How Sales Management is Like Brushing a Little Girls Hair

I have 3 girls.  They are 6, 4, and 1. They have thick, curly hair that tangles easy. Getting a brush through it is tough. Brushing their hair used to be a battle.  They would complain, whine and yell; “ouch, that hurts!”  As I would lighten the stroke, they would complain even more.  It would get to the point where the stroke would be so soft it wouldn’t get through the tangle.  By complaining to the point where the brushing was no longer effective, my beautiful little girls created a win-lose situation.  I stopped brushing or they endured a little discomfort.

To solve the problem I came up with a game where we would see how many brush strokes they could endure without saying “ouch!”  The rules were, if you said “ouch!” the counting started over and who evers brush stroke count was the highest won.

The result?

The complaining stopped. It stopped instantly.  Brushing has become fun.  I count aloud. I’ll get caught in a nasty tangle that pulls a lot and stop, look at their face and ask; “Did you say ouch?”  They’ll smile and say; “NO!”  My oldest daughter has the record; 400 strokes.  (I know, her hair was a rats nest that day.)

By creating a challenge for the girls to achieve, I’ve changed the experience from something they see as being done to them to something they are participating in. I gave my girls a chance to own the brushing experience. Not brushing their hair wasn’t an option. I had to create a way to get them involved.  My girls needed to move from feeling like victims and something was being done to them to feeling empowered and that they were participating in something bigger than just brushing their hair. Challenging them to push themselves and test their limits is what worked. The gaming part didn’t hurt either.

Managing a sales team is very similar.  There are a bunch of things sales people yell “ouch” about. Entering stuff into the CRM system, doing expense reports, administration tasks, making cold calls, etc., all drive sales people crazy.  Getting sales people to embrace all aspects of their job is no different than brushing my girls hair. You have to engage them in the process. It’s sales leaderships job to find ways for the sales team to own the process and to feel like they are participating NOT having something done to them.

Too often sales leadership works in a vacuum, introducing new processes, edicts, mandates and changes with little to no warning or participation from those in the field.  Just as I would just tug and pull my daughters hair, it hurts. Stop and take the time to engage your people in the entire process. Create ways to get them to feel as if they are part of the process not just victims of it. Allow the team to take ownership and make it theirs.

Ever since we started counting, the hair brushing experience has changed. Every now and then I forget and the “ouches!” appear instantly. With the first “ouch!” as a reminder, I quickly say; “How many strokes can you go with out saying ouch?”

Miraculously, the “ouches!” stop.

How do you get your team to stop saying “OUCH!”