We hear it every day; “I can’t seem to keep salespeople motivated.” “There is always some kind of problem or issue with my people.” “They get so negative.”
One of the most overlooked areas in most companies is the environment or culture in which their sales team operates. At Sales Coach International, we get called in to diagnose problems when a sales team is lacking in performance. The cry goes out to” Fix Us!” Often times, we find a stable of talented sales professionals who are starving for recognition, training, attention, coaching, guidance, and leadership. We find people “going through the motions” at their desks. We find people who have to come to work to earn a paycheck rather than those who get to come to work to build a career.
The environment that is present in a company is very important to all staff but even more so to a sales force. Salespeople, by the very nature of what it is that they do, are forced to go through very redundant, scripted, and sometimes very repetitive activities such as prospecting daily. After all, as one most aptly put it, “We are in the professional no-taking business.” It is unrealistic to expect most of your salespeople to be excited to come in and “pound those phones” or cold call on a multitude of businesses every day. Why is it then, that some companies have huge sales forces that do so with passion and fire month in and month out? Why is it that some companies can keep salespeople for a long period of time and keep them productive as well?
We believe that the answer lies in the environment in which they work. We believe that the culture that is created in a sales department is paramount to the success of the team and the individuals on the team. The good news is that it does not cost a lot of money to create a solid positive, enthusiastic, competitive environment that pulls people into higher results and commands stronger work ethic, more camaraderie, more trust, and more loyalty.
Take a look at the place in which your salespeople work. How are they physically situated? Do the newest people on the team have access to the talent that oozes from your top producers? Can they see them? Can they hear them? Often times we see sales departments that consist of many individual offices where each sales rep goes to fight the fight each and every day. Get your people out of their “silos” and into an atmosphere of excitement! Reserve the offices for the sales managers who may need to have one-on-one communication and coaching with those on the team. An additional benefit to this is that there tends to be a mutual accountability that grows from people having less limited access to their co-worker’s work habits.
Let the action flow! If prospecting is something that is done on the phones on your team, make it a team event. Schedule times where groups of your people do their prospecting at the same time. By nature, salespeople are competitive. Let them compete!! Ring a bell when appointments are set! Have a contest! Have fun! Take the redundancy out of the workday. Mix it up!
What type of communication culture do you have throughout your sales team? Do your salespeople feel that they can express their needs to their sales manager freely? Is there an environment that encourages input from everyone or is it a “head down-nose to the grindstone” atmosphere where it’s every man for himself? This is an area where we all need to pay close attention. When a salesperson is new, they may not readily ask questions for fear of looking inept. Assign a buddy, a peer that they can go to with questions, challenges, and concerns. It is a lot easier for them to ask their peer how to operate the database for the 3rd time than it is for them to ask their manager.
What do your sales meetings sound like? Are they run-of-the-mill excuses to get together to go over the numbers? Do your people look forward to them? Do you? A sales meeting is a chance to work on the hearts, the minds, and the gut of all of your salespeople. It is an opportunity for all to communicate their triumphs, their losses, their fears, and their enthusiasm. It is a chance for management to align the vision, track the goals, inspire, coach, train, and to LISTEN!! Sales meetings should not be the “you-know-what-runs-down-hill” meetings to beat up an under performing sales force. Most times, there is nobody that wants to close more business than that salesperson that you are about to burn in your sales meeting.
How many of your people would say that they are overly recognized? Recognition is one of the most important things to a sales person. It is almost as important as oxygen! The best part about recognition is that most times it doesn’t cost anything. Yet, we find that salespeople rarely get the recognition that they need from the company their managers. There are many things that can be done to recognize your people regularly. As salespeople, we will go out of our way to make sure that our clients know we care by the way that we communicate with them and tend to their needs. Why is it that we do not take the same approach with our people? When was the last time that your salespeople got a handwritten note from their manager? When was the last time that a salesperson’s opinion was asked in regard to an issue currently being handled by management? When was the last time that you said “Thank You” to your salespeople? Every company needs to address recognition as a vital system to be developed. Success comes by design-not by chance. What recognition systems can you design for your people?
Within their first 30 days, everyone wonders if they made the right decision to come to work on your team. Make sure that you develop a “first impression” policy throughout your entire organization. Instead of going away parties for those leaving, how about a welcome aboard party for newcomers? Make their first day a memorable one. Have a company shirt, hat, mug etc. on their desk for them. Have them set up on e-mail and voice-mail. Have their business cards printed and waiting for them on their first day. What would WOW you? Send a gift with a handwritten card home to their spouse welcoming them to the team as well. Get out of the box! Let them know that they are important to the team right out of the chute and they will dig in deeper and become more productive sooner. Do this, and you will earn the right to expect hard work, long hours, and extra effort.
There are hundreds of other things that can and should be done to enhance the environment in your sales departments. Challenge yourself to come up with creative new ideas to inspire your people. Most of all, do not be afraid to have fun. In fact, go out of your way to make sure FUN is not a four letter word.