LisBiz strategies: Nine strategies for a winning sales team

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December 8/15, 2014; Volume 28/Number 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Nothing annoys me more than sales teams run by managers who don’t understand or like people. The other day, an owner was telling me that having salespeople is a “necessary evil.” He then ended the conversation by saying, “You know what I mean.”

If you don’t have well-trained and motivated salespeople, you don’t have much business. Whose job is it to train that sales team? It’s the manager’s job.

Like a group of athletes, salespeople need to be motivated to do the job. The team needs to be fed the right food (training), held accountable and then rewarded. This is part of the winning formula. What professional sports team would keep a manager that brings in losing seasons? Too many bad seasons, and the managers are gone. It’s his or her job to mold the team into winners.

I met with a business owner a few weeks ago who said his salespeople need to feel motivated to do a good job, period. He further explained that everyone feels down at one time or another, especially if they don’t make the sale. I thought, “This is a business owner who understands what selling is all about.”

I started selling over 25 years ago. Sometimes I closed sales and other times I didn’t and, of course, I was happy when I closed one and devastated when I didn’t. The problem was that I didn’t know how I caused either one.

People would point out my faults and tell me what I should’ve done. None of this really helped, and I became more reluctant to wait on customers. The minute I had some training, though, my attitude and life changed. I was motivated.

Over the years, I’ve uncovered a number of techniques that you can use to help motivate your sales team:

  1. Hire a manager who believes in people and has the skills to teach. Let’s not use the kick-them-around model of old-school teaching anymore. These days, people get fired for that, so you want someone who will point out what’s right.
  2. Test everyone on your team for sales and communication skills. You won’t know where to start until you know what to train them on.
  3. Observe your manager working with your salespeople. Does the person know how to evaluate and set a plan for each salesperson? Everyone is different and learns differently. Pat Summitt coached her team to eight NCAA championships. Her theory? Teach them the right things.
  4. If someone isn’t progressing, find out why. If he can’t hit home runs, determine what skills he is missing, and get him into a program. Hold him accountable, and get rid of him if he can’t do it. You know the old adage: “Hire slow and fire fast.”
  5. Show respect to your team members. Find out what helps them learn and what motivates them to want to be better.
  6. Put egos on the back burner. Sales managers show their skills by building winning teams, not bragging about their skills.
  7. Look to make small changes that will make a big difference. Golf coach Butch Harmon looks for small changes that will make a difference in the player’s game.
  8. Be consistent in your teaching style. Anyone teaching has to have a good follow-up; if they don’t have it, your salespeople won’t develop it. It has been said that consistency is better than good salesmanship.
  9. Envision a winning team. All great managers do this. Look for winning traits and foster them.

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