This question is for the front-line sales manager; the general in the field, the immediate supervising sales coach, the leader on the ground. The question is:
Do your sales people follow your advice and leadership out of fear or loyalty and respect?
Is it Better to be Loved or Feared?
Understand that because the sales team seems to show enthusiasm for your words and follow what you say, does not mean that they do so of their own free will. You have to remember, that when you are in a position to fire people or greatly influence their employment condition, that those people will do what they feel is necessary to keep their job. And that is indeed one way to LEAD a sales crew.
However, to be a true leader, people must follow you because they trust and believe in you, not only because they fear for their livelihood. Below are three powerful tips for the first-line sales manager, to help you gain the respect, confidence and devotion that are essential to lead a sales team to success.
#1. Lead By Example
The single most important thing that you can do for your sales people is to lead them with REALITY rather than RHETORIC. All the chalk talk is good, but sales people are people and seeing is believing.
Of course, in some first-level sales management situations, you may not have the time to actually get in the field and make sales. However, it is imperative that the sales team knows that you have personally done, or are capable of doing everything you ask of them. In addition, you should, if only on occasion, get out in the field with the team and demonstrate your skill and expertise. When you get out in the “trenches” alongside your sales team, it creates a special camaraderie and a bond between you and your sales team that is not achievable any other way.
#2. Include the Team in Company Decisions
This does not have to be complicated and you do not have to initiate a ton of new sales meetings or processes. But when a decision is on the table that will affect the sales team in any way, just inform them and ask how they feel about it. Ask for suggestions. Though their feelings or suggestions may not influence the decision; the sales team will feel more important and involved by the simple fact that you asked.
It is critical to help your sales people see that when you are involved in making company decisions, you want to involve them as well.
#3. Ask for Help
You can give orders all day long, but you will find you get more cooperation and respect when you ASK FOR HELP. When you need to assign those tedious, time-consuming tasks, or when you need a short boost in sales; ask the team to HELP YOU achieve the goal, rather than demand that they work harder.
“Team, I really need your help…We are well behind this month and we need a powerful last quarter….”
To truly get your sales team to look up to you, you need to stand beside them, not above them.
Before I sign off, here are some more tips on becoming a great sales person:
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Every sales manager, supervisor, director or otherwise frontline sales team leader, wants to have and develop a great sales force. Everyone wants eventually to have a sales team made up of superstar sales people. We all want that sales crew in where every sales person is a high-level, top performing, consultative, executive-level super sales person.
However, I am continually surprised at how many of those same sales managers are not willing to treat their sales crew like that which they want them to become. The fact is that if you treat sales people as if they are low-level, slipshod, unprofessional slackers, what you will get is the same.
At some point, you have to “Act as if.” You have to treat people as you want them to perform. If you want responsible, successful, multi-million pound producers, don’t treat them like irresponsible, £5 an hour, children.
Here are a few tips to help you plant good seed to reap great harvest.
Start by trusting your sales people to do what they say they will do and believe that they will. On one hand, you say you believe in the sales person. You say you have confidence that he or she can achieve the agreed upon goals. Then, you stand watch like a mother hen, or establish rules and regulations that clearly demonstrate that you do NOT trust or believe in the sales person. When you do this, you can easily stifle their potential. If you say you believe, then act accordingly.
Pressure and Time
If you tell the sales person, you truly believe that he or she can achieve a particular goal before the end of the month, then don’t start jumping on his or her back after the first week. You may think you are helping to “remind” the sales person of their goal and commitment.
However, what you are really saying is, “I really don’t believe you can do this, and I must therefore keep reminding you of your commitment every 15 minutes.”
Such micromanagement of good sales people will cause animosity and an anti-productive atmosphere.
To Manage or Not To Manage
Some successful sales people become such due to their sales management. However, some sales people become successful in spite of their sales management. Do not be the latter manager.
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Some people do not accept change very easily, especially when it means more work and effort. However, change is inevitable, and under good, forward-looking management, it is usually a good thing. Below are three tips to help you take some of the sting out of introducing positive change to the sales team.
#1 – More Money
Informing the team that the coming changes will result in them making more money, seems a given. However, it takes a bit more than just talk. You need to have some tangible ways to demonstrate exactly HOW this change will result in the sales crew increasing their incomes.
Being able to point out other sales teams or even other organisations that have made this change, and show how they made more money, is best. In short, you need to do your homework on the exact affects of the change, and present facts not just assumptions.
You are initiating a new e-prospecting campaign via LinkedIn. The sales team is unfamiliar with the concepts and it will require them to invest a little time in getting more leads through the social media. Point out a division or company that began using LinkedIn to get leads and show how much their business increased.
#2 – It’s Part of the Plan; a Compliment to S.O.P.
Help the team realize that the changes coming are actually part of the original plan, goal set and direction. Most any change you initiate should be in effort to make things better, even if the change is the result of negative influences. Therefore, this change fits into part of doing what is necessary to make things better, more efficient and profitable for all.
Also, help sales people see that the change is to compliment the Standard Operating Procedure, not to completely dismiss it.
Using the same example above with LinkedIn prospecting, help the team understand that it is only a portion of their prospecting methods; it is to COMPLIMENT current prospecting activities, not replace them.
#3 – It was YOUR Idea!
Often, change is the result of perceptive sales management listening and responding to the needs and desires of the sales team. Let the sales team know that the changes are the result of what they have actually asked for.
You are installing new CRM (Customer Relationships Management) software that will help the teams maximise relationships and dramatically increase conversion rates. Learning the new system will take some time and effort.
Remind the sales people that they voiced complaints about the current CRM software. They asked for something that was simpler and easier to use, but was more robust and automated.
Ready for Change?
Change is inevitable, but when you can use one or all three of the concepts above to present the change, it will make transition much smoother.
Also, please note that if you cannot figure out how to use any of the above three tips in presenting the change, then perhaps you need to exercise a little more due diligence before you execute the change.
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Most people in sales management or with a title that is responsible for leading a sales team, speak about leading by example.
However, exactly what does that mean?
Many think that to lead your team by example, is to sell as much or as more as each member of the sales team. In some sales organisations, this may be practical. However, in many other situations, due to time constraints, additional responsibilities and a host of other reasons, it may not only be impractical, but impossible for the manager to lead the team in sales. And should the sales manager still be responsible for “closing sales” too? In some companies when a sales rep moves into a sales management role they step back from the day to day selling and are now responsible for motivating, coaching, developing and driving the sales performance of their teams.
So how can you lead by example?
Excel in the following four critical areas and you will not only lead your sales team by example, but lead them to another level as well!
Just remember that your goal is to L.E.A.D.!
L = Loyal
The single most vital leadership area that your sales people must see in you is a complete and unalterable loyalty to your company, products or services and your industry. You must believe in what sell wholeheartedly, but also in HOW you sell it. You have to have total faith in your sales processes, your operating methodology, sales philosophy and the future of your entire industry. Your sales teams must know that you eat, sleep, walk, talk and even bleed your company at all times.
E = Ethics
First, you need to have a set of ethical standards that are uncompromising and you must practice what you preach. You must have a zero tolerance for anything that in any way represents a misleading concept or statement, misrepresentation, over exaggeration or a fabrication of any kind. In addition, you need to posses and demonstrate an unyielding personal work ethic. Be the first one in, and the last to leave.
A = Attitude
You need to be the unshakable rock of positivity. Nothing, from tough economic times, to competitive issues, to personal problems, should ever dampen your enthusiasm, passion and optimistic outlook on today, tomorrow and beyond. You should be able to see some good in everybody and everything. Your sales people should get a boost of positive energy just from being in your presence.
D = Done It
Finally, to lead by example truly, you need to have been there and done that. While it may not be possible for you to get in the field and sell with your team, the goals and quotas you assign should be things that you have accomplished at sometime in your career. You can tell your sales team that they should be closing ten sales every week and that it is easy and all they have to do is follow the plan. However, if you have never, personally closed ten similar sales a week in your life yourself, you have a serious credibility problem. The team needs to know that anything you ask of them, that you are not only willing to do yourself, but have done it.
L.E.A.D. and your sales team will follow!
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You can find a ton of tips and tricks on what to do to motivate and build a sales team. However, there are a few things you should not do. The loyalty and dedication your sales team has in following you, is fragile and it does not take much to lose their respect. Below are three sales management blunders that you must avoid.
#1. Criticise in Public
There are often times when you need to criticise or correct a sales person’s actions. Perhaps he or she needs improvement in certain areas or is not living up to the potential you know is possible. Maybe there are disciplinary steps you need to take.
In any case, these are things you must do in private. Never bring up a sales person’s shortcomings or problems in front of the group. Not only does this embarrass and degrade the sales person in question, but it also diminishes the self-esteem of the whole team.
#2. Causally Dismiss Complaints or Suggestions
It is true that some sales people can find some of the most ridiculous things to complain about. Also, some ideas and suggestions from team members are often unrealistic or impossible to consider. However, you must take in and listen to their thoughts and feelings.
A sales person sits up half the night thinking about an idea that he believes will help the team. He brings it to you and before he can even explain his flash of brilliance, you cut him off with something like, “Nah! That won’t work. We tried that years ago…forget it.” When this happens, you not only invalidate the idea; you invalidate the person.
You must at least listen and hear them out. Then, do not be so quick to respond, even if you know the complaint or suggestion is of no consequence. Take it in and think about it anyway. Then report back at a later time.
#3. Never Demand the Team Accomplish Goals You Can Not Substantiate
Be careful not to ask sales people to perform tasks or reach sales goals that you cannot do or have not ever done. At least have someone who you can point to who has reached these goals. Of course, there are times when you want to reach higher, set new records and reach heights never before obtained, but you have to be able to show that these things are possible and not just chalk talk.
Give your sales team the respect they deserve and they will give it back.
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When you hear the term “Zero Tolerance to Sales Management,” I would imagine your first thought is about having little or no patience for inept or slip-shod sales people. However, I am referring to the reverse. When talking about zero tolerance, I am speaking to sales managers who need to adapt to a policy of total responsibility.
By whatever the title, if you are the sales manager, the hands-on field general, you need to approach your job with the attitude of a ship’s captain, or the leader of an army battalion. You must take full and personal responsibility for the success or failure of your sales team.
Old, worn-out excuses like, “I tried my best, but that sales person would not work hard enough…” is no longer valid in today’s arena of the modern-day buyer and seller.
It’s simple: Your job is to hire, train and motivate the crew. If they fail…then you have failed.
Reasons for Failure
Let us look at this from a purely objective and logical point of view. What are the reasons that a sales person, hired by you, fails in their position? There are only three reasons:
Reason One: Lazy, lackluster work ethic – The sales person is capable of doing the job. She possesses the intelligence, knowledge and physical qualifications. He has the resources and training. However, the sales person simply will not do what is necessary to succeed.
Explanation of Reason One
This sales person is not motivated to succeed. Whose job is it to motivate the sales team? The responsibility is yours.
Reason Two: Cannot close sales – The sales person has the intellect and the motivation. In fact, she works harder than most. However, she cannot seem to get the close right. He cannot seem to get the sales presentation down correctly.
Explanation for Reason Two
This sales person lacks sufficient training. Period. Whose job is it to train the sales team? The responsibility is yours.
Reason Three: Not Capable of doing the job – Let’s face it; professional selling is not for everyone and some people should find a different line of work. So, you have that sales person who should find another line of work, or is simply not a good fit for your company or industry.
Explanation for Reason Three
This sales person should not be working for your company in the first place. Whose job is it to hire the right sales people? The responsibility is yours.
This may sound a bit harsh or even unreasonable. However, if you adapt to a philosophy of total responsibility, you will make less hiring mistakes and be more diligent in your devotion and dedication of your team’s success.
Adapt to the Zero Tolerance Approach to Sales Management and take personal responsibility in the success of your sales team.
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Keeping a sales team motivated and enthusiastic can be difficult especially in slow economic times. One sure way to help with this is to set goals other than sales goals and targets and reward sales people for reaching them.
Every Step in the Sales Process is Important
Remember that closing the sale is only one step in a complete sales process. Closing the sale is the result of a sales process that actually entails many sales activities other than the sales interaction and closing. However, most sales management teams reward only that end result—the amount of sales. While some may feel that closing the sale is the most important achievement in the process, it is actually one of the least important.
Before you can close the sale, you have to complete a successful sales interaction. However, before you can have that sales interaction, you have to secure an interview, an appointment. Before you can get an appointment, you have to make calls or send emails or knock on doors. Yet, before you can prospect, you have to have leads. Where do you get the leads?
Understand that every step in the sales process is important and if you fail at the very beginning sales tasks, you will never be in position to close the sale. Furthermore, if you are in position to close sales more often, just by the law of averages you will close sales. So, why pay so much attention to closing sales, when perhaps you need to reward your sales people for doing more of the things that get them in position to close sales?
Activities that Get Them In Position
Prospecting activities are great motivators and extremely important sales tasks. As a sales manager, you know that the more cold calls the sales person makes, the more decision makers (DMs) he will reach, the more appointments he will set and the more sales he will close.
When sales are slow and sales people are hanging their heads, have an appointment-setting contest. Reward the sales person who can set and go out on the most appointments in one week. Or perhaps you can launch a cold calling contest and reward who contacts the most DMs.
Set goals based on sales activities. Instead of a goal where the team must reach X amount of sales this month; perhaps make it X amount of qualified sales interactions. Keep in mind that when sales people begin to lose motivation and begin to feel hopeless, their sales related activities dramatically diminish. They begin to make fewer calls, and send out fewer emails, which of course, make it that much harder to get back on track.
Set sales activity targets and reward sales people for completing more of the little goals that will result in more of the big goals!
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With all the advice and ideas available about how to manage and lead in difficult times, it can hard for a sales manager to know when to remain resilient and when to adapt to changes in circumstances.
If you’ve carried out a personality profile in the past, you’ll know that some characteristics are good to
maintain, whereas other behaviour traits often need adapting for different people.
Here’s our take on what should remain solid and what should be flexible in sales management terms:
Be solid on standards, flexible on rules
If your team see you wavering on standards, you risk losing respect. If you adhere too tightly to rules, you risk becoming too autocratic
Be solid on character, flexible on behaviour
Great managers know what characteristics are looked on as positive, and these need to be developed and enhanced. With that solidity behind you, you are more likely to be adaptable to others’ behavioural traits
Be solid on expectations, flexible on method
Create clarity with the team on what you expect from them, and let them become creative on how they can meet and exceed those expectations
Be solid on rewards, flexible on means
Everyone needs to feel they are worthy, so the recognition needs to be clear and upfront. How you do this for each individual can be personalised to their motivational direction
Be solid on the destination, flexible on the journey
In turbulent times, people need a foundation on which to build their futures. If you can give them security on where the business plans to go in the future, then the journey can be adapted to the prevailing circumstances.
Learn when your team need you to be solid and when they want you to be flexible. It will give you the respect and encouragement to manage effectively
Have a great selling day!
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