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What Kind of Sales Manager Would Abraham Lincoln Be?

The Thanksgiving Holiday in the United States was passed into law by President Lincoln in 1863 so now is as good a time as any to reflect on our 16th president. I recently read a couple of books on Abraham Lincoln—Founder’s Son by Richard Brookhiser and A. Lincoln by Ronald White.Abraham Lincoln image

Lincoln was one of the most unlikely people ever to become president. He had no management experience, attended no more than one year of schooling, and managed his paperwork by stuffing important papers in his tall hat.

It occurred to me, however, that Lincoln possessed an overabundance of qualities that all great salespeople have: ambition, empathy and people skills. No doubt, he would have been an excellent candidate today for an entry-level sales position! And certainly, because of his leadership skills, he would have moved up into sales management.

So that begs the question: what kind of sales manager would Abe Lincoln be? You be the judge…

Lincoln understood the importance of listening and deep thinking.

As a boy, when his parents had house guests, Abe would remain silent, attentive – an observer of the conversation. He would never speak until the guests were gone. Then he would write down what he learned, and repeat it to himself again and again until he fully understood it.

Analysis was another of Lincoln’s strengths. Long before he had presidential aspirations he was a country lawyer. And it was said that Lincoln’s strength was his ability to focus on the case, mastering the details and the principles involved. “He not only went to the root of the question,” said his law partner, “but dug up the root.”

Lincoln was a great coach. He drew on his knowledge and skills, then asked insightful questions to help people discover their own answers.

During the first few years of the Civil War, Lincoln’s generals were mostly unsuccessful. He followed his generals’ decisions and actions very carefully and communicated with them frequently. But he took care to express his ideas and suggestions as advice posed through questions, rather than direct “do-this, don’t do that” orders.

Lincoln supported his peak performers even if they happened to ruffle some feathers in the organization.

Lincoln’s most successful general was Ulysses S. Grant. As Grant won victory after victory, his popularity rose. And sometimes that popularity was seen as a threat by others. One day a delegation of congressmen went to the White House to urge Lincoln that Grant be fired because he reportedly drank too much. Lincoln then told the congressmen that it would be helpful if they could tell him what kind of whiskey Grant preferred because he’d like to buy some for his other generals!

Lincoln took time to understand what his customers were thinking.

In the 1860s anyone could make a cold call on the White House and stand a better-than-even chance of getting in to see the President. Lincoln regularly took time to meet people who stopped by the White House without appointments to say hello. Why? Because he wanted to meet with common everyday citizens in order to better understand what his customer – the American people – were thinking. There were no pollsters in the 19th century.

Lincoln maintained his sense of humor, even during times of stress.

The morning after Lincoln was first elected to the presidency, just as the country was about to split apart, he greeted some newspaper reporters who had been following him during the campaign. “Well, boys, your troubles are over now. Mine have just begun.”

Lincoln managed his anger.

After the Union forces won at Gettysburg in 1863, Lincoln’s commander George Meade had not pursued the surviving Confederates, who retreated to Virginia. So the battle, though a major turning point in the Union’s favor, was not final as Lincoln had hoped it would be. Lincoln was distraught. He wrote a blistering letter to General Meade criticizing him for the missed opportunity. Following Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 the letter to Meade was found in Lincoln’s desk, never signed nor sent. Lincoln managed his emotions and knew that getting angry could not change what had already happened.

He never stopped learning, so he never stopped becoming a better and better leader.

Perhaps the single most important attribute that Lincoln possessed was his ability to learn. He was passionate about self-improvement. As a boy he was greatly inspired when he read the biography of George Washington. And he didn’t stop learning when he moved into the White House. During the first few years of the Civil War, from 1861-May 1863, the Union army lost most of the battles it fought. Frustrated by this lack of success, Lincoln borrowed a book from the Library of Congress entitled “Elements of Military Art and Science” and studied it deeply.

Lincoln went to work every day with the attitude of a learner, and the result was that he continued to improve his leadership skills. The times demanded that he be good, and he made himself great.

So what kind of sales manager would Abraham Lincoln be, if he were alive today? No doubt, he would be a great sales manager! Fortunately for us, he had a different calling.

During this season of Thanksgiving, perhaps we could best say “Thanks, Abe” by striving to imitate his leadership qualities.

Download our new eBook 7 Ways to Drive Your Sales Coaching Culture !!!!


7 Ways to Drive Your Sales Coaching Culture (Free eBook)

Implementing a formalized approach to sales coaching – a sales coaching culture – is proven by research to drive up sales performance.

The link between the ability of your sales managers to coach sales reps and your reps’ willingness and ability to make the best use of that coaching is critical to your company’s top line!

In this e-book Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership, shares the 7 ways to drive your sales coaching culture. Specifically, you will learn:SalesCoachingCulture2

  • How to hire more coachable people - identify which sales rep candidates have the willingness and aptitude to be coached.
  • 5 common mistakes sales managers need to avoid to coach effectively on a daily basis.
  • How to better motivate your sales reps to accept coaching by distinguishing between motivators and de-motivators.
  • Daily techniques for nourishing your sales coaching culture.
  • 5 qualities a good manager needs to develop to become a great sales coach.
  • Tips for coaching the team with discipline and constructive feedback.
  • The one essential requirement managers need in order to gain greater buy-in from their team.

Download this important eBook today! “7 Ways to Drive Your Sales Coaching Culture


5 Ways to Prevent Sales Reps from Saying “I Quit!”

There is nothing more frustrating for a sales manager than to have a senior-tenured sales rep resign.

Many companies are coming to realize that the #1 reason why productive salespeople leave is because of their relationship with their sales manager. The decision a sales rep makes to quit your company doesn’t occur in an instant. When there is too little coaching from the sales manager and very little feedback (other than negative), a salesperson becomes gradually disengaged with what is going on. He or she perceives they are not growing and they begin to wonder if the grass may be greener somewhere else.

Here are five things sales managers can do to prevent sales rep attrition:business man quitting
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Great Sales Coaches Help Reps Learn from a Loss

Blog image sympathyNobody, no matter how good they are at selling, has a 100% win rate. That means all of us have to learn how to deal with losses. As a sales manager, your job is to help your team learn from these losses. A lost sale is a failure only when we, individually and as a team, don’t learn from it.

Having a positive attitude is especially important in the sales profession. And when a salesperson loses a big deal, it is easy for them to get down. That’s a normal human reaction. But if your salesperson stays down, that’s not good. And one way to help salespeople process their lost sales quicker is to teach them how to “look for the lesson” in every lost sale.
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The 5 Biggest Mistakes New Sales Managers Make

Your transition from salesperson to sales manager is one of the biggest challenges in the sales profession. It requires a complete change in thinking. Overnight, you go from being in control of your own destiny to having your performance ratings determined by the results other people produce.Problems we Solve

In fact, the more successful you were as a salesperson, the more difficulty you will have in the transition. Successful sales reps-turned-managers have a very hard time giving up the things that made them successful in their original sales job.

Many new sales managers understand they’re facing a big change. What they lack is a clear understanding of “OK, now what do I do?” Without guidance, they’re prone to making five big mistakes. Here’s an overview of those mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.
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Two Sales Coaching Strategies to Boost Sales Performance

Recently I conducted a webinar for a large company whose sales managers had completed our Sales Coaching & Leadership Workshop a few months earlier. I started by asking them, “What is the most significant change you’ve made in your sales management style in the last 60 days?” There were two themes I heard about most.Busy person graphic

The first was, “I start and end every day with coaching. Big change!”

Though coaching is something that sales managers tell me they want to do more often, they all seem to struggle with truly making it their #1 priority every day. Why? Because they’re too busy responding to emails, dealing with unexpected problems, answering calls and texts, finishing work from the day before, etc.
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Creating Your Coachable Sales Team

What is coachability? When I ask sales managers in my sales management workshop this question most of the time there is confusion as to the correct definition of coachability. Just because a salesperson seems to have an agreeable and receptive nature doesn’t mean they are coachable.Blog image file for coach

At one level, determining coachability is simple: if a sales rep changes what they are doing based on feedback and your constructive suggestions, then they are coachable. If they smile and nod and thank you for the great advice but don’t subsequently make any changes, they aren’t coachable.
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Boost Sales Team Morale in 3 Weeks

How do you boost sales team morale in just 3-weeks?

Calendar Image Recently a Sales VP who had just attended one of my Sales Coaching & Leadership Workshops asked me that very question. He was under a lot of pressure from his CEO to improve sales team health and increase sales, so he needed some concrete steps he could implement immediately. Here’s what he and I came up with for his 3-week plan.

Week 1: Update Roles & Responsibilities

The company this VP worked for had undergone some major shifts in recent years. Their market was expanding, partly through increased specialization of offerings. The VP now realized that the job descriptions for the sales rep position were out of date and didn’t accurately reflect the changes in the business and markets that had occurred.
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Why Salespeople Don’t Use CRM & What to Do About It

Albert Einstein had a sign on his office wall: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Albert should have been in Sales Operations, because his sign explains why so many companies who make huge investments in CRM systems like and others can be totally frustrated with low sales rep adoption rates and inaccurate forecasting results: Not everything that can be counted counts.

Why do so many salespeople resist the usage of CRM systems? One reason is that because of flawed CRM funnel structure, sales managers are unable to coach salespeople effectively. While managers can monitor activity levels after-the-fact, flawed funnel structure inhibits managers’ ability to coach sales skills, strategy, knowledge, etc. So your reps don’t sell more when they put information into CRM, and they wonder, “Why am I doing all this extra work? What’s in it for me?”
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