Q. At what point during the superstar building process can management step in and provide support for their sales staff?

A. This is a great question.  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.

Sales Superstar Building Process

First, notice that the question is based on the assumption that there is a “sales superstar building process.”  Let me refine my understanding of what that means.  I’m not sure that it is as cut and dried 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.

Desire to Succeed

You 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 become superstars.  It’s not that they couldn’t if they chose to, they just chose not to do it.  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 I will opine that 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 sales superstar?”  That question I can answer:

1. Hire motivated people who have the 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.

2. Surround them with images of success and models of achievement.

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

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

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

6. 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 sales superstar will increase enormously.