Sales managers sometimes use a quote to motivate their teams. Those words state that nothing happens in a business until someone sells something. A flurry of activities can take place behind the scenes of a company. But it takes sales of products or services to initiate or support those activities.
A sales team consists of the people who generate revenue for the company. However, they also become stewards of your brand as they develop beneficial relationships with customers. When your sales force burns out or loses steam, it can negatively impact the success of your business. That’s why it’s so important to equip your team with top performers and leverage their strengths. Below are four ways that business owners or sales managers can achieve this.
1. Use technical resources for recruiting and training
All managers have blind spots when it comes to hiring team members and evaluating their performance on the job. Sometimes you only see snippets of customer interactions or you get too focused on quarterly results. Hiring processes, including interviews, can tip hiring processes in favor of some candidates while overlooking others.
Hiring managers tend to gravitate towards similar people or candidates who remind them of themselves. Everything from job descriptions to interview questions can be rife with confirmation bias. The same reviews can happen when leaders conduct performance reviews and identify training or mentoring opportunities. They base decisions on what they believe makes a good salesperson, often only listening to their gut feeling or personal experience.
But the ideas and tools of others are often needed to get a more objective and accurate perspective. For example, technologies that use artificial intelligence can perform sales performance analysis to determine what qualities high performers possess. These tools use benchmarks and data from customers, sales teams and company results to arrive at unbiased conclusions. Managers can quickly identify useful training opportunities and who will make a great hire.
2. Set realistic and meaningful goals
Motivation and empowerment start with a goal. If your sales team doesn’t know their goal, you can’t expect them to strive for it. Similarly, a team will not see the point if the goal is too ambitious. As a manager, your employees look to you to steer the ship by providing them with something achievable to achieve.
Goals can also align with popular motivational theories. For example, you can offer bonuses to team members who meet or exceed their annual sales targets. While a bonus gives sales teams a financial incentive, not all employees are driven by money. Some theories of motivation, such as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, place financial needs at the bottom of the pyramid.
Your benchmarks should appeal to higher-level needs such as valuation and self-actualization. Sales teams will also feel empowered by non-financial rewards and recognition, such as positive feedback and extended engagements. Even though sales are a game of numbers, employees often want to know the “why” behind a particular goal. Managers who tie sales objectives to an overall goal give sales teams additional context and meaning.
3. Create a culture of trust
In theory, most managers know the dangers of micromanagement. However, knowing something in the back of your mind and putting it into practice are two different beasts. Some leaders create cultures based on fear rather than trust because they have experienced nothing else. As creatures of habit, people often repeat what they know and see others do, even with opposing intentions.
Micromanagement behaviors can lead sales leaders to think they are being helpful or are coaching their team. Still, the effects of micromanagement can be similar to bullying. Some experts even argue that this leadership style is a form of workplace bullying. In addition to a loss of motivation, employees can experience depression, anxiety and lower self-esteem and confidence. Your sales team may also become afraid of losing their job or taking revenge from you or other company executives.
Unfortunately, a culture of fear results in employees doing everything and doing the bare minimum. They stop contributing their insights and knowledge and say yes to everything the leader says to avoid confrontation or job loss. Creating a culture of trust, in which managers take a step back and show that they believe in the capabilities of their employees, empowers them. They are more likely to speak up, innovate and feel motivated to achieve the company’s goals.
4. Practice open and effective communication
There must be good communication for the relationship between employee and employer to work. When sales teams guess what comes next and what managers mean, confusion ensues. If people get left out or caught off guard, it does the team a disservice. You can also cause frustration if you expect employees to communicate, but you don’t practice what you preach.
Team and one-on-one meetings are methods commonly used by managers. Getting the group together will ensure that everyone is on the same wavelength. Individual chats give employees time and space to clarify questions and discuss situations that may not apply to the team. Both group and private meetings require face-to-face time, which immediately creates a two-way feedback loop. Employees get what they need to do their job and you get a good picture of what’s happening in the field.
However, effective communication is not something that only happens during meetings. Managers can practice good communication in emails, voicemails, documents and online discussions. For example, it will be confusing to forward the team an email conversation between you and your boss without any context.
While the email may contain useful information, employees don’t know what to do with it. Add context to clarify why you’re forwarding the email and what actions you expect your team to take. This way the team won’t ignore the details of the email or worry about how it applies to their work.
Strengthen sales teams
Sales teams that feel empowered and motivated usually deliver the performance that companies want. High-performing teams develop the quality of customer relationships necessary to drive numbers. But sales associates need strong leaders to achieve desired business outcomes. Sales managers who use effective technologies and leadership styles can create environments that encourage rather than hinder performance.
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