Expectations for sales teams

Schulman_Expectations for sales_HFA Blog

Quick brag, my littlest offspring earned a spot on a highly competitive volleyball team over the summer. When she was offered the spot at the last minute, she was pressed for a commitment right away. The flood of emotions ran through her 14-year-old brain. She was over the moon excited to receive an offer and all that it meant to her. She was accepted into the fold of a team that was not expecting to add more players, and that being on that team elevated her freshman cred and confidence as she started high school. She ran out of the gym after her tryout jumping up and down with tears of joy. What wouldn’t a father offer to see that? I met the coach, and we accepted.

Smash cut to practice, day one. Team meeting. EXPECTATIONS.

My daughter came home from practice that evening swimming in the pangs of anxiety. OMG!

  • You will not be late
  • You will not miss a practice unless you or someone you are very close to is dying
  • We will compete in the top national bracket

Well, there was a growth moment for my wife, daughter, and myself. I think I read something somewhere before about not eating anything unless you’re pretty sure you know what it is. We were so caught up in the potential result of what being on this team could mean on a personal growth level that we naively forgot about the sacrifices required to get there.

Oh, how this brings me back.

I was like a lot of you in another life. I pounded the hours, managed the brigade, rolled the dice on expensive marketing, and made the rules for my two little shops. With 90 employees and four departments keeping me up at night, processes and measurements were coming out of every pore on my body.

Naturally, whenever I was exposed to new ideas by colleagues or seminars, I thought to myself how amazing it would be to have better insights and new methods leading to increases throughout my business. YES! Let’s do it! Overcoming that old chestnut that “something else is always something better” comes with a metaphorical white pages of adjustments to implement. Sure, some are easy, but the easy ones rarely garner the best returns.

I think my NDA expired, so I can speak freely. In my consulting biz dev days, we had a process called “ruining.” In this process, we would ask storeowners questions we knew they didn’t have the answers to about the business to establish our credibility and then promise the path to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow could be found in a $50,000 investment in our consulting. We knew what they needed because it’s the same thing most retail needs – discipline and gumption.

When my daughter came home from practice that evening, I was spun back to the feeling of opening my store with the expectation of a busy Saturday. All ready to consecrate my Sales Sermon for the morning with the flock, being ever mindful of where my exuberance may take me. I wanted to improve, sure, but I knew that “wanting to” and being “intent on” each come with very different paths to execution. I was known for sometimes building myself quite a soapbox on which to work up a lather of sales enthusiasm to meet the crowds that day.

I was once burned pretty badly when I was on the floor on a busy day, and it wasn’t looking good. We were BURNING UPS, so I grabbed my sales managers and started calling audibles. “ENOUGH OF THIS CRAP. The next one of YOUR salespeople that hears ‘No thanks, I’m just looking to see what you have’ from a customer gets written up” The following day, there were 14 write-ups on my desk, and a dozen scrambled eggs on my face.


  • If you are going to set expectations, you better damn well mean it.
  • Expectations are not some of the time things. They are law, and the law will be obeyed 100% of the time.
  • If you don’t want to inspect it, don’t expect it. Nothing kills your authority more than being soft on a rule.
  • Expectations apply to everyone. Our future All-American middle blocker was benched a week ago because she was late to practice – a teachable moment well-coached. Send your #1 writer home on a busy day for not meeting expectations and watch them all fall in line.
  • Heavy deposits – Heavy withdrawals. Follow your own rules and expect the same from everyone reporting to you.
  • Commit to what you are INTENT on making part of your culture, or don’t do it.

Of course, none of this is new to anyone in a position of leadership and equity. But wanting a disciplined tight ship of winners is not easy. My old sales manager from my very first sales job told me that the consistent application of discipline and hard work on your journey to success would be the difference between failure and making it. So commit to making it.

Jonathan Schulman

Jonathan Schulman started in his father’s Los Angeles case goods factory, working the floor during college at Shelves and Cabinets in San Diego, and then owning his own stores that he later parlayed into a few Ashley Homestore locations. For several years, Jonathan was on the road as a furniture rep for the AICO family for his first eight years, then as a multi-line rep. Jonathan is the current President of IHFRA.

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