March 15, 2016

“Sales success comes after you stretch yourself past your limits on a daily basis” – Omar Periu

As a sales manager, you probably focus on giving your team the right amount of push to get them to aim for, and achieve, increasingly high sales goals. However, if your team’s performance is not getting better after your attempts to motivate them, there may be a more serious underlying issue. Understanding your sales team’s challenges, and knowing how to address them, will help boosting your team’s overall performance.

understanding-problems-leads-to-increased-sales

How to Identify the Problem

Perhaps more than other professional industries, having a skilled sales team is necessary. You know this well. Unmotivated people will not maximize the company’s lifeblood: Sales.

Highly motivated employees need to be retained. They are high risk/high reward types who want their achievements to scale with effort.

So first, you need to know if your salesperson, or even your whole team, is dealing with temporary setbacks or if his performance has flat-lined. There are some questions you can ask yourself:

  • Are there market changes affecting my business? Sometimes raw material costs rise, pushing the cost of all other products through the roof. Recently, the cost of Titanium Dioxide, the white powder used by most industries, more than doubled after two decades of steady prices. This affected thousands of companies in cosmetics, coatings, food, building materials and more. The result? Product prices rose and there was little sales could do about it.
  • Is the team well-organized? Rapidly expanding sales teams work to hire people who excel at making cold calls. That is fantastic, yet, if Jeff is terrible on the road and Suzy always comes back a few hours late because of “traffic,” is your team really balanced? Are internal resources sapping your team?
  • Has your employee lost his luster? Market changes are frustrating for salespeople, and they often find their jobs more tedious when confronted with controllable obstacles. Are the roadblocks real, or have employee efforts simply tapered off? What do they talk about? The date of their next bonus check or not having enough vacation days?

5 Ways to Address Your Sales Team’s Challenges

1. The Art of Motivation

There are a number of tried and true methods to help bring struggling employees back on track. The first is open, honest communication. If you took a few years away from personal involvement with clients, listen to your team’s sales problems now. Be extra sensitive to the issues they raise. Your job as a manager is to figure out what kinds of obstacles continue to hinder your sales staff from succeeding.

  • Company focus: Focus may mean a lot of things. In this case, it points to understanding client needs. Is your sales staff appropriately equipped? Do they have the tools they need to reach their clients?
  • Shifting sales options: More frequently, customers find alternate ways to get the products and services they require. The sales funnel has evolved, and how your salespeople interact with it has also changed.  Information is easier to obtain, requiring less interaction with sales. Have competitors altered the way your customers perceive service? Do you need to adjust your sales approach?
  • Commission pay is underwhelming: Commission is a risk when compared to a steady annual salary. If you have a well-structured commission system or work for a large company where commission cannot be changed, smart managers need to pay attention to warning signs. If you do have control of commission, take a long, hard look at the system in place. Sales caps can ruin ambition. Sometimes reducing salaries and increasing commissions may spur performance.
  • The reward system is based entirely on commission: There are many ways to reward employees. You would be surprised how well vacation days, restaurant cards, and other can motivate your sales team. You do not have to limit your incentives to commission. sales-manager-motivating-team

Remember, not everyone responds to reward systems the same way. You could implement “custom reward tracks.” The way this works is that you supply your team with a few different options. Maybe one column focuses on incentives, while another is the “safe” route, with lower commission. Decided on rewards requires knowing your team.

2. Coaching

Maybe the reward system is not the issue; it could be something deeper. The next step is to hold one-on-one sessions with each of your salespeople. You need to understand and begin addressing the problem without making accusations. Perhaps, take an employee out to lunch and discuss his situation. Focus on the important factors, like how he uses his time and what you can do to better equip him to succeed.

If you decide to coach, tackle one problem at a time. Focusing on too many things at once can overwhelm your team and complicate issues rather than provide solutions.

Many sales managers coach based on data and numbers and fail to recognize that employees may just want gratitude. Some people perform better if you periodically check in to see how they are doing and give them words of encouragement.

3. Mentoring

Mentorship is an art form of its own. Some people respond poorly to coaching. These people require more tact and a mentoring program may be the answer. You could pair salespeople, even two experienced people together, so they can learn from one another. If an employee feels isolated from his co-workers, this could help strengthen ties to the workplace. Pairing new, inexperienced salespeople with senior staff can also be effective when onboarding new team members.

4. Structured Office Hours

Even the most ambitious works can be disorganized. Structure and organization help a team bursting at the seams. You could require your team to prospect in the morning and make client visits in the afternoon. Having designated times for specific work tasks helps to keep people organized and focused throughout the workday.

5. Identify Your Team Players

A broad way to tackle performance problems is to determine what type of salespeople you are dealing with: high, core, or low performers.

Identify-strongest-team-members

  • High performers: Much of what we already discussed will be needed to approach the highest performers. Because managers tend to dote on these employees the most, you will probably need to develop a custom program to bring back their stride.

Bonus: Here is a blog post written specifically for how to motivate your high-performers.

  • Core performers: The bulk of your staff is likely made up of dependable, great salespeople; however, they tend to feel left out and often get passed up for promotions. This means they may lose the best bonuses gobbled up by the top 10%. If you can make them feel needed or provide extra incentives toward average performance, you might just cultivate a high-performer from the crop.
  • Low performers: Employees lagging behind the rest often feel overwhelmed or underutilized. You will want to set a pace riddled with smaller bonuses to make the performance climb more attractive. Set measures in place to prevent burnout by controlling their workload.

As stated previously, sales plans need to be different depending on which type of salesperson is struggling. This means that your process will require trial and error. Be patient! It is entirely possible that your salesperson’s Drive is too low. If you suspect this, it may be in your best interest to administer a sales assessment.