Change in Sales Organizations Starts with Me

Question: What do the following have in common?

- I spend a lot of time spinning my wheels and not getting very much done.

- I am continually frustrated with the performance of my sales team.

- Why can't my sales team be more independent thinkers? They come to me with EVERYTHING!

Answer: These statements reflect people who are continually frustrated with the same problem. They are stuck and their problems can probably be traced back to making Big Assumptions.

Making assumptions about yourself or others, without checking them out, can diminish your effectiveness.

Now, there are assumptions . . . and then there are Big Assumptions. A Big Assumption is an assumption about ourselves that masquerades as the truth. We don't even know we hold them, yet they inform how we make decisions, and then how we act based on those decisions.

Note: our Big Assumptions always have dire consequences attached if we don't live up to them. They're nasty.

A Big Assumption in the 'spinning my wheels' example could be that this sales manager can't say no to requests. She assumes that if she does, she won't be seen as a strong leader, people won't like her and she'll be shunned.

Here are some common Big Assumption that I see many sales people and sales managers hold:

They assume that the have to do everything themselves, do it well, and do it today. If they don't, they assume they will be seen as weak, ineffective, or a loser.

Many sales managers constantly solve other people's problems. The Big Assumption could be that if the salesperson solved the problem themselves in a less than perfect way (i.e. the sales manager's way), the sales manager would be seen as a failure. Or, that the sales manager's service would no longer be needed. Who needs a manager when people can solve their own problems?

The list is endless. I have noticed that my own Big Assumptions are bigger when I am in a bad mood and begin to disappear when I am feeling good. My definition of a bad mood is feeling lonely or overwhelmed.

I can (usually) interrupt the downward spiral of a Big Assumption by looking at my moods. When I feel overwhelmed and/or lonely, I look for my Big Assumption and I question it.

My moods remind me to challenge my Big Assumptions by doing something different. First, I have to notice and admit I am caught in the Big Assumption spiral (the hardest part.) I keep a list on my desk of the Big Assumption to challenge, and note what is going on to make me feel this way. Then, I intentionally take a walk, notice things that make me smile, give myself permission to be imperfect, and make a date to see a colleague who I know will give me feedback, advice or energy.

What are your Big Assumptions, and how are they keeping you stuck?


1. Observe how your Big Assumptions show up in your thoughts and behaviours. This month, look at your moods and see if they reflect a Big Assumption playing itself out. Don't try to change anything; just notice (and maybe write down) where and how Big Assumptions show up and what happens as a result.

2. Once you firmly understand your Big Assumptions, actively look for proof that casts doubt on them. In the case of solving other's problems, hold off giving advice, let people run with their ideas, and see what happens. Did you get fired? Do people really see you as a failure? Or, did something else happen?

Have fun with it! You'll be taking steps toward becoming a more effective sales manager, inspiring success in your sales team, and connecting more deeply and authentically with others.


This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express written permission from Nicki Weiss. The reprint must include the section "About the Author".

About the Author

Nicki Weiss is an internationally recognized Certified Professional Sales Management Coach, Master Trainer, and workshop leader. Since 1992, Nicki has trained, certified, and/or coached more than 6,000 business executives, sales managers and salespeople.

Nicki guarantees increased sales performance when sales managers become better sales coaches. Sign up for her FREE monthly e-zine, Something for NothingTM, which has powerful tips and techniques for sales managers who are ready to make this transformation. Sign up at You can email her at or call 416-778-4145.

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