There are few things more disappointing than losing a valued member of your sales team. They’ve maintained high activity levels, consistently won new accounts, sales targets are being hit but they unexpectedly leave. How would it impact on your business if your top sales performers left, possibly to work for a competitor? Based on my own experience in sales, here are some ideas to keep your sales team focused, motivated, productive and loyal.
Have a Formal Induction Programme
Salespeople want to spend their time in front of prospects and closing deals. By introducing new sales recruits to key internal contacts, as part of a formal induction, they can build relationships early on and know exactly who to liaise with and delegate to when processing orders and dealing with queries.
Sales targets need to be stretching but achievable with a really concerted effort. If they’re unrealistic and unobtainable they’ll have an extremely demotivating effect and your sales team will quickly lose focus. Targets should be broken down to monthly, weekly and even daily figures so as to calculate a performance vs target run rate. This information should be communicated out regularly so people know where they stand relative to their targets.
For most salespeople money is not the only motivation but it’s important to reward in direct proportion to sales performance. Target your sales team on profit as well as turnover to discourage discounting. Consider commission bandings to encourage salespeople to break through a ceiling to get to a higher level. Personally, I favour paying monthly commissions, rather than quarterly or having an annual bonus.
Encourage Healthy Competition
Sales are competitive animals! Prominently displaying a “league table” of individual sales achievement will encourage them to stay focused and outperform one another, so as to get the public recognition they often crave.
People, regardless of whether they’re in sales or not, like to feel value. Arranging regular field accompaniments shows that you’re interested in supporting and coaching them as individuals. This is a great opportunity for you to observe the salesperson, confirm that they’re following best practice and experience any issues and challenges they might be facing resulting in greater empathy.
Regular One to Ones
As part of managing your sales team you should diarise regular review meetings with each sales person. With an agreed agenda, you can discuss their business pipeline including the value of deals, where they are in the sales process, the probability of closing and the timescale for this to happen. Salespeople can sometimes exaggerate the likelihood of winning business so it’s your responsibility to fact find and assess how realistic they’re being. Meetings should always be constructive and you should ask how you as their manager might be able to assist them in closing these deals, perhaps through a joint visit.
Selling well is a combination of skills, knowledge and activity levels. If you put systems in place that slow up the salesperson you’ll cause unnecessary frustration. For example, if they’re doing a telesales session and updating their customer relationship management (CRM) system as they go, the last thing you want them to be doing is clicking through countless screens to enter information from their conversations. It’s impossible to get a good momentum going if for every minute they’re spending on the phone they’re spending 10 minutes on data entry, so make sure your systems are fit for purpose.
Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets make it very easy these days for field based salespeople to communicate with prospects, customers and colleagues. For a relatively small investment salespeople can have access to their CRM system, respond quickly to emails and sales enquiries and enlist the help of colleagues to resolve any issues, freeing up more time for selling.
Empower Your Sales Team
In my experience the best managers are those that set objectives but then leave it to the individual to formulate a plan to achieve these based on their own skills and experience. People love the freedom to work on their own initiative so don’t discourage those who can sell more creatively.
Be Mindful of Personality Types
One of the traits of a good manager is their ability to quickly pick up on different personality types and adapt their communication and management style accordingly. Consider investing in personality profiling to establish what makes each salesperson “tick” i.e. motivators, fears, selling style.
Make the sharing of ideas a part of each and every sales meeting. People need to feel valued and that their thoughts are appreciated. Encourage every member of the team to talk about business wins since the previous meeting, what new sales opportunities they’ve identified and what’s worked well for them with prospecting, appointment making and closing deals. Again, salespeople love public recognition but it’s a great opportunity to share best practice.
Encourage Flexible Working
If a salesperson who manages a territory some distance from the office has to commute in to complete administrative tasks, this can be demotivational due to the unproductive use of selling time. Where possible, provide them with a home setup and reassess your processes and procedures with remote workers in mind. Consider the opportunity cost of all that time spent in traffic jams!
Training and Development
As part of their continual professional development all salespeople should attend sales training courses. Learning new skills which can be applied immediately to improve their sales effectiveness can be extremely motivational. This positively impacts on sales turnover and company profitability and so is a great return on investment.
Salespeople like to know that there is a career path within the company they work for. Having something that they can work towards where they’re able to take on added responsibility, be recognised through promotions and improve their earning potential are all important factors.
People can have preconceived ideas about the people they work with and sometimes this can discourage open communication and team working. Organise activities is a social setting where people can relax and get to know one another without immediate work pressures.
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