The company’s revenue hinges on how well your sales team brings in the customers and sells products or services. No pressure here, right? But what can you do to create a winning team that consistently meets or exceeds goals without burning them out?
It turns out to be a multifaceted answer. And that answer starts with you.
A Winning Team Needs a Great Coach
This is something you have probably heard all your professional life. Companies are made of teams and teams need coaches. Sales is no different. So what can you do to help your team to the top?
First of all, you are not there to just be a cheerleader and lead backslapper. If you think back to your own days as a team member, you’ll realize that pep talks don’t really do much to empower the people.
You are there to give your team:
As a coach, rather than a “boss” you must engage your team as a group and as individuals. Identify those who are in trouble; help them find out why and resolve the issue. Meet with each member on your team on a regular basis and find out what obstacles they face and what is working well.
Coach One on One
While part of a coach’s job is to get the whole team working together, you also need to be able to work with individuals. Some will be very open about their problems while others require more coaxing. How each responds has more to do with company culture than anything else. If the company has a history of killing the messenger then don’t expect anyone to talk.
When it’s time to problem-solve:
Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes
If behavior isn’t modified then you can’t expect a different outcome. This will become an endless carousel of negativity, frustration and burn-out.
One practice that achieves good results is to pair poor performers with higher performing sales staff. Most of us learn more from seeing how a thing is done, in real life, than simply hearing about it in a classroom situation.
Follow the mantra of See one, Do one, Teach one. Show someone how it’s done. Have that individual perform it. Ask the person to teach someone else. Teaching something means you need to know it in enough depth and detail to answer questions and be agile.
Make the time to coach. Take immediate advantage of every opportunity to help your team improve.
Success breeds motivation to continue to succeed. Failure eventually results in stasis. Make the tasks do-able, don’t overwhelm anyone with so much work she can’t keep up.
Give the lower performing staff shorter lists of contacts to make, fewer sales to follow through on and close. This creates the time needed to succeed and to want to continue. Debrief the calls with the sales rep to identify problems with her technique. Does she need help learning to build rapport? Does she have a problem getting appointments or is she slow on closing? What part of the sales cycle keeps her from improving?
Set benchmarks for each team member to give them something to measure against and reach for. They need to know whether they are succeeding.
Be Tough Yet Flexible
Managing sales people isn’t for the faint of heart. Most are highly competitive and not really focused on team efforts. But each one has a trigger, something that motivates him. Learn what it is and ruthlessly deploy it on behalf of his success.
Unfortunately, you also need to be able to weed out underperformers who simply won’t or can’t produce, no matter how much coaching they receive. Learn to identify them early and move them out so they don’t hold back the team. If you detect a trend of negative behavior, nip it in the bud before it becomes a real problem.
The best thing to do is to not hire low performers in the first place. Identify the behaviors that make up a great sales rep and find ways to learn whether sales candidates have them before you hire.
You also have the team’s back. Protect their time so they can do their job. Don’t let other departments or upper management fill up the team’s time with unproductive meetings or unrealistic expectations. Simplify processes so administrative tasks take up as little time as possible. Provide tools such as CRM software, lead lists, and collateral to give the team a head start.
Celebrate early and often. Small or large, successes need to be acknowledged and appreciated. It doesn’t take a lot to provide some positive feedback to keep the team going.
To Sum Up
Become a great sales manager. Coach your team members in successful sales practices and behaviors. Guide improvement by providing early feedback and a manageable workload. Get rid of deadwood and hire smart. Protect your team and remain flexible so you can make adjustments as needed.
And, yes, do a little cheerleading. Celebrating is good.