The sales industry often revolves around meeting metrics, making quotas, boosting the bottom line, and finding the latest top sales tip. It's a "production mindset" that has been ingrained within many salespeople for years and years. So it only makes sense that when an organization's sales process isn't working properly, management's instinctive reaction is, more often than not, to look for a quick fix — e.g., the proverbial "miracle cure."
If only it were that simple.
The Myth of the Miracle Cure
The reality is, very rarely can all of a company's growth-related problems be traced back to a single cause. Businesses have many moving parts. They are made up of many individual actors. Because of that complexity, the notion that "all of our problems can be fixed if we address this one issue" is typically exposed as faulty reasoning (sooner or later).
Let's talk about a common scenario. Many organizations blame their sales problems on a lack of quality leads. That seems reasonable, right? If there aren't enough good leads coming in, then how can you expect to grow a business? As a result, these companies may try out new CRM systems, add extra incentives for reps that make their quotas, or look for that magic sales tip from an outside consultant.
All of those actions are good. They will likely provide some benefits. But... what if the problem isn't really the number of leads?
Why It Doesn't Work
Imagine that Company X does what it takes to bring in more leads for their sales reps. To them, that's the "miracle cure" that will solve of all their problems. However, after several months their revenues haven't really increased. Why isn't the quick fix working?
It could be any number of reasons. For instance:
What's the point of all this? Simply put, don't look for a quick fix. It's better to take a step back and probe for deep-seated issues that need to be addressed in order to move forward.
Oversimplification = Underperformance
It can be tempting to boil down all of a business' sales issues to one cause. After all, popular culture teaches us that if people can just fix that one, fatal flaw (Achilles' heel, Darth Vader's anger, Hamlet's indecision), then everything will be smooth sailing. The truth, of course, is usually far more complicated.
The myth of the miracle cure has its roots in oversimplification. But let's not kid ourselves: It takes a lot more time and effort to address underlying performance issues than throwing money at a "quick fix" solution and hoping that things work out.
Here's the key takeaway. Don't oversimplify your sales problems.
Be willing to put in the work of analysis and research. Take time to figure out all the factors that could be contributing to your team's underperformance. Don't be quick to point the finger at any one thing, person, or department. Seek an outside perspective, if you need it.
If you avoid the trap of the "miracle cure," then you'll be in a much better position to identify and address performance issues — and your business will benefit as a result.
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As the sales leader of your company, you want to train, support, and nurture your reps to the best of your ability. Sales leadership is about implementing repeatable, effective sales processes to grow revenue. How can you make those goals a reality? What actions and mindsets should you proactively avoid?
In this article, let's specifically tackle that second question. We'll talk about three sales leadership pitfalls that you need to navigate around in order to really improve your team's performance.
If you're staying far away from these situations, then give yourself a well-earned pat on the back. If you can relate to one (or more) of these scenarios, don't despair! After all, identifying the problem is the first step towards fixing it.
Pitfall #1: The Spaghetti Thrower
Have you ever thrown spaghetti noodles against the refrigerator? It's an old trick that lets you know when the noodles are cooked all the way through. If they're not done, they don't stick. If they are, they do.
Some sales leaders are like spaghetti throwers. They keep trying out new solutions, and hope that, eventually, something will stick. They may cycle through one "growth activity" after another - mission statement writing, sales training and up-skilling, marketing collaboration sessions, team-building...you name it. The problem is, none of those solutions ever really "stick." None of them make a lasting impact in terms of performance or revenue.
Here's the million-dollar question: Is the "spaghetti thrower syndrome" a solution issue, or a sales leadership issue? The reality of the sales industry is that there's no "secret sauce" to make the spaghetti stick to the fridge. Results don't magically appear overnight.
A sales leader's impatience will cause his or her team to constantly change course, without any set destination in mind. Then, everyone in the company is going to think something major is broken — even if it isn't.
The takeaway? Don't expect big wins immediately. Give any proposed solution some "breathing room" before moving on to the next big thing. Your team will certainly appreciate the increased stability — and will be more willing to make those changes that are actually needed.
Pitfall #2: The Cinderella Story
This is a scenario that may or may not be avoidable, depending on your company's particular circumstances. The basic premise is this. Your business (Cinderella) needs to grow sales ASAP. Otherwise, you'll lose your investors, partners, and maybe the company itself (translation: your carriage will turn into a pumpkin).
A lot of startups find themselves in this time squeeze between rounds of investor funding. It's a great problem to have — if your sales team operates like a well-oiled machine, and you're closing sales left and right. If not, then you may feel like hitting the panic button. When faced with a "do-or-die" scenario like this, many leaders will go into desperation mode, and resort to sales tactics that aren't good for the brand, and don't really work.
What's the solution to this problem? Basically, you need to take the time to analyze what your sales team is already doing that works. Then, optimize your process from there. Don't risk everything on a big, untested idea that could blow up in your face. Use what you have. Call in backup. When time is of the essence, make sure that you're not wasting any of your efforts.
The takeaway? Don't panic when your sales team is under the gun. Optimize the parts of your process that are working; and get help for the parts that need improvement. Don't gamble on an unproven sales tactic. Build on the foundation you've already laid.
Pitfall #3: The Runaway Train
This is perhaps one of the more common sales leadership pitfalls that companies fall into. The sales team is bringing in revenue (i.e., the train is moving). But there's no unifying strategy to maximize the revenue stream (the train is a runaway). As a result, the company is overly reliant on "barn burner" sales once or twice a year, and leaves a lot of potential profit on the table.
Oftentimes, the lure of a quick win is what makes this pitfall seem like an opportunity. For instance, think about a business that discounts its products to 50 percent off during an end-of-the-year sale. Sure, the sales team will be able to drive revenue hard over the course of that promotion — but at what cost? What about the leads that would have bought the product at full price the month before, but decide to wait for the sale instead? Or the customers that just bought the product, and then discover that it's half-price? The strategy may keep the company's lights on, but it simultaneously reduces the business' revenue stream and devalues the brand.
Sales leaders that get stuck in this kind of rut may think there's no way to "stop the train." In many cases, though, the company isn't really on the brink of disaster. Maybe all that's needed to get the train back on track is a change of perspective.
Ask yourself: "Instead of worrying about the next three months, what can we do to grow the business over the next year? Should we really sell based on price alone, or can we sell based on other factors, like quality or uniqueness?"
The takeaway? You may need to take a step back and see if you and your sales team are stuck in a rut, and leaving growth opportunities on the table. Never devalue your brand or product without a good reason. Don't focus on quick wins to the exclusion of long-term revenue growth. Look further ahead than the next few months, and look for ways to improve sales performance in sustainable ways.
Sales Leadership in a Nutshell
There you have it: 3 sales leadership pitfalls that you should absolutely avoid to the extent possible. If you've fallen into any of these thinking patterns, then get to work on setting things right! You may be surprised at how impactful even small adjustments can be to your team's overall focus and performance.
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When you hear the term "change agent," what comes to your mind? Maybe you think of a motivational speaker that comes in with a stockpile of buzz-words and feel-good phrases, leading your employees in a "team-building exercise" involving a bed of fiery coals. Or maybe you think of a 30-year-old, wearing a power suit and perfectly coiffed hair whose only job is to beat up your sales reps for not closing to their full potential.
Here's the good news. Neither of those images represents what a change agent truly is.
A change agent's main goal is to affect powerful, lasting change in the organization. That can't be done through a dictatorship. Rather, a change agent must have the right attitude and skill set to do the job properly. That means being open-minded and respecting everyone's seat at the table, without exception.
Basically, a change agent must sincerely listen to each team member's input. In fact, he or she should welcome and actively seek such input. Only with the insights from and support of your entire team will you be able to effectively discover opportunities for improvement, align your teams and departments toward those newly discovered goals, and implement needed changes.
Three Key Qualities of a Change Agent
It's important to consider a change agent as a guide, rather than a boss. Think of the change agent as an "investigative reporter" rather than a "mechanic." The mechanic's job is to find the problem and fix it, even if it means disassembling the engine in the process. The reporter's job is to ask questions until they clearly understand the facts.
Similarly, some business-minded people want to approach their sales department as a "machine" that needs fixing. However, it is almost always more helpful to approach organizational improvements as a "developing story," one that needs to be thoroughly investigated before any definite conclusions are reached.
With that in mind, here are three key qualities that a change agent needs to display during the process of discovery, alignment, and implementation.
1. Seek to Understand
A change agent must seek to understand, first and foremost. That means active listening, both to individuals and groups. It also means asking some penetrating questions.
Language is a prime example of why deep understanding is so vital to organizational change. Take the word "partner" as an illustration. A lot of companies talk about "partnering with their customers" — but what does that really mean?
To one sales rep that may mean 24/7 availability; to another it may just be an insubstantial buzz-word. Only by asking those probing questions, and really listening to the answers, can a change agent find and define common ground — a foundation from which the entire team can build together.
One of the best questions that a change agent can ask is: "What's showing up for you?" It's open-ended enough that the other person can interpret it in different ways. At the same time, it invites honest feedback on the content and direction of the conversation.
A simple question like that, used skillfully, can highlight different opinions between team members in a neutral way. It's a great step towards ensuring that everyone is on the same page moving forward.
2. Hold the Vision
By seeking to understand where team members are coming from, the change agent can guide them as individuals and as a collective. The change agent directs them toward the ultimate destination — achieving the company's vision.
Of course, any long journey comes with its share of "hiccups," a detour here, a traffic jam there, a delayed flight up ahead... you get the idea. When those hiccups do happen, the important thing is to stay focused on the goal. This is where a change agent can prove to be invaluable.
The change agent has to hold all stakeholders accountable to the vision. If interdepartmental alignment is a clearly stated goal but communication is slipping, then the change agent may need to call management out on this issue.
It's okay if team members or managers occasionally lose sight of the end goal. After all, the sales industry gets real busy, real quick. But when that happens, someone needs to right the ship and remind everyone of where they want to go. Usually, that someone is the change agent.
3. Consistently Build Trust
When a company is struggling with misalignment, employees are going to experience some level of frustration, disappointment, and other negative feelings. In turn, those negative feelings are going to inhibit the company's "improvement team" from sharing potentially painful, but sorely needed insights with their managers and colleagues.
This is where the change agent comes into the picture. He or she absolutely must create a safe space in which everyone can express themselves without fear of judgment or retribution.
Maintaining confidentiality is a huge part of this — and it's an ongoing process, not a one-and-done task to check off the list. If a team member vents to the change agent, the rep's trust would be completely shattered if his or her manager comes by the next day and says: "I heard you were unhappy about this issue." Once that trust is lost, so is any hope the employee will contribute something that could lead to lasting change.
Besides confidentiality, the change agent has to know the culture of the company — and even the personalities of the individual team members. Would people feel comfortable expressing themselves in a large group? Would smaller groups be better? Or would one-on-one breakout sessions be most appropriate?
How the change agent structures team interactions will play a subtle but important role in whether all members of the team ultimately buy into a culture of trust and change.
Why Does Your Sales Organization Need a Change Agent?
The simple answer? Without the right person leading the charge, any changes you want to make will have less impact and a shorter lifespan, than they could have had otherwise. Of course, whether you yourself, a designated team member, or an outside expert should be your organization's change agent is a judgment call that you'll have to make. But when you give your change agent the freedom to understand, question, remind, and nurture, then your entire company will benefit as a result.
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Constant communication within a sales team ensures that everyone's effort gets expended to achieve a similar goal. According to HubSpot, more than half of salespeople rely on peers to get tips on improving. Interestingly, 44 percent look to their managers, 35 percent to team training resources, and 24 percent to media. It is clear that effective communication within the team and with the sales manager is key to success.
However, creating an effective communication system is never as simple as it seems. After all, each member is focused on their individual accounts. How can you keep the communications framework open? Keep your sales team prepared, informed, and focused on the critical goals with these four ways to build an effective sales team communication channel.
1. Get to Know Your Sales Team
Communication will thrive when you show interest in your staff. Get to know more about each member's professional and personal experiences and aspirations. You will establish a link that will promote effective and clear communication.
Your team will pay close attention to the message when it is more personal. Think about how you would respond to a more personalized message. Personal knowledge also gives you the edge of using fun and humor when communicating key points.
2. Think About Your Goals
Before you start sending out an email or having an important meeting, clearly think about what you need it to say. Did you know that the value of communication gets lost during translation? Managers often prioritize haste at the expense of communication quality.
Start by defining what the outcome of your communication needs to be. You will find it extremely difficult to communicate when you have a half-baked conversation in your head. Your sales team will also find it relatively tricky to decipher your goals. Ask yourself what you want your sales team to take away from the conversation.
3. Keep Your Communication Channels Consistent and Recognizable
When communicating with your sales team, always use a consistent and recognizable channel. It can be somewhat confusing for the entire team when you shift between different communication channels. Choose a particular communication tool. Stick with it and alert your team if it changes.
Start by training your team on how you will deliver the information and what to expect. Doing this will ensure that each member of the sales team gets communication on time and effectively. Avoid frequently switching communication channels, which could cause some members to not get your message on time.
As a rule of thumb, good communicators are always good listeners. When managing a team, the majority of the communication will be from you. However, this does not mean that a two-way communication system is not vital.
Establish an open and regular dialogue with every member of your sales team. Periodic check-ins are an excellent way of ensuring that each member can share their thoughts. Your team will also get a chance to weigh in, thus fostering effective and honest communication. Most importantly, you can act on the feedback you gather from your team.
Advantages of an Effective Sales Team Communication Channel
Why is an effective sales team communication channel vital to your organization? Never forget you stand to benefit a lot from keeping your sales team informed, focused, and prepared. Here is what a successful communication channel will get you.
Optimizing your communication channels is just one way of effectively managing a sales team. If you'd like more insights on how to improve sales performance for your SMB, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, contact us directly, or explore our website for valuable resources and webinars.
Do you have a culture of trust within your sales organization? Many companies, and managers within those companies, pride themselves on having an "open door policy." In other words, their employees can come to them at any time with work-related issues, and expect to be heard.
An open door policy is a great thing. And guess what? If your sales team is bringing up issues to you as the sales leader, that means the open door culture you've created is working. Because you've taken the lead in staying open to feedback, your team trusts you. They feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and issues with you — and hopefully with each other.
But here's the thing. You've got to do more than passively listen to your sales team's feedback. In order to build a trust culture, you have to actively listen. And then you have to act. If you fail to follow through, you may end up doing irreparable damage to your culture of collaboration — and to the trust you've built up with your employees.
Here are three basic steps you can follow to address issues that are important to your sales team in a decisive, empathetic and effective way.
1. Generate a Trust Culture by Creating a Space for Feedback
The best way to get feedback from your team is to ask for it. But it's not enough to simply ask. You have to demonstrate, over a period of time, that you're willing to really hear them out, and not take feedback or criticism personally.
In fact, the feedback you receive by simply asking could change your entire approach to team building, the workplace environment, and even your management style.
It's important to remember that your basic job as a sales manager is to help your team members become the best reps they can be. You're there to support them, mentor them, and even befriend them. When you prove to your team day in and day out that you're interested in them as people, they'll be much more willing to come to you with their issues.
2. Actively Listen to Understand
Once a team member comes to you with an issue he or she is having, it's time to really drill down to the core of the problem. Building a trust culture requires active listening.
We're not just talking about techniques like repeating your team member's statements back to him or her in your own words (although techniques like this are helpful). We're talking about making absolutely sure you understand what the issue is. Why is it affecting your rep? How does it impact your team as a whole?
Then, when you have a firm grasp on the issue, reassure your team member that you know where he or she is coming from. If you've faced a similar challenge in the past, perhaps you could mention that as well. And then it's time to transition to step #3...
3. Outline What You Plan to Do, and Follow Through
"Talk is cheap." "Actions speak louder than words." Pick any cliché you want. They're all true. If you truly want your sales rep to feel valued, highly motivated, and part of a team, then you need to clearly communicate what you're going to do about this issue.
You don't have to give out all the details. Just provide a basic outline of the next steps you plan to take. If at all possible, provide a rough timeline of when he or she can expect a resolution.
Obviously, the more mission-critical the issue is, the faster you should address it. However, don't let "minor issues" fall to the wayside. A minor issue may not be urgent on an organizational level, but it was still important enough to the rep that he or she approached you to talk about it. Not following through will damage the trust culture you've worked hard to build.
If you want your team to stay focused, to feel valued, and to give your company their best, then stick to this three-step process no matter how big or small the issue may be. For more insights on how to be the best sales manager you can be, be sure to sign up for our newsletter, contact us, or explore the valuable resources on our website.
Whether you're the leader of a sales team or a member of one, your sales task list is always long and a constant juggling act. There are leads to generate, opportunities to cultivate, contracts to write, customers to call back, trade shows to sign up for and sales meetings to attend.
Which tasks take precedence over the others? Is your day just a series of running from one urgent sales task to the next? A recent study found that two-thirds of a sales rep's time is spent on non-revenue generating tasks. That means it's essential for sales managers and the sales team to understand the difference between urgent and important sales tasks. Why? It directly affects your ability to generate revenue, the sole purpose of a rep's job. Here are some tips to help you make this distinction.
Urgent Sales Tasks Generate Revenue
For a sales manager or a member of a sales team, an urgent task is one that generates revenue. For example, writing up a final contract or returning the call of a client who wants to make a purchase are revenue-generating tasks, and therefore urgent. When you and your team review upcoming tasks, the first question should always be, does it generate revenue? When the answer is yes, it moves to the urgent column of your to-do list.
Managers Highlight Urgent Tasks
It's always a good idea to highlight urgent tasks in some way. If you're a sales manager with a whiteboard, dedicate a section to urgent tasks. Or, use a different color — maybe green, the color of money — marker for urgent tasks. You want your team to always know which tasks to concentrate their time and energy on.
Team Members Create a To-do List
When you're a member of a sales team, you have individual tasks that you're responsible for completing. Some of these tasks generate sales while others don't. Create a prioritized to-do list each morning or at the end of the day for the next.
Let your urgent tasks lead the list. As your day progresses, and you add tasks to the list, you need a way to indicate urgent sales tasks. Consider highlighting them or using an online to-do list where you can rearrange your priorities.
Urgent tasks are always the ones that generate revenue. Whether you're a sales manager or part of a team, you want your company to succeed. Making sales is the best way to grow a business.
What is an Important Sales Task?
An important task is a job that needs to get done in the near future, but it does not directly generate revenue. Whether you're a sales manager or a salesperson, there are administrative tasks that must get done. For example, an important task might include completing yearly performance reviews for your team or entering leads from the last trade show into the database. These are tasks that must get done in a timely manner to keep the company running smoothly. However, they don't directly generate revenue.
Focus on the Urgent without Neglecting the Important
As a sales manager, it's your goal to keep your team focused on urgent tasks without neglecting the important ones. Consider dedicating one hour a day to important tasks or maybe one afternoon each week.
If you're a member of a sales team and your manager doesn't dedicate time to important administrative tasks, find time that does not interfere with revenue-generating tasks to tackle the important jobs in your workflow. However, be careful not to allow an important sales task to slow any momentum your team has built throughout the day.
Create a To-Do List
There are important sales tasks that need to be completed each day, once a week or once a month. Create a daily, weekly and monthly to-do list, so you don't miss any important tasks.
Find a balance between completing urgent and important tasks that doesn't leave important tasks sitting for days, weeks or months unfinished. Similarly, as a sales manager, dedicate a specific time each day or week to these tasks.
What About the Gray Area?
There are some tasks that seem urgent, but don't generate revenue immediately. For example, cold calling leads has the potential to generate revenue, but it isn't guaranteed. Of course, you have to develop leads to increase your customer base and generate greater revenue for your company. However, does it fall under the urgent and important task list? It's actually the gray area in between the two. Make time for these tasks as well.
Managers Help the Team Prioritize
As a sales manager, it's your job to help your team make the most of their time. You wouldn't want gray area tasks placed ahead of urgent tasks. However, you don't want your team working on important administrative duties while a batch of gray area tasks waits. Find the gray area tasks a spot at the bottom of your urgent to-do list, ahead of the important items.
Sales teams want to generate as much revenue as possible for the company, especially if they work on commission. Complete all your urgent tasks first. Then, devote some time to gray area tasks that have the potential to generate income, even if it isn't in the immediate future.
Create a Routine
Put these gray area tasks on your to-do list somewhere between urgent and important. Work on these tasks without completely ignoring your important administrative tasks. Creating consistency in your daily and weekly tasks will benefit you and your team. Sales team members thrive with a level of consistency and routine.
Ask for Input
Trust your team. They likely have many years of experience in prioritizing tasks. No doubt, they will offer solutions to help incorporate important tasks without losing momentum on urgent ones. Encourage your team to come and discuss the possibilities with you. When you put a co-created plan in place, it helps you achieve the team's goals with support and accountability.
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Are you celebrating each sale your team brings in? If not, you're missing an opportunity to motivate your sales team to even greater achievements. In the past, sales managers installed an actual bell in their department. Each time a sale was made made, the manager rang the bell to celebrate and ensure that every team member knew.
Sales people are competitive by nature. Ringing a bell in their honor is a challenge worth striving for. Consider adding a little friendly competition (and motivation) to your team by ringing a bell. Okay, it doesn't need to be an actual bell, but it does need to celebrate the win.
You might consider ringing the bell through a team broadcast email, group text or slack. If you're in an office setting, an actual bell might be appropriate. Whether you opt for a literal or figurative bell, here are five reasons why ringing the bell is essential for your sales team's motivation.
Create a Strong Sales Culture
The culture of an office or department defines the group's goals and priorities. You know your priority is sales, but it's always beneficial to reinforce that in your culture. By celebrating every sale with a ringing of the bell, you put a unique spin on your own sales culture. A stronger sales culture drives your team to make more sales and to become more proactive.
A stronger sales culture can be achieved in a variety of ways, including bonuses, weekly and monthly goals, and supporting and strengthening the sales team. By adding a ringing of the bell, you strengthen the team without spending a lot of money or energy. Even without a monetary bonus attached, people like to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. It inspires both the recognized individual and those around them to work harder. A strong sales culture translates into increased profit and growth.
Drive Individual and Team Performance
It doesn't cost anything to ring the bell for an employee, unless you pay to have a bell installed in your department. Even then, it isn't that much. However, you get so much goodwill in exchange for this small act of recognition. While you might be considering a large and expensive reward system for your sales team, starting with t-shirts and ending with a trip, you can save money and create positive energy and momentum by simply ringing the bell.
You like to be recognized for a job well done and so does your sales team. As you ring the bell and recognize one salesperson, the others will see this recognition and strive harder to earn it for themselves. This small act can help drive the improved performance of your entire staff with very little effort or expense on your part. Isn't that the goal?
Show Your Sales Team that Their Efforts are Valued
Even in small companies, it can be hard for an individual employee or team to know that they are valued and appreciated by those above them. Your sales team works hard, and many of them probably wonder if anyone ever notices. Ringing the bell shows immediately that you and the company value and appreciate their efforts.
While blasting an email, ringing a bell or shouting out on a group text might seem like a small, easy-to-do thing, one of your salespeople might really need to feel appreciated and valued. You want all your sales staff to feel this way because this feeling fuels their abilities to go out and make more sales. People who feel valued are more productive and successful than those who feel marginalized within a company of any size.
Create a Sense of Self-Worth
Yes, everyone would like to believe what others think of them isn't that important, but it's typically not the case. Sales teams flourish under compliments and other recognition of their hard work. This is because it helps create a sense of self-worth. You spend a lot of time at work. In many ways, your job helps define who you are as a person.
When someone recognizes that you're doing a good job and celebrates your successes, it helps to raise your confidence and self-worth. As a team leader or department manager, your opinion matters to your sales team, and a little recognition and bell ringing can be a wonderful and positive thing.
It might seem a little awkward when you first start recognizing every sale. Over time, however, you'll really begin to enjoy celebrating with your sales team. Helping someone else feel better about themselves is a reward that you can enjoy too. You can also watch as that person becomes more confident and productive.
Allow Momentum to Generate More Momentum
When someone makes a sale, it shows that the team has built up some momentum. By ringing the bell, you encourage your sales staff to use its current momentum to create more. You want your team to be similar to a ball rolling down a hill, picking up speed as it goes.
Momentum drives sales and makes your team successful. You don't want to do anything that might halt or slow the momentum. By recognizing and praising success, it encourages your staff to continue working hard for their next sales.
As a manager, you're always looking for ways to motivate your sales force and increase profits. You may need to go old school and begin ringing the bell to motivate your team. Show them they're appreciated, and help build momentum. You can send an email blast or group text so each member of your team knows about a sale and understands that you and the company appreciate their hard work. A little "Woo-Hoo" can go a long way!
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Did you know it takes an average of 18 calls before a salesperson connects with their lead? Multiply that by every lead in the salesperson's funnel, and that's a gigantic amount of time spent chasing down sales. Yet, there's often a perception among company leadership that salespeople have it easy. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If your company doesn't properly value or take the time to understand its sales team, it can affect every facet of your business. Fostering a sales-positive culture helps you obtain long-term success.
The Benefit of a Sales-Positive Culture
Success begins with understanding, and understanding comes from the top down. Your company's leadership must set an example by demonstrating respect, appreciation and insight as to how their sales reps operate.
It's easy to see how misconceptions are born. For those who've never been a salesperson, speaking to clients seems like a soft skill, chatting and schmoozing followed by a lot of downtime. In reality, the sales rep spends only about 30% of their time talking directly with clients. The rest of that time is spent on administrative tasks like scheduling, paperwork and training.
Still, the misconception persists: that no one really understands what sales does, that sales seems easy, and that if the company needs more revenue, sales just needs to sell better or call more people to increase it. Unless your leadership takes measures to stop the anti-sales attitude from taking root, your company's morale and profitability could be in serious trouble.
10 Things Leadership Needs to Know About Its Sales People
It's a more effective strategy to build a bridge than it is a fence. Keeping your company's individual departments synchronized boosts morale and overall prosperity. After years of interacting with professional salespeople, these are the most essential things every salesperson wishes their CEO knew about them.
Your sales department is the driving force behind your revenue and prosperity, but they're often misunderstood by fellow employees and company leadership. It's important to view your sales team as essential and look for ways to enfranchise them. It's always better to build a bridge than it is a fence.
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An experienced, well-equipped and determined sales team can lead any business to success. The problem many companies face is that they have poor sales team performance.
In many cases, it doesn't have to do with experience or determination. The reason lies in the lack of understanding, empowerment and engagement.
Today, 75% of companies say that closing more deals is their top priority. If you are among them, showing trust and giving the necessary tools to your team can give your business a giant push forward. Consider these five ways to improve sales team performance.
1. Learn More About Your Sales Team
Being a sales rep isn't a profession. It's a calling. To be successful, these experts need to feel the buyers' pain points and offer suitable solutions, while guiding them down the sales funnel. All that requires determination, passion and hard work.
Unfortunately, many business owners don't understand the variety of challenges these sales professionals face. From that comes a lack of respect and encouragement, resulting in poor sales team performance. That's one of the reasons for a high sales rep turnover rate, compared to other industries (35% vs 13%).
If you feel unhappy with your team's sales performance, start by learning more about your team. As you work on your involvement, you can uncover various factors to help improve the team's performance.
2. Increase Sales Performance by Encourage Strengths
All sales reps have certain professional strengths and weaknesses. When you want an employee to increase sales performance, focusing attention on their weaknesses is counterproductive.
According to Gallup, building on employee's strengths is much more effective than trying to improve on their weaknesses. It's up to the employer to create a work environment to cultivate the sales rep's strengths.
A supervisor's understanding of his/her reps' strengths has an impressive effect on the company's bottom line because managers play a crucial role in maximizing employee output. You can empower the sales rep to discover and develop their strengths. Once you do that, adjust their role to exploit these strengths fully.
3. Support Teamwork
To boost sales team performance, sales reps need to come together as a united group. This could be problematic for experts, who are used to working alone. As you get to know each team member's strengths and weaknesses, you can figure out the best way to bring these people together.
4. Ask For Feedback...And Listen To It
The best way to discover a problem in the workplace is to ask. If your team isn't performing as well as you expect, ask your sales rep why they think it's happening.
The information you can acquire simply by asking could change your entire approach to team building, workplace environment and much more.
Don't hesitate to ask your sales team for ideas. They may already know how to solve the problem. Listening to your employees and trusting their professional opinion could help you achieve many business goals in addition to improving sales team performance.
5. Promote Engagement And Involvement
One of the top reasons why employees are unhappy with their work is the lack of meaning. When sales reps don't see a meaning in what they do, their performance suffers.
Employee disengagement costs the U.S. more than $550 billion a year in lost productivity. Even when scaled down to one company, the losses could be devastating. To increase engagement, employees should be invested in the company's mission, vision, value and goals.
It's up to the leader to show the sales team why its work is highly meaningful to the company. You should help sales reps understand that the work they do contributes to the company's success directly.
Start Improving Sales Team Performance Today
The success of your sales team doesn't just depend on its professionalism and experience. A big part stems from your attitude.
By getting to know your team better, encouraging its strengths, improving the workplace environment and promoting engagement, you can improve the sales team's performance tremendously. Work with your sales team as much as you can. Such an effort can bring an impressive ROI.
For more information about improving your sales team performance and other important tips, please sign up for our weekly newsletter.
What Is Your Client Really Buying From You? How to Create a Winning Value Statement - with Examples & Templates
You know that a strong value statement is crucial effective sales management, and ultimately for your company to thrive. It’s that power statement — those magic words — that tell your client that you understand their problem and have the perfect solution at the ready.
Though value statements are often brief, the process of getting to those precise, honed words can be anything but. So, here are some hacks and examples to help you write your own winning value statement.
Questions to Answer with Your Team
Before you put word one down on the page, you want to make sure you have these five questions answered with your team:
Putting it all Together: Examples + Templates
Now that you have all the elements, you want to put them together in a way that’s attractive, easy to process and memorable. Here are some hacks for doing just that.
Write one powerful sentence.
The most straightforward way to build your value statement is to connect your client and their challenge to your services and benefits in one, clear sentence. In Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers, Geoff Moore suggests using the following template to do just that:
Compare your service to something your client already knows.If you can find a way to compare your service to another well-known product in another industry, you’ve found a shortcut to conveying your value proposition. By relying on your audience’s knowledge of the familiar product, you can quickly say a lot about what you offer.
Focus on who and how you help.Steven Blank’s suggestion for cutting through the noise is to frame your value proposition in a way people will easily understand. He suggests focusing on who and how you can help.
Nail your elevator pitch.Building off of Dave McClure’s How to Pitch a VC presentation, which encourages businesses to focus on short, simple, memorable keywords or phrases, use this simple template to define the elevator-pitch version of your value proposition.
Challenge yourself to be brief.Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write an entire story using no more than six words. Since then, many writers have similarly tried to pack an entire story into as few words as possible. Can you convey the value you provide in six words or less?
Want more templates? Check out our Value Messaging Worksheet.
Looking for more on how to grow faster? Check out 10 Sales Tactics CEAVCO Audio Visual Used to Generate $2 Million in New Revenue.
Ever wonder what your prospect’s real challenges are, or what they are really looking to solve? What’s on the surface is not always the full story. By creating a 360-degree view of their challenges you can be more competitive and solution sell even more effectively. In this Whiteboard Video we share a framework we teach our clients to get to the real challenges quickly and brainstorm effective solutions as a team.
Want more tools to support your own ideation process? Download the Ideation Worksheet and use it to implement the process with your team.
Many sales leaders looking for ways to reach their revenue goals faster will say something like:
We need a team that closes more sales.
We need more leads in our sales funnel.
We need to convert more leads into customers.
We need to run better ads.
This way of thinking is a trap.
It’s an easy one to fall into. You look at your team, your funnel, or your outreach and see that they aren’t working the way you’d like. You immediately want to fix them.
But, as long as you’re working to solve your sales organization’s systemic problems by focusing on symptoms instead of the underlying problem, your company will remain stuck.
Imagine you’re building a house. Your screwdrivers and nails keep rolling off your work table. You discover your floor is uneven. You have several options to fix this issue. 1) You can put your tools in a container that stays put on the table; 2) You can prop up your table legs with a book to counterbalance a slant; or 3) Instead of creating a makeshift solution, repair the very foundation of your house, so that the floor is level.
Similarly, to fix your sales funnel, you need to repair your foundation. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team to begin this inspection.
If you put the time and energy into thoughtfully answering these seven questions, you won’t just temporarily repair your sales funnel — you’ll create an adaptable sales organization that will engage your audience, build crucial relationships and boost your revenue.
Ready to get started on creating a high-performing sales engine that drives scalable, stable and predictable revenue growth? Check out our article on defining your value, or take the sales engine diagnostic.
Good advice isn’t designed to make you feel better. "It’s designed to make you better," says author, entrepreneur, marketer and public speaker Seth Godin. If you’re reading this, it means you want to learn how to boost your sales team's growth.
Maybe you want to see your team embrace a stronger sense of camaraderie. Or, perhaps you want your salespeople to set realistic goals quarter after quarter — and reach them. Sometimes you may need to address negative behavior head on.
Most managers and CEOs don’t enjoy giving feedback. But when you ground feedback in strategic understanding, root it in constructive honesty, and use it to promote individual and collective growth, feedback creates a profound moment of vulnerability between you and your team. This can be a catalyst to elevate your team from good to great.
Here’s how to boost your sales team's growth.
Focus on Your Organization First
Giving feedback to individual employees without first taking deep stock of organizational health is like having your doctor only examine your liver during your annual check-up. You’ll get a really great picture into one small aspect of your health. But, that information will be partial at best and deadly at worst without a clear understanding of the bigger picture.
In the same way, all the following advice will fall flat — or worse, give a false sense of progress — if your feedback strategy isn’t grounded in a deep understanding of your organizational strengths and challenges.
Tailor Feedback to the Individual
Feedback isn’t one-size-fits-all. One employee may need you to include a lot of actionable ways they can improve while another may work better if you let them work out solutions on their own. Some may prefer a lot of praise and recognition before any feedback, while others may need direct problem-solving conversations.
Before you start revamping your feedback strategy, explore what kind of feedback is best for each team member's sales growth. Consider implementing personality or strengths assessments. Pay attention to what feedback strategies yield the best results for each of your employees. And, as you read the rest of this article, reflect on how each of the suggestions may be implemented differently to best serve each person.
Lead with Questions
Think about the different meanings of feedback. When there’s something wrong with the way a sound system is set up, everyone within earshot may hear the telltale whine of feedback. And often, it takes someone with a view of the entire system to locate the reason for the offending noise.
In the same way, your employees will likely know something needs to be improved. They can hear the urgent sound, like an alarm, telling them that things aren’t operating smoothly. But, they need your system-wide view to help them locate the problem and fix it. And just as a sound engineer may need to examine an individual amp or microphone, you need to ask an employee the right questions to fix the problem.
When you begin a feedback session, start with curiosity. Find out your sales team’s or salesperson’s thoughts, then explore the overlap between their challenges and the feedback you’re providing.
Be Honest, But Not Too Honest
When a leader isn’t honest with their sales team, it’s pretty obvious. It may manifest as passive aggressive comments that avoid naming necessary changes. Or, a leader may scapegoat all problems on an individual instead of looking at ways to make systemic change.
It’s important to be honest with your team. It shows vulnerability and breeds trust. However, being honest doesn’t mean being harsh or shutting down conversations. You want to boost your sales team's growth, and judgment and negativity won’t get them there.
Out of anger, you may feel like telling Dan, a new sales team member, that he ruined a potential client relationship for good by not being prepared for his presentation. Even if it’s true, that feedback won’t inspire him to make changes. Most likely, it will make him feel unproductive.
Instead, shape your feedback using the previous items on this least. Consider if there are any organizational issues that may have made it difficult for Dan to do his best. Explore what kind of feedback will be most meaningful to Dan. Ask him for his thoughts and rationale on the presentation, and see how you can become better aligned in the future.
Focus on Forgiveness
Even though you know intellectually that erring is human, when the health of your business is on the line, it’s hard not to expect perfection. Holding a grudge because of a mistake a team member makes, though, can breed a negativity that infects the team. Not truly forgiving an employee leaves them vulnerable to future punishment — something that doesn’t inspire a sales team to improve.
Instead of dwelling on mistakes, you get the divine role of forgiving. Make it part of the feedback process. Kim Cameron, from the University of Michigan, notes that "a culture of forgiveness in organizations leads to increased employee productivity and less voluntary turnover." That creates a company culture that breeds trust.
Increase Your Sales Team's Growth by Evaluating Yourself
When a team leader doesn’t look at how they can improve themselves, it makes it difficult for team members to follow suit. If you aren’t honest about your own performance, it causes blind spots that don’t allow you to lead your team effectively. When those blind spots are around leadership and the behavior you model for your team, the problems you’re hiding from can spread quickly and stifle your sales team's growth.
So as you’re doling out feedback, don’t forget about yourself. Ultimately, it’s your job to drive company growth, and asking for feedback yourself makes you a more effective leader.
In the Dan example, you could end with a question: “Do you have any feedback for me as a leader? Is there anything I can do to help you be more prepared in the future?”
Make it a habit to ask your sales team for advice on how you can be a better leader for them. Listen to their ideas and take action on them. When your sales team sees you consistently improving and making an effort to grow with them, it sets a foundation for a team that trusts one another.
If you want your team to grow, start with giving individualized feedback. While it’s not always enjoyable to deal with a team that isn’t performing, addressing what needs to change is the first step in creating the success you want to see.
How do you create the most effective feedback for your team? Let us know in the comments below. Read more about boosting your sales team's growth by developing a positive culture in this recent blog.
Trust is one of the most important attributes of any high-performing sales team. Just ask Jeremy Bloom, a former Olympian and pro football player who is now a tech CEO. He wrote in Entrepreneur, “I’ve been on losing teams and high-performing ones both in the NFL and in the business world, and the common thread of success is trust.”
Trust isn’t quantifiable, and cultivating it takes some work. Many strategies exist to help you create a welcoming company culture and build trust within your sales team. Here are five strategies you can implement starting now.
Build Trust by Fostering Real Connections
Teams that trust each other accomplish great things. Think about any Super Bowl champions. Not only do they work together every day, but they spend time with each other’s families, eat dinner together and celebrate wins (and losses) together. Many remain friends for years, even as they move on to different teams.
Your sales team is no different. The stronger the relationships between your sales team members, the stronger the trust — and the stronger your company.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, reinforces this message: “A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.”
Make it a priority to gather your team for meaningful interactions outside of meetings. Donate to their kids fundraisers. Sponsor an employee in a cause they believe in, or give them a bottle of wine to celebrate their parents’ birthday. Show commitment to both the individual and the team to build authentic trust.
Nix the Judgment
Just as real connections lift a team up, judgment tears it down. This kind of negativity seeps into any team if it’s not addressed.
Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success, says that "mocking irony, snark and cynicism can be compelling, but they’re toxic to your company’s culture."
Don’t let criticism get the best of your team. Instead, address any negative behavior over time. One-on-one meetings work well for individuals. Then, hold team-wide meetings if necessary to solidify the message.
Model the behavior you want to see in your team. Your actions and words serve as a blueprint for your team’s behavior. So, model the behavior you want to see in them. By walking the walk, you’ll create lasting patterns and cement positive team culture that will build trust.
Create a Safe Space Within Your Meetings
If members of your team are afraid to open up or feel they can never perform at high levels, it inhibits them and stifles trust building. They may clam up at meetings or become your echo, rotely agreeing with all of your input. If you really want to know what your team thinks, you need to create a safe space for them to tell you the truth.
Creating a supportive environment is tricky to do. Individual team member's egos, pressure to hit numbers and interpersonal differences are formidable opponents. Building a strong foundation of trust and transparency takes time and hard work.
There’s no magic bullet to make teams feel secure enough in their positions to share what drives them and what stands in their way. However, a good way to start is to model the behavior you want to see in your team. By being accountable to your team and honest about your own missteps, you can inspire the transparency and vulnerability that’s integral to a team that builds trust in each other.
Encourage Positive, Strategic Feedback
Too often, feedback is seen as sharing employee pitfalls. This negative perspective can make employees avoid seeking input on their performance, hide perceived failures and miss their goals.
You can be honest without bringing your team down. Frame missteps, errors and losses in a positive light, as opportunities for learning. This encourages deeper trust and allows your team to grow and evolve.
Further, to break the association between feedback and finger pointing, tie feedback to larger strategic goals. This also strengthens a sense of team responsibility and contextualizes individual challenges within the organization’s greater mission. I discuss more about giving honest feedback in this recent blog.
Let Transparency Lead the Way
If sharing positive feedback or creating a safe space doesn’t come easily for your sales team, it may be because you aren’t modeling true transparency.
Lack of clarity about foundational aspects of your organization — from your vision to what value you provide your customers — can thwart attempts to lead with transparency. You can share your thoughts, personal insights and experiences openly, but if your team isn’t aligned on company culture and sales culture, these attempts are going to fall short.
Ground any efforts for greater transparency in total alignment on your organizational building blocks. Only then can you achieve the openness that naturally builds trust — and a path towards a healthy, aligned company culture that runs toward the same goal.
Adopting the strategies above will help you create a culture that builds trust. By developing real connections, creating safe spaces and developing alignment and transparency, you and your team can reach your goals.
How do you build trust within your team? Leave comments below.
One of the most powerful ways to gain clarity into your strengths and to grow faster is to define how you create value for your clients.
Check out the video above as Karl Becker from The Carruthers Group describes the importance of aligning your sales organization around your defined value.
I’m Karl Becker and I help individuals and organizations improve how they sell. My focus is on clear, concise, actionable solutions.
In short, I'll show you how to increase performance and generate more revenue.
This blog shares approaches, tools, and ideas that I have seen create success.
If you’re interested in discussing anything, please reach out.