Be a Thermostat not a Thermometer

So I’m at church last week visiting with the senior pastor, whom I’ve known for years and always enjoy talking to at length, when he blurts out, “You know what we need more of in this world? We need more thermostats and fewer thermometers.”

I knew exactly what he meant – we need more people who aren’t so consumed with keeping score and instead inspire others to be better. But I also laughed because anyone who was within earshot probably didn’t understand the context and figured maybe we were both delirious from sitting through too many sermons.

But I digress. I bring this up because it’s goal setting time for many of the sales leaders of the world, and as we look forward to a productive new year, it’s important to know the difference between thermostat leadership and thermometer leadership.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’m talking about:

Thermometer Sales Leadership

These leaders react to the environment. If their sales team is underperforming, they say so. If the team is overachieving, they say so. They are demanding, impatient, and base how they measure success strictly from a scorecard.

Thermostat Sales Leadership

These leaders monitor their environment and adjust the heat up or down in such a way that they inspire those around them to do better. They listen to concerns, gauge morale and stress levels, and set real and measurable targets. A thermostat leader evaluates every step of the way and takes corrective measures when necessary.

Which one are you? As surprising as this may sound, it amazes me how many sales organizations lead with the thermometer approach. They rely heavily on dashboards, which is an extremely popular tool, but rarely consider anything outside of what that dashboard says.

Axiom is unique in that we coach sales leaders to be thermostats, so they can inspire those around them while fostering the behaviors, skills, and knowledge that drive winning outcomes.

Two things must happen for you as a thermostat-minded sales leader to have a productive goal setting conversation:

  1. Display genuine concern – The idea here is that if any team member senses that you don’t really care about them both personally and professionally, you’re merely going to get compliance out of them rather than commitment and buy-in. Be concerned about them. Be genuine in your interest to understand them on a human level. You have to care. This can't be faked.
  2. Demonstrate competence – Show how you’re going to be able to help them, show them you've got a specific plan in place to help them accomplish their goals. Competence gives your salespeople confidence that your plan is more than just checking a few key boxes on a checklist. Inspire them!

The best thermostat-minded sales leaders focus their goal setting on two areas of equal importance: 1) the salesperson's personal development (the areas of skill, knowledge or activity to grow) and 2) their performance as measured by leading and lagging indicators.

The Guide to Sales Coaching from Axiom

In next week's blog, we'll discuss how to do this in more detail.


Andy Smith, SVP Sales & Marketing

For 24 years, Andy Smith has been helping some of the world’s leading sales organizations, including Honeywell, MasterCard, ExxonMobil, Microsoft, and others increase their effectiveness through improved sales process execution, better sales coaching, consultative sales skill development, and higher CRM adoption. Andy holds a degree from Baylor University and prior to joining AXIOM he served in senior sales leadership roles for Sales Performance International, AchieveGlobal, and Acclivus Corporation. He started his career in sales with Xerox before joining ExxonMobil where he discovered his passion for the sales performance improvement profession. Andy lives in Denton, Texas. Ask Andy about his very average golf game, radio broadcasting of high school sports, or his three adorable grand babies.

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Topics: Better Coaching

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