The late Al Capone said that “you can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with just a kind word.” When it comes to dealing with salespeople, most of us have used kind words and the figurative gun.

Many dealers can share tales of salespeople too unwilling to stretch to achieve their sales goal. Sure, you’ve tried reasoning and pleasing, threatening and screaming, and yet there still seems to be little impact. I know how you feel as we have all been there, too. This month’s column tells you how to stop the hassles and still get the employee behaviors you are looking for.

Now how do you do this?

It’s simple once you learn the secret. Work through your “hidden manager” to make things happen.

Who is your hidden manager? The spouse or significant other of your employee.

I discovered this secret quite a long time ago (1991 to be exact) and have used it with resounding success ever since. I was faced with the issue of leading my sales team to the top positions in a sales contest being held throughout the country. The contest prizes were extraordinary and yet my sales team simply didn’t think they could win.

Rather than beat my head against the wall, I wrote a letter to their spouses and significant others. In the letter, I told them of the wonderful opportunities their families had to earn more money and the great prizes that could be won in our sales contest. I promised to send them (the spouse) an update every week of the contest telling them exactly how their partner was doing. I invited them to call me at anytime with any questions and asked them to support their partner while they made an extra effort during this contest period.

Bingo! I had pulled the winning ticket.

Once I did that, the spouses became actively involved in the efforts. Now it was the spouse encouraging their partner, in addition to me. It was the spouse asking them about the sales calls they had planned, the outcomes, and the follow ups. Most important, it was the spouse that helped drive their partner’s effort, not just me.

Needless to say the outcomes were quite spectacular. We ended with two of the top six salespeople in the country.

It worked so well in fact that when the next sales contest came about, I announced it to the spouses and partners first, not the sales team. The sales staff learned about the contest from their spouse, not me. As a result, when I discussed the promotion with the sales team, they were already informed, prepared and motivated to achieve. All done with their partner — not by me, the sales leader.

Next I figured that went so well with salespeople that we’d apply the hidden manager concept to our technicians, with a little twist. See, we always had trouble getting technicians to work on call, after hours or overtime during peak seasons. Has that ever happened to you?

So here’s what I did. I figured the employees working overtime or weekends enjoyed the extra pay while it was their spouses/families that absorbed the extra burden. So I did two simple things:

  1. I sent thank you letters and a monthly communications newsletter for spouses only from me (they need to be from the department manager and/or company owner to be most effective) thanking the spouse for their understanding while their partner was working overtime and telling them what was going on at our company.

  2. I sent gift certificates to the spouse for things that would free up their time so they could spend more time for themselves, with their families or with their partners. Some examples include pedicure and nail services, home cleaning services, babysitting services, tickets to movies, massages, spa treatments and much more.

What my company found was that the complaints about extra work went way, way down while employee retention went through the roof. After all, what spouse will encourage their partner to leave a place that displays sensitivity and understanding while communicating with them every month?

I’ve used this system of spousal/partner involvement and communication since 1991 throughout the U.S in both single unit and multi-unit business environments with tremendous success. It’s also been applied by companies outside the security industry with incredible results.

See how much further your sales can go by using your hidden manager!