WARNING: Are you a Sales Leader or Super Rep?

5 reasons sales leaders act more like super reps than coaches

It’s my pleasure to share that this post was written collaboratively with leadership coach and trainer Tom Ori, owner of Next Level Performance.  I’m confident you’ll get as much from reading it as I did from working on it with Tom.  Enjoy!

Super Dads

My daughter has been working with a softball pitching coach, Sue, for nearly a year. I quickly learned that the fast-pitch involves a complex set of coordinated mScreen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.00.11 PMovements and that I’m officially out of my instructional league.

Anyway, Sue kicks off each session by asking my daughter how the week went, looking for feedback on practice time and game action.

She always asks my daughter directly, who often responds like a typical 12-year old: nervous stumbling, no eye contact and lots of “likes.”

So, like all Super Dads – I jump in to set the record straight and get things rolling in the right direction.

Until this happened.

“Thanks Dad, but I asked her. SHE needs to be able to tell me how she’s doing.”


Did I mention that Sue was an excellent coach? 🙂

The District Manager Super Rep

If you’re a pharmaceutical district sales manager (DM) or front line leader (FLL) this scenario might seem familiar to you.

You have audience with a healthcare provider, the representative you’re working with engages in a conversation and the next thing you know you’ve assumed control of the dialogue and CRUSH IT!

After all, you’ve won 3 President’s Club awards, know the PI like you wrote it and can develop rapport in your sleep. That’s how you rose to the ranks of DM! And it’s great for the folks on the team to see what good (well…great, maybe) looks like – right?

Right. Wrong. Maybe both. This begins the debate of the District Manager Super Rep.

Let’s start with a clear acknowledgment: in certain situations it is entirely desirable for a DM to show up actively during a sales call with a representative. It can be downright weird at times when you don’t. However, the decision around call participation needs to be ultimately driven by two concepts:

  • AWARENESS: DMs need to be highly conscious of where, when and how they get involved in customer conversations
  • INTENTIONALITY: DMs need to use time in front of customers intentionally to drive the development of the representative they’re with – including possibly jumping in and participating

Today, we’ll focus on AWARENESS and diagnosis of the super-rep phenomenon. In Part 2 of the blog next week, we will explore some actionable strategies for getting highly INTENTIONAL with our involvement.

The 5 D’s of Awareness

Here are 5 common reasons that may cause you, the DM, to put on your Super Rep cape during a field coaching ride day and some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Don’t even know: Let’s start simple – you might not even know how often you’re jumping in and taking over calls.
    Q:  Are you aware of how frequently you actively sell when standing next to a representative?
  2. Desire: You love to sell and you’re great at it. Something about being in that moment comes over you and jumping in is just primal instinct.
    Q:  Is your desire to develop your sales representative as great as your desire to sell?
  3. Drive Sales: As a manager, you’re ultimately responsible (and financially incentivized) for hitting your goals and every moment in front of a customer is important.
    Q:  Ask yourself at the end of a field ride, ‘How have I contributed to the rep’s task-level confidence / commitment so THEY can better drive the business?’ (Situational LeadershipÔ)
  4. Discomfort: It can be entirely awkward to stand silently next to a representative and act like an observer.
    Q:  How comfortable are you with being an observer and allowing the representative to own the sales call?
  5. Development: Depending on a representative’s level of development, jumping in and modeling a selling skill might be a highly effective coaching strategy.
    Q:  For your >6 month-experience reps, how often do you intentionally create a vacuum for them to fill?

Do any of these questions resonate with you?

I’ve personally had all of them influence my involvement on sales calls at one point or another in my leadership career.

What other influences are at play when it comes to your involvement on sales calls with your team?

Use the comments section below to share your thoughts. We’ll grab some of your insights and address them directly.

In the next article, we’ll pick up this conversation and share some actionable strategies to help make sure that you’re getting the most out of your involvement on sales calls INTENTIONALLY for the benefit of your team and your business.

Until next time,

Tom and Dave


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