by Vaughn Sigmon
Let’s Dive Right In …
1. Give them a goal
They all must have a goal. Sales Professionals, People, Associates, Representatives, or whatever title you assign you sales team members. Where and how to determine a goal? It starts with a sales plan for the company. This does not have to be elaborate. You can simply base a plan on a percentage over last year sales. Break it down by month. Then by the salesperson. If you have 5 salespeople, take the sales plan and just divide by 5. If that simple math does not seem fair, then you can certainly weight it in a multitude of ways. Simple works though.
Imagine any kind of sport without a score. The score is what keeps people informed on where they stand. They can gain a sense of success or the pressure to catch up. It’s simple and works. In my coaching experience, when I’m brought in to turnaround a sales team, it’s the first question I ask. “What are the goals of the sales team?” Most often, well almost always, “broken” sales team have either no goals or some very weak ones that are not thought out in any way. Let me tell you that is a big red flag and probably one of the most critical reasons why they are not performing very well. They just don’t know specifically, what is expected of them.
The best sales leaders are target and deadline driven. In personality testing, top sales managers scored 19% higher in the self-discipline facet, 20% higher in the success-driven facet, and 27% higher in the priority-focused facet than underperforming sales managers. As a result, they have the natural disposition to fixate their team on achieving their revenue goals at the exclusion of all else. They block out distractions and compartmentalize negative news that might sidetrack their team or cause their department to flounder. They keep their team focused and moving forward with a sense of urgency, regardless of the circumstances.
2. Hold Them Accountable
Sales Team Management is 80% leadership and 20% management. The sales managers who focus on strong leadership are the winners. A critical point of leadership is accountability. One part of the accountability that often gets missed is fair accountability for all. No one person on a team, including the manager, can get special treatment when it comes to clear accountability. The worse thing a leader can do to their team is allowed an underperformer or disruptor, to stay on the team with no repercussions. The higher performers will be affected by these underperformers.
How? It drives great salespeople crazy, and they often get fixated on these poor performers not being dealt with. They will almost always slip in performance themselves due to the way this affects their own drive. Face it; the team is looking to the manager to do something about this problem person. Every day you avoid dealing with it erodes the level of leadership the sales manager has with the rest of the team. A little each day, the respect for the manager erodes, drip by drip until you have a much bigger problem.
A sales manager is risking losing one of the better performers. Deal with problem team members professionally but deal with it swiftly. “Management is paid to overcome problems not live with them.” Salespeople talk amongst themselves and fee on each other emotions. If you are dealing with a problem employee, they’ll know without you ever having to tell anyone.
Great sales leaders hold their team to a higher level of accountability. Seventy-five percent of high-performing sales managers agreed that their salespeople are consistently measured and held accountable against their quota, compared to 58% of underperforming sales managers.
However, their authority is not autocratically administered as you might think. Rather, it is based upon establishing an environment where sales team members continually seek to prove themselves, thereby driving higher overall departmental performance. The leaders establish this culture using a “carrot and stick” psychological approach.
Overachievers receive praise and public recognition, while underachievers are admonished or ostracized until they redeem themselves. In essence, the command instinct is responsible for creating the peer-pressure and attention-seeking environment that eliminates complacency.
Sales Plans set and committed to by the salesperson and manager at the beginning of the month. This should be tied to the company target.
Daily updates on performance. Be encouraging on down days and rewarding on good days. Celebrate wins, and catch them doing it “Right.” Feed their head!
Update the sales board daily. You do have a sales board, right? Make the salesperson enter their number each day. It needs to be in a visible location for the sales team but should not be where customers can see the board.
Have a monthly review with each salesperson for about 30 min each. Discuss the monthly targets and goals and how they achieved. Underperformers must be dealt with quickly and move on.
Weekly sales meeting are mandatory.
3. Hire the Right Fit
Interviewing and hiring sales professionals can be efficient, or it can be effective. You really must take your time and improve the effectiveness of your hires. Don’t fall into the trap of making pressure hires. Most of the time, you will regret rushing the process and making snap decisions. Especially decisions that are based on experience. Don’t get me wrong; experience is a plus but not always a must. If you take an inventory of the traits and competencies of your best sales team members, use that as your guide. What are some of the traits?
Communication, Ability to Connect with others, Team Work, Work Ethic, Listening Skills, Coachable, Rejection-Proof, and being Adaptable. Notice experience is not noted. One of the best salespeople I ever had was a truck driver prior to moving into sales. Making the experience a “nice to have” not a “must-have” avoids having to break your new hire of bad habits. My experience has taught me that when you do hire someone who starts showing problems early, they don’t get better with time. They only get worse. Then they are the hardest in the world to separate from. Believe me on this. I have the bruises to show you.
Remember, effective hiring is key. Take it slow and do it right. Learn from previous mistakes and avoid them as you are reviewing candidates. Hiring slow is a part of my “Secret Sauce” to building world-beating sales teams. Hire the person, not the experience.
The ability to hire quality talent will determine the success or failure of the sales organization. Seventy-two percent of high performing sales managers rated the sales team they manage as excellent or above average, compared to 54% for underperforming sales managers.
Conversely, 46% of underperforming sales managers rated their team as average or below average, while only 28% of high performing sales managers thought so. High-performing sales managers focus on hiring salespeople who are skillful builders of relationships, are persuasive, and have a reservoir of experience they use to control sales cycles.
Use the “Ultimate Interview Guide” I offer
Use the pre-employment sales assessment I offer
Hire the quality of a person, not the experience of the person.
Advertise for the right person, not the job description
Hire the person or personality you want, not experience
Hire Slowly and effectively
Establish reasonable metrics to make sure they know what is expected of them daily.
Get some sales management training.
Contact me at com for more information on Results Driven Sales Management Training. This training is a solid cure for underperforming sales teams. Believe me, you don’t know what you don’t know. Let’s fill in some gaps.
4. Sales intuition
Being a sales manager, you have to be empathetic to the life and frustrations of a salesperson. In my article on the “Proper Care and Feeding of a Salesperson,” I offer that 90% of a sales professional’s success is mental. Keep their head right, and sales will be at a higher performance level. Get them fixated mentally on how they have been wronged or mistreated and you have an anchor. The best ones can pull themselves out of a slump, but that’s the top 2% only. The rest fixate and are highly influenced by their mindset. They talk amongst themselves, and that only builds the frustration and lets the air out of their drive. Salespeople can be the biggest gossips on the planet. Don’t give them negative food to feed on. Provide them with high-performance mental food, then stand back and enjoy the benefits. Is that a contradiction to accountability? NO! Not if you are treating everyone with the same level of expectation.
If you are truly value-added to the success of a salesperson, they will kill for you. They will go through walls and not doors. In 100% of the interviews I’ve conducted for salespeople when I ask, “Who is the best boss you ever had?” the response is around the manager who taught them the most. Are you a mentor, teacher, advocate, supporter, etc.? They have to believe sincerely that the sales manager is their biggest fan. People work for people, not companies. If they are unhappy, it’s the manager’s fault. If they quit, they quit the manager, not the company.
The sale is a mentorship-based profession, and a key differentiator of great sales leaders is their ability to dispense tactical sales advice and add value during customer meetings. While the average sales experience for both high-performing and underperforming sales managers was 17 years, high-performing sales managers estimated they had achieved their annual quota 88% of the time over the course of their career. Underperforming sales managers indicated they had achieved their quota 75% of the time. This suggests that the depth of a manager’s sales intuition—the practical knowledge gained from the experiences of participating in sales cycles and managing salespeople—is directly associated with their success.
5. Coaching adaptability
Great sales leaders understand that there is a diversity of selling styles by which salespeople can achieve success. Therefore, they don’t employ a one-size-fits-all coaching style. Rather, they adapt their style to suit each individual. The fact that high-performing sales managers had a higher team effectiveness factor than underperforming teams supports these statements. Give them the idea and have them form how to adapt it to their style. As long as they are successful. If their way is not working, you must have them adapt. There’s an old term in sales. “Let Loose in order to take hold.” If you allow them the empowerment to do things with their style, you dramatically increase buy-in from the team. This is one of those entries from the high-performance food group.
When faced with challenges or difficulty don’t ever leave the sales team out from sharing their opinions on how to address those challenges. Granted, some of their ideas will be a bit extreme or unaffordable. They are sales professionals, not financial professionals. Just asking and seeking their input is a huge motivation for sales team members. Use what you can from what they suggest. However, if there is a strong suggestion that is not possible, tell them the “Why.” Don’t ever leave that suggestion hanging. That is negative food.
I HOPE THIS HELPS
It has for me for over a decade of hiring thousands of highly effective salespeople. Contact me below for more information or to discuss how I can fix your sales problem. I’ve done it for some of the biggest companies in the country along with some smaller ones. I can fix yours too.