The other day, our sales management group was discussing a key factor in a sales person’s growth. For that matter, it is a key factor in any person’s growth. The question was posed, “When do let your people fail?”

Around the room, different people took different views of that question. One person took it to mean when you stop trying to help someone. Another thought it meant when you realize that it isn’t working and let the person go. Although the question could be taken accurately from either of those two perspectives, what I meant from the question was: Is this the moment when you stop “holding that sales rep’s hand” and let them become fully independent?

Sales are an easy process and, I would argue, one of the hardest things to do well. Most people who venture into the sales arena do so because they are independent, assertive and strong-willed. It takes those qualities to succeed and sales people will push back at everything, including their leaders. Yet most sales managers, often former successful reps themselves, want their reps to do things exactly as the manager did. “I did it that way and was successful, so you will be too!” is often the method of guiding a sales team.

What people need to understand is that to succeed, you need a combination of “best practices”, good relationship building, and inner drive. Stifle the inner drive and, no matter how good the team is, they will not make it.

So, with independent people, what has worked for me is to teach them the systems/products/services, show them a culture of winning and then let them loose. Yes, you probably can do it better than they can at the beginning, but you have to let them venture forth independently. That is where they are best.

Then observe carefully. Be ready. Your job is to quietly determine where any areas of growth could be and then wait. Eventually, if they are driven enough, you will have an opportunity to sit with them as they hit those “invisible” barriers and show them that you are on their side. Then you want to get good at letting them come to an “AHA” moment when they realize where their weaknesses are and ask for your help in overcoming them.

The “AHA” moment occurs when a rep really can start to achieve, or they realize this is not for them. Either way, everyone eventually wins.

Written by: Bill Leesman