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Secrets of a Highly Motivated and Productive Sales Team

By Drew Stevens

One of the largest challenges of any sales manager is a motivated team. Managers typically inherit employees causing challenges between the different work philosophies. Managers seek alternatives to the morale and productivity challenges only to find little assistance. Research suggests differently especially in present economic tumult. After five years of exhaustive research, we at Stevens Consulting Group provide some methods to these challenges.

It all begins with hiring: Many organizations apply foolish thought to hiring. In fact, research with over 500 sales managers illustrates that over 91% wait until budgets widen before hiring. Hiring is not meant to be a reactive practice but rather proactive. Managers must be concerned with fees and time in lost productivity when someone is terminated. Typical estimates illustrate that once termination occurs 16 weeks or more linger before another employee is hired and it costs the organization four times the previous employee’s salary. Is the downtime and revenue loss worth it?

Best practices of those gaining positive results hire on a proactive basis. Proactively entails constantly being alert. Seek out vendors, competitors, suppliers and even customers. Managers and employees must always seek out those that complete the organizational enigma.

Look for Talent not bodies: Hire for skill – Talent is innate. Organizations hire for personality and behavior first. Skill is not interchangeable, behavior is. I recall a five star hotel that sought my advice on creating the ultimate VIP experience; two levels of staff that were employed to simply “raise the bar”. After several hours of observation and shopping the customer it was easy to depict that “VIP” staff repaired flaws left by VIP housekeepers. If the hotel hired the right skill then there would be little need to have redundant services.

Organizations hire many selling professionals because they are gregarious or polite. The only consideration is whether they can hunt, farm and close business. Too much emphasis is placed in behavior, this can be altered, and talent is something staff is born with.

Get on board with OnBoarding: Onboarding is the process that includes all paperwork, accommodations, assimilation and acceleration of an individual employee to the work force of an organization. Onboarding enables an employee speed and velocity at the initial outset of the job assignment. The process requires a coordinated organizational effort to guide and mentor new and existing employees to huge gains in productivity. Research illustrates that 69% of organizations with a structured program have a higher success factor of maintaining employees beyond three years. Onboarding plans must include:

  • A clear sense of purpose describing why orienting the new employee is important for the company and the worker.

  • An assessment of the environment (including any negative aspects of the job)

  • Identification of the ‘critical few objectives’ that the new employee must master quickly if he or she is to succeed.

  • Identification and assignment of a mentor

The process of onboarding creates a more cohesive and blended staff. Based on seven years of field research with over 3500 employees, it is found that those that understand their company, their products/services and the competition, were more productive and happier in the workplace. The results of this issue not only create a more productive work team but also one that is retained beyond three years. Managers that retain their employees longer are more apt to be more productive, have less internal strain and create better team synergy.

Skill Based Workshops for Staff Retention: Of the 120 billion dollars per year invested in human capital development only a small percentage focuses on sales training. It is incomprehensible that every organizations number one asset is selling- yet so little time is allocated. There are three prevalent sales training issues;

1)   Sales Managers typically state a lack of time for training, yet nothing is more imperative than an investment in human capital. A great example was when a sales manager from a Fortune 1000 firm called me to conduct training for his team of 45 but was only willing to invest three hours.

2)   Sales Managers typically hold short-term event based training. Development is a process not an event! Beliefs, habits and values will not alter in seven-hour program. Another manager told me that product training is more prevalent than professional training.

3)   No accountability. A travesty of development is the lack of accountability following a development program.

Selling similar to medical and legal is a profession. It needs to be taken seriously and invested as such. Employees leave organization for not only poor managers but also the belief they are not assets. When managers enable investments back to selling professionals hiring and staff retention are eased.

The Golden Rule – Communicate: Sales Managers and their people must communicate. A recent sample illustrates a decline in sales meetings and one on one communication. Individuals thrive on feedback to understand their relationship with organizational goals. The inability to confront subordinates has seriously undermined productivity in the workplace. Some of the excuses equate to time however, the truthful culprit is distaste for conflict.

Social scientists and sales management experts (such as myself) have studied management theory and performance and the belief is that consistent feedback is necessary for determining an employee’s contribution relative to the required outputs and measurements of the job function. In order to measure effectiveness researchers believe monthly appraisals are a good metric for productivity. These help to:

  • To encourage high levels of employee motivation and performance

  • To provide accurate information to be used in managerial decision making

In addition, they are relatively easy to do and require little effort. Feedback and appraisals do not require tiresome paperwork. An informal yet crucial conversation helps to strengthen wonderful points while limiting the flaws. Staff always will do better when they are offered kudos.

Finally…it’s all about you! Employee turnover costs organizations billions of dollars in lost revenues and operational dollars. Research from just a few years ago reveals the tremendous impact sales managers have on their employee’s level of commitment. It is imperative to note that individuals do not leave companies - they leave poor managers.

Poor management-employee relationships contribute to negative morale. As recent as 2006 the Gallup Organization estimated there were 32 million actively disengaged employees costing the American economy up to $350 billion per year in lost productivity. Stop the bleeding by remaining close and engage your employees with conversation, feedback and relationship. Collaboration begins when manager acknowledge and have knowledge of their staff.

Much is dependent on the desire to change; methods chosen and consistent follow through. However, if you do nothing, you get nothing- staff and morale might decease. Take the time, seek remedies, and keep morale high. Doing so, lowers attrition, improves productivity, increases profitability and most importantly- reduces stress.

Read other articles and learn more about Drew Stevens.

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