How to protect yourself when making difficult decisions

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Make difficult decisions with confidence by following these steps

Sales leaders are often tasked with making difficult decisions. Those difficult decisions are often going to involve the sales professionals you manage. Sales professionals are highly passionate, highly motivated, highly involved. They are a different caliber employee than the rest of the workforce. So when you’re making a difficult decision with your sales personnel, you, as a sales leader, must always protect yourself. Difficult decisions come in many forms— compensation, promotion, demotion, hiring, firing, training, territory alignment, customer assignments. In today’s age of cancel culture and employee rights, it is incredibly important that sales leaders protect themselves at all times. The problem of making difficult decisions is you’re always going to offend somebody. You’re never going to make everyone happy when you make a difficult decision. There’s always someone who’s happy with the difficult decision and somebody who is unhappy with it.  So how do we protect ourselves?

Red face test and numbers

Two main factors go into every difficult decision. Can I pass the red face test, and can I defend my decision with numbers? The red face test goes like this: If someone got a hold of my private correspondences around this decision, would I feel embarrassed by my commentary? Or would I be able to stand behind those words? If I can stand behind what I’ve said and done professionally, I can feel confident in my ability to safely make a difficult decision.

Next, I always want to be able to defend my position, and here’s how I do that. I know I can defend my position when I use metrics to back up my decision. The beauty of sales is that numbers don’t lie. Difficult decisions that are made with metrics and consistent algorithm— not emotions— will stand up to any challenge.  So when I make a difficult decision and it has to do with the promotion or demotion, I make sure to justify it with the numbers. I once had a mentor who used to teach me you are what the scoreboard says you are. Your numbers are a reflection of your work performance. The numbers are what they are. They’re not debatable. You may not like them. There’s conditions that may exist. However, at the end of the day, if you’re making a difficult decision based off sales, performance, revenue, performance, profitability, you’ve made a decision that you can stand behind. This has to be done consistently however. If I’m going to make a difficult decision based on the metrics or numbers for one person and ignore the metrics for the next person, well, then that’s when you as a sales leader, can get yourself in trouble.

Document everything

But that’s not all. You have to do one more additional step. You have to document everything for your own benefit.  I know that we as sales leaders we are often juggling dozens of balls at once. We have personal and sales quotas and recruiting and upset customers and compensation. Documenting your correspondence can be difficult and time consuming. But doing so will be your best friend. Send yourself and email. Document with your HR partner. “Hey I just had a conversation with an employee and I wanted you to be aware…” It doesn’t matter if you work for a top 100 company or your’e in a five employee-company in a small town. Employment law is employment law. If you are a sale leader or even more so if you’re an owner, you have to document everything.

Sales leadership is about getting results. Sometimes getting results requires you to make difficult decisions around the people you manage. If you are consistent, can stand behind what you’ve said and done professionally, and you document everything, you’ll be able to make difficult decisions with confidence.

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