You’ve hired a good salesperson but the reality is you’ve also hired a human being. And even really good human beings bring faults and blind spots that will need to be addressed. (Anyone reading this married, in a serious relationship or raising children?) If you want to know how to be a good sales manager, remember the importance of emotion management when addressing sales performance issues.

For example, a sales manager is meeting with one of her top salespeople who is running behind plan for the very first time in two years. The manager sets up the purpose and objective of the coaching meeting and shares her intent of helping the salesperson get back on track. During the coaching session, the sales manager applies the sandwich method in delivering observations and feedback: something positive, suggestions for improvement and something positive.

Turns out, this salesperson doesn’t like sandwiches and isn’t open to hearing feedback.

He starts lobbing excuses, blaming his lack of success on the company.

“If I didn’t have so many after-the-sale issues, I’d have more time to prospect.”

“Our prices are too high — we just aren’t competitive.”

“I have the worse territory in the country.”

Now, if you are like most high-achieving sales managers, excuses are like fingernails on a chalkboard. Without emotion management, excuses can trigger an equally defensive response.   It’s easy to move from sales manager to trial lawyer and deliver a great closing argument, overcoming every excuse given by the salesperson. The problem is that your response further triggers your salesperson and now you are stuck in the trigger-response-regret loop.

You’re both fighting for the need to be right rather than getting it right.

Emotions, not effective coaching and influence skills, are running this well-intended coaching session. It’s the classic sales management knowing-and-doing gap.

So, what can sales leaders do when they find themselves getting emotionally triggered?

Step back, breathe and ask yourself, “What else is going on here?” By asking this simple question, you engage your prefrontal cortex, the logical brain rather than the emotionally charged, not logical reptilian brain. Asking questions helps you apply empathy and step into your salesperson’s shoes.

  • Is the salesperson defensive because he’s discouraged?
  • Is the salesperson experiencing self-doubt? Wondering if he still “has it?”
  • Is the salesperson frustrated because he’s working hard and accomplishing little?

 Ask the powerful question to change your emotional state which will change your response.

The best sales leaders are able to manage their emotions so they can continue to execute the right coaching and training skills. As the late John Wooden said, “Manage your emotions or they will manage you.”

Good Selling!


Colleen Stanley is President and Founder of SalesLeadership, a sales development firm.  She is the author of Emotional Intelligence For Sales Success, now published in six languages, and Growing Great Sales Teams.  As an international sales keynote speaker, she ranks in the top five and has been recognized by Salesforce as one of the top 7 influential sales experts in the 21st century. She is the creator of the Ei Selling® System, a unique and powerful sales program that integrates emotional intelligence skills with consultative selling skills. She has also been named as one of the Top Sales &Marketing Influencers from Top Sales World, Top 10 Women in Sales Experts to Follow and is one of Global Gurus Top 30 Sales Professionals in 2019.

Prior to starting Sales Leadership, she was vice president of sales for Varsity Spirit Corporation. During her 10 years at Varsity, the company was named by Forbes as one of the 200 fastest growing companies in the United States.