Some people compare being in sales management to herding cats.
In reality, it’s more like herding highly-caffeinated squirrels who run around hiding deals in their cheeks like acorns, nervously scampering around the office like it’s a suburban backyard. Sales management can be hard.
But getting your team to hit their sales numbers, ensuring that you can pay your mortgage and maybe take an actual vacation some day isn’t impossible, and there are things you can do immediately to make it happen. Here are seven:
1. Customize your management
Every salesperson has a different personality and will be motivated in different ways. Some might prefer a hands-off management style, while others prefer more reinforcement throughout the day. Communicate with your staff and ask how they prefer to be managed, and then customize your approach to each employee. You don’t sell to every prospect the same way, so why would you manage all of your employees the same way?
In Charles Duhigg’s bestselling book, The Power of Habit, he makes the compelling case that high performing individuals, teams, and organizations succeed because they are able to develop the correct habits. Sales is a relatively repetitive profession anyway, and developing the right habits is critical. Identify what behaviors are the most important for your team to succeed (prospecting, follow-up, closing), and work with your staff to develop those habits until they are ingrained in your team’s daily behavior.
3. Break down big goals
When a bridge is being built, it’s built in stages, not all at once. Sales goals should be approached the same way. Hitting a million dollars in revenue is daunting, but not if it’s broken down into smaller monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Split your team’s large goals up into more consumable ones, and then focus all activity on achieving those smaller goals every day.
If you, as a manger, don’t have much control over your team’s comp plan, then you are missing a key lever of motivation. The Harvard Business Review has some great in-depth analysis of how to structure a commission plan for optimal results. Of course, running contests can also get people excited and motivated to sell, so don’t forget how effective the carrot approach can be for your sales team.
There are two aspects of human psychology that can be effective in getting employees to perform, trust and ownership. Trust your employees enough to let them do what they need to do to perform, and let them have ownership over their own work. A great salesperson is like an entrepreneur within a company, building up a pipeline through prospecting and relationships. Let them feel like they are, and they will step up and own it.
6. Set an example
Too many salespeople complain about their managers, both for fair and unfair reasons. A salesperson who respects his or her sales manager’s work ethic will be much more inspired to rise to the occasion. This doesn’t mean that you should sit down and make calls with your staff (although doing so wouldn’t be a bad idea) but it means they need to see you working hard, and going above and beyond, instead of sitting in an office checking your fantasy football scores.
7. Use new technology
Adapt or get left behind. While lots of new technologies out there aren’t going to move the needle as much as advertised, others serve to compliment existing sales processes, helping salespeople perform more effectively. (Spiro, for instance, uses artificial-intelligence to recommend which of your prospects you should call next so that you will have the highest likelihood of turning it into a closed deal.) You don’t need to be a tech whiz to try something new, you only need to understand that these days there are a lot of ways to work smarter, not harder.
The mark of a true leader is being able to inspire people. We’ve all sat through pep talks that do little more than make us fall asleep, but many of us have also been lucky enough to have worked for people who inspired us to be the best versions of ourselves. Of course, not everyone can give the speech from the movie 300 at every sales kickoff, but try to tell a story and paint a picture of how great your team can be if they give it everything they’ve got. Not only will everyone make a lot of money, they’ll thank you for it.