Why an open-door policy doesn’t work

Do you need a way to get faster improvements within your sales organization? What would you say if I suggested that you schedule more meetings? (I’ll politely hold my ears while you grumble.) But please hear me out, because I’ve got a solution that will result in a better use of your time and help you focus on strategies that get results. It’s called an SOS. Not the universal code for extreme distress but rather a Sales Operating System (SOS).
Is this you?
You may believe you’re already an effective sales manager because you’re in constant motion. You probably field nonstop phone calls and plenty of interruptions! You have brief ad hoc exchanges with your sales reps throughout the day.

You feel you have an “open door policy.” Reps can come to you at any time with any issues they have. But why doesn’t this work? How many of your underperforming reps ever walk through your open door and say, “I’m not doing well” or “I’m not sure what I should be doing differently to get better results?” My guess is never! So we let them continue to flail. We worry about being micro managers and want them to do their jobs. They should be able to. They’re Professionals!

Yes you talk with your people frequently. I call those “drive-by” conversations, but you may not be talking about the right things. Most drive-by conversations are about the status of a deal or a quick decision that’s got to be made. While you feel engaged and are extremely busy, it’s sort of like trying to manage a game from the sidelines. You’re yelling nonstop at the players from the bleachers when what you really need to do is to call a time out so that you can discuss strategy, get organized and get back out there.

SOS
The best way for any of us to improve anything is through structured learning and accountability. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument or speaking a foreign language, we learn best when there’s a logical series of steps, clear assignments and helpful feedback regarding our progress. An SOS will give your organization that structure, and help you develop a regular cadence of activities that will keep your people on track. Your days will be more focused and less hectic. Everyone will get more done.

An SOS is a structured series of meetings and communications with members of your team:
• Weekly meetings to talk about the rep’s activities
• Monthly forecast or pipeline review meetings to review the rep’s numbers
• Quarterly planning updates to look at how the rep is doing against the plan. What’s the plan for the next quarter? Can it be updated based on what you’ve learned?
• Annual meeting to set goals for the year and to create plans for how to achieve them

With pre-determined agendas, everyone will know how to prepare for these meetings and what to expect.

Why an SOS works
With an SOS, you will have better conversations with each person about their activities. How are they spending their time? What’s working? What’s not? As a manager, you will be able to provide more focused coaching and make more timely adjustments because you’ve got the broader picture, and you get it in a frequent and focused way. You’ll be managing from facts instead of listening to stories.

You’ll also reduce those time-stealing interruptions because each person has frequent scheduled meeting times with you. And guess what? When they save things to discuss later, the most important issues rise to the top and many of the less important ones will either go away on their own or the rep will learn to deal with them on their own, which is helpful learning.

There is one thing to keep in mind if you decide to implement it. Almost without exception, every time we help businesses put an SOS into place the sales manager will tell me it takes too much time, and the reps will say they hate it. But soon there’s a predictable shift. The reps start depending on the meetings, and say that the one-on-one time with their manager is the best thing that’s happened in a long time.

And managers discover that an SOS frees up their time to spend on the most important things. In a world of very busy people, you’ve got to think: “First things first; second things never.” With an SOS, you’ll soon discover that the rest doesn’t matter as much as you might think it does.

If you want to see a sample of an SOS or a one-on-one meeting agenda, click here and we’ll email one to you.

2 thoughts on “Why an open-door policy doesn’t work

  1. Mike,
    We just hired a salesman that came back into the industry and could be a HUGE shot in the arm. Excited again!
    Now with this vibrant new salesman it is a perfect time to retrain some of the salesman that lost there swager.
    I wanted to get with Bobby and say lets work on skills again because they will now be listening this time.
    We are doing most of the things you mentioned but in a Baind Aid sort of way. This tells me to take more time with them not the “drive by ” and get more specific and work with them consistently and make the situation more acountable

  2. Of course, the goals of an open door policy are admirable–that’s why it’s so popular. The theory states that an organization uses such openness to build a culture of trust, collaboration, communication and respect regardless of an individual’s position in the hierarchy.

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