Motivating the sales force and maximizing the team’s productivity are only some of the situations sales managers encounter. Learn what you can do to improve your team.
1. What would you tell sales managers to help them motivate the various members of a sales force – some high achieving, some mid-level producers, some new and untried, some never quite achieving what they seem capable of, and channel partners as well?
Begin by upgrading your philosophy about managing and motivating. Most managers tell me they believe their primary role is “problem solver” to their employee’s challenges- a role probably learned from their predecessors and mentors. Many attempt to control their environment, working within the limits of what they already have. Some spend their time extinguishing fires. Others derive their energy by keeping certain challenges alive, providing them with some sense of purpose. Perhaps the real issue is not tapping into what might drive employees to motivate themselves. Continually providing employees with your own solutions can train employees not to be accountable. It will likely result in the lackluster performance you are working so diligently to avoid. It creates an environment of dependency, preventing employees from sharpening problem solving skills or discovering their own solutions.
Coaching, for example, utilizes a process of inquiry which allows your staff to articulate what they want, then access their own energy to achieve it. Otherwise, you’re using your energy to get someone else in motion. To uncover each person’s internal drive, ask questions. Invest the time uncovering what is truly important to your staff in order to improve performance and align their efforts with the company’s vision and direction. Unfortunately, in today’s business environment managers don’t feel they have the time or patience to ‘coach’ their team. Instead, they’ll just provide the answer or solve the problem, then wonder why their staff is so dependant upon them to be motivated.
2. Maybe there’s something you see being done over and over that just doesn’t make sense. How can managers motivate the top sales performers to outperform themselves?
Great managers realize one of their key roles is maximizing their team’s productivity. However, with long work hours, keeping up with deadlines and balancing personal responsibilities, something gets sacrificed. As such, professional development for their team takes a back seat to the problems that arise daily. Managers don’t have the time and resources needed to effectively coach their staff or develop the skills to become a masterful coach. If it’s not getting done today, it may be faulty thinking to believe that one day, something will miraculously ‘turn around’ and you’ll finally have more free time to invest in developing your people.
The managers who are realizing this are turning to coaches as a way to help balance their workload and provide the guidance and support salespeople want. The right coach can further refine your sales team’s selling skills that will bring in more sales. Coaches also provide the structure, focus and accountability needed to ensure your team is engaging in the right activities consistently so they don’t have to practice on their prospects. With this time savings, managers can focus on helping the company thrive, not just survive. After all, how can you expect more production from your salespeople without giving them more resources and support? And quite often, that additional support equates to more time the manager needs to devote to that person; time they simply do not have.
Here’s something else that doesn’t make sense.
Managers wind up spending more time on the weaker areas or problem areas than they do on the things they want to reinforce or create more of. For example, think about those people on a team that require more of the manager’s time and attention. These are the people who may cause problems at work. They may be the underperformers who you’re trying to help boost their productivity. Unfortunately, managers reward these people more than the top producers by giving them the greatest reward available and that is, their time. Your time is the most valuable of rewards and ironically, many managers invest their time in the wrong people. More of your time should be spent rewarding the top producers, investing your time in them, the people that make you look good, the people that consistently reach and exceed performance goals.
3. Will an awards program really improve retention? For that matter, will an awards program improve sales performance?
An awards program will help if:
A. It’s an award that the salesperson truly wants.
B. You have the right people on your team. (You certainly can’t expect an awards program to work if it’s offered to someone who shouldn’t be on your team in the first place.)
That’s why I suggest, instead of developing a one size fits all awards program, tap into the individuality of your team. For example, if you manage a ten person sales team you may consider that you have ten salespeople. In reality you have 10 individuals who just happen to be salespeople. In other words focus on their individuality, their personal and unique needs and goals to uncover what drives theme. Otherwise, you are making the assumption that your 10 sales people are exactly the same and motivated by the same things. Now, how do we uncover their internal drive. By using one of the most valuable tools as a manger, asking questions.
We may assume for example that everyone is motivated by money. This is not always the case. As a mater of fact, it is often what causes people to lose their motivation.
To uncover each person’s internal drive, schedule one to one meetings with each member of your team and invest the time asking your staff questions to uncover what is important to them. Listen to their responses and ask more questions as you uncover what they most want. Sure, you need the right answers to stay in business. However, to get ahead, you need the right questions.
4. What’s a good way to get salespeople to swallow their dose of training?
Have them develop their own training module. A few years ago, I put together an online assessment I call the Sales Diagnostic. This assessment is designed to gather more information about a person’s selling skills, competencies as well as their selling and learning experience in order to uncover the skills that need to be developed and strengthened.
The point is, when I finally get in front of the people that I’m training, I remind them who created the curriculum. It was them. Because they filled out the Sales Diagnostic, they were able to share what they wanted help in and the areas they want to improve. As such, you now have the opportunity to let your team know that it was them who designed the curriculum rather than someone else who feels this is what they ‘should’ learn.
Designing the training curriculum around your salespeople’s response creates a strong sense of buy in from your team. After all, if they created the curriculum, they own it. And if they own it they are going to be more apt to listen and act on it rather than report back to you saying, “Well that’s not really the training I was looking for” or “That really didn’t apply to me.”
Photo credit: Dennis Jarvis