Keeping morale up and revenue flowing is harder during challenging times. As the world works toward finding its footing again, here are ways to help keep your sales team focused, productive and happy:
1. Stick to the Basics
Whether you’re in an industry that has blown up or one that’s been blown away in the past few years, remember that people in sales are motivated primarily by money, with conquering challenges and helping customers solve problems also playing a role. Whatever window dressing you want to put around it, great salespeople are hunters. That doesn’t mean you ignore other motivators, like the others on this list. Just don’t forget the basics. Revenue fluctuations also mean changes in compensation for commissioned sales, and that matters.
2. Right Size Your Team
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Andris Zoltner said, “Sales force downsizing is an obvious consequence for industries badly hurt by the pandemic, such as travel and transportation. But other industries are downsizing field sales forces as well. [As sales] shifts to digital and virtual channels, downsizing the field sales force is likely. [While] many sales organizations face the trauma of downsizing, there are upsizing opportunities for industries such as cloud services.”
Change can be very disruptive to a sales team, but the pandemic created an opening as everyone from top management to junior salespeople became more open to change, especially change perceived as necessary to survival.
If your industry is going to shrink permanently or if buyers are likely to continue buying virtually or online, consider reducing the size of your team. That can boost morale and motivation in several ways. If there are 10 Easter eggs hidden in the yard and 10 hunters, each of the hunters can find an egg. But if there are now only five Easter eggs, half of the hunters will not succeed. Redistributing the remaining eggs (and the associated commissions) to fewer salespeople may make sense. Redistributing remaining targets (and associated commissions) to fewer salespeople may make sense.
On the other hand, if your industry is growing, adding to the team can prevent burnout and keep competitors from stealing customers who aren’t getting enough service from your overburdened team. Adding another plate at the table is rarely popular with salespeople who think that all commissions should be their commissions, so be sure to soften the blow with some temporary perks or cash to encourage good behavior, such as having veterans coach the newcomers.
The thrill of the chase and competitiveness are both essential parts of the sales personality. This is doubly true of younger people who grew up playing video games. The adrenaline rush of “leveling up” is what keeps gamers performing otherwise pointless actions over and over for hours.
Sales contests are a tried and true way to get sales teams to work on an important goal. However, they tend to be binary — one person wins and everyone else loses. Those who don’t think they’re going to win may not participate, decreasing the contest’s value to the organization.
Gamification applies the principles that make video games work to business tasks, including sales. It’s been used successfully by companies as diverse as FedEx, Nike and GE. A Salesforce survey found that 71% of companies reported sales performance gains of 11%-50% from adding gamification for their sales teams. The ability to earn a badge, peer recognition and ultimately a valuable reward can be a powerful motivator. The daily “mini-rewards” earned along the way keep contestants in the game. Just don’t make the rules overly complex and make sure everyone can win a little.
4. Super Solvers
Salespeople feel energized and valuable when they’re solving problems for customers. Buyers act differently depending on what they’re buying: Things that can be bought without spending a lot of time analyzing how they’ll work for the buyer are increasingly being sold online. The remaining products and services require purposeful interaction between buyer and seller, requiring a consultative approach. If you have team members who aren’t consultative sellers, moving them in that direction can help boost their morale and performance. Have them brush up on listening to their clients instead of talking, asking open-ended questions and overcoming objections. Have a veteran who’s good at it mentor them. Make a game of it for both of them.
5. Tool Up
Sales teams feel empowered when the organization gives them great tools to work with. Great sales content is one of the best. Your organization should be creating content for both internal and external consumption, things that help the sales team target, convince and close prospects and things aimed at moving prospects through the sales funnel. These can be delivered through your website or shared/emailed. Study your competitors. What kinds of content are they distributing to prospects? Do you have equivalent or better in your arsenal? Product overviews, pricing tables, case studies, customer testimonials and industry analyses can keep prospects engaged. Don’t forget video content: Almost three-quarters of consumers, 72%, prefer video to text for receiving branded marketing information, according to a Hubspot research study.
The content needs to be well organized in a library, clearly divided between internal and external communications and easy to find, review and deploy in an instant.
6. The Fierce Urgency of Now
Especially when market activity slows down, it’s tempting for the team to gear down a bit: Nothing’s happening anyway, so why bust it? Great salespeople have urgency; they need to be moving and doing. And you need them to be moving and doing, too: Shake every bush for sales that might be out there you didn’t know about, take market share from competitors whose own sales teams are idling, find new pools of potential clients, refine their pitch and approach. Reward them for trying and attach rewards to actions beneficial to the organization that are unlikely to generate commissions.
7. The More You Know
The best salespeople are experts on the product, its uses and the industry they work in. Trade conferences are increasingly held online, so gather that information and give your team the time to watch some presentations — in a group chat if possible. Have your product development folks and engineers attend group teleconferences where your team can ask questions they’ve gotten from clients. The more engaged the team is with the product and answering questions from prospects, the more sales they’ll make. More knowledge also gives them confidence in their pitch, in what they’re selling. Few organizations do this effectively and all it costs is a few hours of time.
8. Upset Equals Reset
If your industry got hammered by the pandemic, this is a time of great opportunity. What happens when something — like a pandemic — kicks over the apple cart? There are apples all over the road, meaning old relationships may have less influence on buyers. This is the time to gain market share, if you have the product, the story and the follow through to do it. Convince your sales team to look for those loose apples. Point out where competitors are losing ground, and where they can surge.
9. Become a Digital Diva
The shoe leather method of sales is on the losing side of history. The impact of the personal sales call — especially for complex, high-value, high-impact products — is undeniable. However, the amount of business being done via teleconference is exploding. Buyers are liking not having to schedule in-person meets for long pitches. Your job as a sales leader is not to try to hold back that tide, your job is to learn as much as you can about digital sales tools and help your team learn how to use them effectively. That will make them feel like they’re in control, and that confidence will inspire them to succeed despite the challenges. Bring in a trainer if possible, someone who’s an expert in using technology to sell, and retain a consultant who’s readily available to help your team members work through technical problems.
10. Lead From the Front
You can’t ask your team to stay engaged and up if you don’t exhibit those traits yourself. After allowing himself to be surprised by the Hittites at the battle of Kadesh, Pharoah Ramses II personally led a counterattack, rallying what remained of his army and saving them from a complete rout. The power of personal example is one lesson we can learn from Ramses II, but there’s another, equally important one: Ramses should not have allowed himself to be surprised. Your sales team will be more motivated if they see that you have a well-thought-out plan to boost their success and are taking decisive actions. Go on sales calls with both your strongest and weakest performers. Listen to their clients and observe how your salesperson reacts. They’re more likely to listen to your coaching if you “know what we’re up against out there.” Where is your industry headed? How are your competitors positioning themselves? What is your organization doing about changes on the horizon? As a sales manager, it’s your job to drive those issues up the chain and communicate clearly what’s being done about them to your troops.
Even — and especially — when times are tough, good sales leaders keep their teams focused and effective. There are many resources to help you implement these suggestions. Feel the fierce urgency of now and start moving. Your troops will follow.
Leads Digital Marketing Content Creation initiatives; a mix of target customer insights that drive compelling brand positioning, engaging content, and persuasive digital ads & calls-to-action to activate a positive customer journey & experience. Manages strategy, creativity and technology while working with creatives which all supports the Digital Campaign Team who generate & convert customer leads using SEO, SEM, Display, Mobile, Social Media and Email digital marketing campaigns.
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