During my journey in sales, I saw bright days filled with victory and triumph. I enjoyed meeting new people and spending my commission left and right on unnecessary things.
I also survived the dark days, the ones that Hollywood does not want to show you when they portray the life of a salesman, days filled with failure, rejection, and a fear of losing my job.
In retrospect, gratitude is what I have towards my journey. The learnings I took away were invaluable, not only to my next career move but also to my personal life.
In my current role as a trainer, I have conducted 100’s of sales trainings and I’ve done on the job coaching. I listen to what sales executives and managers are saying and watch what they are doing.
I see mid-level sales managers using the stick and carrot technique, in a desperate hope to increase the performance of their team. I see higher management putting more pressure and responsibilities on their sales team. I see sales executives become escape goats marked by warning letters and terminations. I see it all and it makes me feel disgusted.
You are the problem:
If you hired the right candidates for the job to begin with but your team is still not performing, there are five questions you need to ask yourself before you go ahead and point fingers at your sales team.
1. Are you recognizing your best talents?
A simple email to the entire team, to recognize the best performer each month and why you believe they are the best.
A highlight of the best attitude in your daily meetings.
A casual praise when a job is well done. All will go a long way in recharging your team’s energy and keeping them pushing forward.
Understanding what motivates each one in the team can be a game changer in leading your team to success. Daniel Pink is the best I heard explaining the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
Watch his TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y
2. Are you overworking your team?
I remember my productivity levels doubled when I moved to a sales department that takes 2 days off instead of 1 day off.
You are not guaranteeing productivity if your team is working 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. You are destroying the morale of your team if they don't have a life after work, if they don't spend quality time with their family and friends. They will still cheat the system and pretend to be working. They will never go the extra mile for you or for their customers.
If you are judging your sales executives by the hours they put in, instead of the results, you need to revise your management style.
"Hey buddy, you've done a fantastic job today! Go home and enjoy the rest of your day". A simple gesture like that will make your team move mountains for you.
3. Is your process too complicated?
If your process is serving your customer, congratulations! But if the same process is drowning your sales executives in paperwork, duplicated data entry and irrelevant tasks then you are shooting yourself in the f
oot. Your team’s time is more valuable than money as every minute that is not spent in a sales conversation is wasted profit.
Revise your process to achieve balance. Free some of your team's time by pushing more paperwork to the back office.
4. Is your incentive scheme serving a higher purpose?
Money is a powerful driver, without a doubt, but your sales incentives scheme should not only reward individual target achievements.
The best incentive schemes support team work, customer satisfaction and quality data entry.
During my time in sales, I worked with an elite sales force of around 25 members. Amazing team, super positive vibes. We had each other's back; we handled each other's customers. If one of us wasn't achieving their targets, we stepped in and invoiced under their name, so the entire team achieves their targets.
Why? We were handpicked by a visionary management to work for that elite department, so attitude came first. Then the incentive scheme was supporting the department mission.
50% of the incentive was based on individual target achievement.
30% of the incentive was based on team's target achievement.
10% of the incentive was based on CSI scores.
10% of the incentive was based on quality and compilation of data entry in the CRM.
5. Are you training your team?
Sending your team to regular trainings is not enough! Aligning the learning objectives with your sales strategy is key. More importantly, sit down with your team after their training session and ask them about what they have learned. Leading the behavioral change at the workplace is what will take your sales team to the next level.
As leaders, we should hold ourselves accountable to those who we are responsible for, if they fail it’s our failure. If they prosper and become better versions of themselves, then it's a reflection of our successful leadership.