales conversations on their own but record the conversation (especially easy in a virtual selling arena).
  5. The manager should debrief the calls with the salesperson, asking the salesperson what they did well and what they would like to do differently in the future.
  6. Once the salesperson is competent at conducting sales conversations independently, allow them to handle larger more robust sales prospects on their own.
  7. Remember that in any selling situation it is perfectly okay for the manager to go back to the prospect if the salesperson messed it up and ask for a second chance. Just refrain from taking over in the call.

Work at It Continuously

This is a simple yet sometimes difficult process to follow to help elevate the effectiveness of the salesperson. Trust me I know. This article is partly written to reinforce this process for me as I coach and nurture new salespeople on our team. It is a testament to the fact that we all need to continuously work on improving our skills whether as a direct seller or in a sales leadership role.

If you have any helpful suggestions that might benefit others, please share. And, if you are interested in more details, feel free to download our eBook: The 5 Essentials of Effective Sales Management. Finally, for more information about improving sales management effectiveness, reach out to us. We love working to help improve sales leadership effectiveness.

Meanwhile, be sure to channel your inner mama deer!