Saturday Morning Sales

Kevin Latchford


When It's Time To Stop Sugar Coating - August 5, 2017

An organization that I am quite familiar and fond of, and one I counsel on various sales, sales management, and marketing related topics, lost a management team member a few months ago. Neil had been with the organization for over five years in various roles and in management of the sales team for the past year. He left to pursue a new opportunity out of state.


When Neil announced his departure, many were surprised. He was well liked and viewed as an up and coming leader of the organization. He had ideas for growth. He was a regular participant in company meetings and team building activities. He represented the company at many events in the marketplace and still found time to join coworkers for happy hour. On the surface Neil was the ideal employee, team member, manager and friend.


Unfortunately, there was a bit of a dark side to Neil too, but not what you might be expecting. Don’t jump to any conclusions here, he was not committing a crime, or leading a double life. Neil was in way over his head in business and clearly jumped ship before anyone found out. He was lying to himself, to his sales team, and to his clients.


The company must share a small amount of blame too for this situation as they promoted Neil to a sales management role before he was truly ready. Neil had tasted success but was not “worldly” in a business sense. He was still young, he had not worked for another company in the past, and so he could not relate to past experiences to help guide his own direction. Instead, Neil relied on books that he would read, or speakers he’d go and listen to, all cheering on his short-lived accomplishments, and ultimately building a false sense of knowledge.


Neil made poor hiring decisions masked in excitement. Haley was a nice young lady with a good education. Neil sold her a bill of goods on her new role with the company, a role she was not entirely qualified for, and more importantly a role she ultimately did not want to be in. Neil portrayed himself to be a “coaching style leader” yet he was not leading by example. We’ve come to find out that he was more talk than action and lacked a lead by example approach. And, the icing on the cake, Neil began to lie to his clients, making promises that were not based in reality. Some had to do with the timing or pricing of delivery, others based around success of service that had yet to be provided. All the while, the company was kept in the dark, until after Neil left and the stories began to unfold.


Most human beings want to see the good in others. Humanity is based, in most cases, upon the ideology that while there are bad people in the world, most are good. Neil was not a bad guy, he just made bad decisions, and he did so because he lacked experience and lacked the character it would take to own up to such a lack of knowledge. The management team sugar coated these issues for the immediate few months following Neil’s departure. They did not want to paint him in bad light and they also did not want to look like sore losers since he left.


There came a time where too many issues arose, promises made to clients and fellow employees, were just not right, and the team needed to be told just who Neil was. The ownership of the company needed to stop sugar coating Neil’s history and behavior and deliver the message clear and concise. I helped them craft the statement. Here it is:


Neil was a young man who joined our organize about five years ago. Neil reached success within a relatively short period of time for which he was rewarded. His rewards came in the form of a promotion to sales manager. Neil was liked by us, by you and by our clients. Unfortunately, our mistake as the ownership, was to promote Neil too soon. Neil’s mistake was he got in way over his head, kept a smile on his face, and spiraled downward. Neil made several poor decisions, most of which we can put behind us, but some we cannot. The most serious mistakes were the lies he told to our clients to close deals. We, the owners, are meeting with our clients now to make amends. However, in doing so, we have taken on full responsibility of Neil’s actions, as he was acting on our behalf. That means he was acting on your behalf too. Our intent is not to tarnish Neil’s name, rather we must set the record straight. Neil was a good sales person at one point in time, but not a good sales manager. We, the owners, apologize to each of you for allowing Neil to continue down a path of representing all of us. Our vow to you is to learn from this mistake and to work to avoid any similar issues in the future.


Stop sugar coating it and deal with your team straight. They are adults and deserve to know when those they work with are excelling and when sometimes they are being mistreated (and don’t even know it). The lessons learned from Neil will stay with my client for a long time. Neil’s demise doesn’t make him a bad guy. He is immature in the ways in which business is conducted. Hopefully Neil will learn his own lesson, not sugar coat things, and speak up when he needs help.

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