As a business owner or sales manager, you face the unique responsibility of challenging and motivating your sales team to achieve necessary business goals, without demotivating or disorienting them as you drive forward.
The biggest mistake many sales leaders make is to see sales performance as a binary (on/off) equation: Either a given salesperson is, or is not, meeting quota. From that, the conventional wisdom suggests that as long as someone is making quota, you leave them alone — and as soon as they are not, you are ‘on them’ to get back on track.
In reality, sales performance is a complex and fluid process, and the best way to drive performance across your sales team is to begin by treating them as a sales team. That means, for example, that even your top-producing reps should participate in ongoing training along with the rest of the group — and that your quota-challenged players should be working alongside their peers, rather than being isolated. Here are three strategies you can use to build a more effective, higher-performing sales team:
1. Share Peer-to-Peer Insights and Practices
Fed by the enduring myth of the successful sales person as a ‘lone wolf’, many sales organizations don’t even think to engage team members in peer-to-peer sharing. Yet, doing so can be an easy and effective ticket to improved performance. What challenges are some of your staff experiencing? What insights can one of the team share to help the others overcome emerging sales objections? What trends in competitive selection, buyer behavior and deal negotiation are some of your staff seeing in the field? Discussion across the team can not only help work through common challenges, it can also motivate individuals to drive harder toward the goal.
2. Monitor and Manage for both Competition and Collaboration
A competitive sales team is a healthy one, as long as competition is balanced with collaboration. There’s nothing wrong with a leader board…as long as everyone recognizes that the target needs to be hit as a group. Effective sales managers carefully balance and calibrate to keep their sales team culture healthy – encouraging individual excellence and recognizing outstanding personal performance, but also engaging every team member in opportunities to help one another, and highlighting sales successes that come through enhanced group cooperation.
3. Tighten Networks Within the Company
Many sales people feel isolated, not only from their colleagues, but also from their company as a whole. That’s why many career sales reps hold tight, and keep quiet, about their most valuable business relationships. Ultimately, though, secrecy hurts long-term results. If one rep has found that building rapport with a specific production manager helps ‘grease the wheels’ to get custom orders shipped ahead of schedule, that’s a good thing…until the day that another rep’s order gets bumped out of the queue. Sales teams need strong support across the company, especially from marketing, operations and customer service. Go to bat for your team, and encourage collaboration and appreciation across departmental lines.
Every sales professional brings a different approach to the game, and every sales prospect behaves differently as well. You can’t afford to build an entire team of cookie-cutter reps who don’t think on their own or function proactively and creatively. By the same token, you do need consistency and commitment across the team, so that everyone represents your company with the same level of energy, enthusiasm and integrity.
These three steps can help you craft a culture that will sharpen team skills, enhance pipeline management, and ultimately improve sales performance.