Last week I conducted a Leadership Development workshop for a large Fortune 500 company on the East Coast. The workshop centered on the very hot topic of how to successfully engage a sales force and reap the benefits of that engagement. The sales managers and salespeople attending the event left on a real high, fully ready to take their game to a whole new level.
The data and tips related to salespeople engagement are especially important given that:
– Salespeople are more engaged than non-salespeople (23% fully engaged versus 13% for non-salespeople). Yet, salespeople are much more likely to be looking for a new job versus non-salespeople (23% of salespeople are actively looking versus only 10% for non-salespeople). Lastly, and shockingly, 75% of the people in sales functions do not want to be working in sales!1
Needless to say, engaging salespeople is essential. That’s why this blog shares some of the most salient takeaways and best practices from the training event. Make sure you leverage these with your sales team:
1. Nurture the salesperson / sales manager relationship.
Like all employees, the relationship people have with their manager is the most effective driver of engagement. Sales managers should truly care about their salespeople instead of viewing them simply as revenue generators. Additionally, managers should follow leadership best practices to boost engagement. Here are some key questions sales managers should ask themselves: Do you clearly communicate your expectations, as well as provide ongoing performance feedback to your salespeople? Do you consistently recognize great performance? Do you have regular career dialogues with the salespeople on your team?
These are just some of the ways to successfully leverage the salesperson / sales manager relationship. For a Manager Checklist on Employee Engagement, click here. Why not download and distribute it to your sales managers?
2. Hire the right salespeople.
The report card on hiring salespeople is pretty poor and indicates that too many sales organizations are simply filling positions with “bodies,” as opposed to applying meticulous screening to avoid hiring the wrong people in the first place. As a result, these sales teams encounter the significant costs of re-recruiting and re-hiring.
All best-in-class sales organizations (defined as the top 10% most engaged workforces) have detailed processes and a high level of scrutiny for hiring and vetting candidates. Simply put, they recognized that if they were going to spend the time, money, and energy to build a magnetic sales team, they should only let magnetic and highly engaged people through their doors. Here are the “Hiring Right” best practices of these best-in-class sales organizations to help you avoid the damaging and costly outcome of hiring the wrong salespeople.
– Vet your interview candidates by carefully examining whether they possess the 7 traits of the most engaged and successful salespeople.
– Set up a non-negotiable list. These are pre-determined behaviors and traits that would categorically eliminate a candidate for consideration.
– Hire for attitude, not for aptitude.
– Use the right behavioral interview questions to screen out candidates who have a low propensity for becoming engaged, rock star performers.
Knowing that the best salespeople are obsessed with preparation, look for signs of this great trait during the interview process. As an example, although I am a keynote speaker and consultant, I have a strong background in sales, as I spent years growing several companies I founded. I know that the success of my presentations depends on being prepared to go above and beyond for my clients. That’s why I ask a couple of questions upfront to event planners so I know how to best prepare. I use the event planner’s answers to tailor, personalize, and customize both the content and delivery of my keynote. Great salespeople make the same effort to prepare. If job candidates aren’t properly prepared for an interview (e.g., they haven’t done research about the company, or haven’t prepared any thoughtful questions about the job or their role) it is not a good sign they will be prepared to exceed expectations down the road.
Use these tips to adopt a new attitude of applying more scrutiny to the hiring process, and commit to sticking to it.
3. Establish clear goals that are measured and reported on a regular basis.
Sales professionals expect to be measured against their intended sales targets. Dependent upon the length of the sales cycle, these yardsticks could be done daily, weekly, or most commonly, monthly. Naturally, these measurements will help both the manager and salesperson to keep their eye on the prize, as well as recalibrate their actions towards success along the way.
4. Hold your salespeople accountable.
Using the aforementioned measurement, create an expectation of accountability for results, whether they be month-to-month or year-over-year. Jettison old ways and goals, and instead, seek new, more aggressive practices and goals. Have your salespeople create fresh opportunities for finding new business and clients, in addition to enhancing your pre-existing client relationship. Also, ensure that your salespeople will ask your customers what they want, either directly or through your company’s customer surveys.
5. Use generous compensation and recognition for your best salespeople.
Generally speaking, cash is king to most salespeople. With that said, not everyone is motivated by money. As such, it is important for you to tailor the reward to each salesperson’s personal preferences, whether it be trips, private or public recognition, or career development.
6. Create connection, yet grant autonomy.
Customers are directly influenced by the attitudes of their sales representatives. It is often said that customers do not buy on price. They default to price when there is an absence of value, quality experience, and/or a solid relationship with their sales rep. And the report card on that is pretty sub-par:
“Executive buyers tell us that only 20% of the salespeople they meet with are successful in achieving their expectations and creating value. Only one in four of these salespeople get agreement from executive buyers to meet again.” – Forrester Research
Salespeople can also feel a strong sense of isolation, especially those who travel a lot and/or work from their homes. They often have infrequent in-person contact with coworkers, which makes them feel disconnected, insecure, and unaware of what is going on. So, it is paramount to give them an abundance of ways to connect, whether it be though video, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, or social networks such as Microsoft Jammer, SFDC Chatter, or Jive.
In addition, there is a bit of tension salespeople experience due to the split allegiances in their job. Salespeople can feel caught in the middle of doing what is right for the company versus doing what is right for the customer. As an example, a lower price is great for the customer but also means a lower margin for the company. Great sales managers grant enough autonomy or “wiggle room” to let the salesperson manage these split allegiances.
I have taught these six proven engagement best practices to sales teams through countless keynote presentations and sales workshops. I recently circled back with many of them to measure the results. Everyone I spoke with reported higher profitability within a year of the workshop, ranging from 20%-55% higher revenue and profits.
Source 1: Ryan Estis and Don MacPherson (research through Modern Survey)