Responding to Agents' Demands

Rather than caving to your agents' whims (or just blindly saying no to their requests), try to figure out what’s behind their stated needs.

July 2, 2014

Icebergs show only 20 percent of their Titanic-sinking potential above water. It's like that with your agents, too. When they share their struggles with you, they only talk about 20 percent (the admitted problem). The other 80 percent (the hidden problem) is underneath the surface — and ready to do some serious damage. When you’re able to get down to that hidden problem, that’s when you can influence the conversation, rather than just participate in it.

For example, say you've got a salesperson named Heather who says she needs a customer relationship management system to keep track of her leads and make more money. What you as a broker need to figure out is whether or not providing new software will really make a difference in Heather’s business.

Unless you dig deeper, you’ll never know. That’s because, at this point, Heather has shared only the admitted problem, which is that 20 percent of the total issue. Maybe the hidden part is that Heather needs to take some personal accountability for her success. Doing a little submarine dive to help Heather see the ice underneath the surface allows you to coach her in a different way. Talking through the situation will help her to do the math and determine whether enhanced relationship management skills are something that would be worth her own investment. After all, software only serves to support existing skills and won’t make up for a deficiency in effort.

After you and Heather determine whether or not a full-fledged CRM system will make a real difference in her business, it’s time to do the math. If CRM would save Heather an hour a week in administrative time, is that enough time for her to make an extra 100 calls a month? And if so, how many sales (and how much money) would that translate into? There are CRM programs for individuals that cost five dollars a month. Is it worth the investment? If it is, she can decide whether she wants to make that investment in her career or wait for the company to make an enterprise investment.

It boils down to not letting Heather stop at her gut reaction of "You need to provide CRM for me!" It's about helping her see that she is responsible for her own success. Address the whole issue and you’ll solve the admitted and the hidden problems.

It may seem daunting to uncover 80 percent of a problem when your sales associate is only asking you to solve 20 percent of it. But think of it this way: Your agents’ potential works the same way. If you can unlock that 80 percent of their unrealized talent, they’ll be 100 percent grateful.

Jason Forrest is a sales trainer, management coach, member of the National Speakers Association’s Million Dollar Speakers Group, and author of three books, including his latest, Leadership Sales Coaching. Learn more at