The JF Guest Author Spot
Lee B. Salz
Sales managers are facing a set of challenges that they've never experienced before. They think their team is focused on generating sales, but they are completely distracted.
As a sales manager, for years, you've had Human Resources preaching to you about the importance of work-life balance for your sales team. They reminded you that studies showed that productivity increased when employees had balance between their work life and their personal one. They told you that the team needed time to recharge their batteries so they could sell more for the company.
Some still talk about work-life balance, but the truth of the matter is that this is a yesterday issue. Work-life implies that "work" is a stressful world and "life" is a place of solace. Those days are gone with the way our economy has evolved. Your sales team is getting it from both sides now. They have unprecedented, high levels of stress at work and at home. The former life of solace is now filled with concerns of mounting debt, drastic drops in home values, a real fear of job loss, and disgust over their investment portfolio.
When your sales team arrives to start the day at 8am, the reality is that their day is already over. They began their day by watching the morning news. "Unemployment is at a record high! Housing values continues to fall! Consumer confidence is non-existent!" What a great way to start a productive sales day!
Imagine a boxer who gets beaten up before he enters the ring...What chance does he have of being successful in the match? ZERO! Today, your sales team is faced with the same challenges as that boxer. The media is defeating them before their day even begins. They arrive at work to begin their day, but the truth of the matter is that they are already finished. They've already lost.
Despite all of these woes, the company is relying on the sales team to pull the company out of the painful downward spiral driven by the economic mess. Logic would tell you that with the present state of affairs, the sales team is more focused than ever on generating sales. Every minute of the business day, they are either on the phone with a prospect or meeting with one. All they can think of is... Make a sale!
Unfortunately, logic does not come into play here. All of the external noise is leading your sales team in the complete opposite direction. They are checking the market hourly, their 401k every 15 minutes, and checking the job boards. It's as if there is total sales paralysis. Sales productivity is probably at an all time low, at a time when the company needs them most. As the sales manager, this all falls in your lap. You are the face of the sales organization. The company needs you to change your hat from manager to leader to help focus the troops on the task at hand.
Since this is a relatively new issue, most sales managers have not been trained how to help their team regain their focus to drive productivity (a.k.a. sales). As a sales manager, what can you do to regain the reigns of the team and lead them to sales success?
1. Communicate, even...over communicate. Open and honest discussion about the present state of affairs helps to relieve the angst that the team is experiencing. As a manager, you may be in a leadership chain, but the team looks to their direct leader for guidance and support.
2. Hold the team accountable. While empathetic and understanding, the sales leader needs to remind the team of the task at hand. Direction provided to the team should be clear and team members should be held accountable for performance.
3. Coach them. Little things can help your team regain their sales edge. Suggest that they not start their day by watching the morning news. Have them read the news online so they have total control over which news to become informed. They control the information saturation point, not the television media. (This is a prudent thing for you to do as well.)
4. Lead by example. While challenging, put on your game face and show confidence. Keep the conversation on the task at hand, not external influences. Smile! If you walk around showing stress, your sales team will mirror your behavior. They will think something is wrong and sales paralysis enters.
5. Be visible! When the number of closed door meetings increases, sales people speculate that something is wrong. While a productive meeting may be taking place inside, on the other side of the door, your entire sales team is talking about what you may be discussing in your meeting. In the absence of direct knowledge, your sales team will guess the meeting is about gloom and doom. Limit your closed door meetings. Be visible with your sales team. Join them on sales calls. Meet with clients.
Other industry experts have also weighed in on this issue. If they were talking to a sales manager about how to focus their sales team and drive productivity, they suggest...
"Sales managers must remember the behavior of sales people is driven by the desire to avoid pain or gain pleasure. The more powerful of these two drivers is the desire to gain pleasure. Smart sales managers recognize that achievement and recognition of that achievement are the two most powerful motivators in sales. So instead of cracking the whip, they are whipping up contests, games, spiffs, and awards that keep their sales professionals focused, happy, and engaged."
- Jeb Blount, CEO of SalesGravy.com and author of "Power Principles"
"Stop being complacent to selling professionals. Selling professionals control their destiny more than any other organizational function. Nothing happens unless something is sold. Selling professionals must speak with customers, requesting referrals and closing business. Watching the news is simply a form of procrastination. They must discover the unspent allocated money from the current budget year and request the business. Products and services are still needed. Tell selling professionals to do what the competition is not - sell something!" -Drew Stevens, PhD, Business Growth Consultant and Author of "Split Second Selling" and "Ultimate Business Bible"
"Managers need to shift away from fear based management and develop more of a collaborative coaching culture. You cannot inspire others when you are afraid and you can't be inspired when you're full of fear and worry. Conduct more frequent one-to-one meetings, build greater accountability by relinquishing your role as Chief Problem Solver and have less tolerance for mediocrity. Ultimately, management needs to adapt, innovate and evolve or suffer from corporate inefficiency, rigidity and declining profits."-Keith Rosen, Executive Sales Coach and author of the award winning, "Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions"
"In tough times, sellers must be at the top of their game. As a sales manager, your job is to infuse your team with fresh thinking - to make sure they have the knowledge and skills to deal with today's challenges. Start a "book of the month" club. Register for webinars or teleseminars put on by sales experts. Encourage sign up for sales e-newsletters. Lead weekly "how we won" sessions. For maximum impact, start now!"
-Jill Konrath, Sales Strategist & author, Selling to Big Companies
"Sales managers must help salespeople to maintain clarity, calm their nerves, help them function, keep them positive, get them motivated, challenge them to perform, urge them to fill their pipelines and hold them accountable to all of that. And talking the talk isn't quite enough. When conducting pre-call strategizing, coaching must include how the account or call plan will be executed - with role play - so that sales managers are certain their salespeople truly have the ability to get it done. Your pipelines may have been thrown into a holding pattern. Orders haven't canceled or been lost to competitors; they are simply delayed. The sooner that everyone gets over their initial reaction to the recession and gets back to just doing business, the sooner that money will loosen up and start changing hands again." -Dave Kurlan, Sales Development Expert, and author of "Baseline Selling"
"To get the malaise out of your sales team give them permission to press the "off button" and shut out the negative media. Protect seller's natural optimism - have contests for the best joke of the day - buy coffee for the winner. Equip them with the winning words - role-play the very words decision-makers long/need/want to hear: which are how your product increases revenues; decreases expenses; mitigates risk." -Leslie Buterin, CEO at The Sales Corporation and founder of Top Dog International
"During this time of stress, management needs to attend to the emotional needs of their sales professionals. Part of that attention is to help them understand what they can change and what is beyond their abilities to change. For example they can change their attitude in how they approach each day, keeping a positive focus and working to produce results. What they can't change is how the market will fluctuate on an hour by hour basis." -Gregory Stebbins, Ed.D., internationally recognized Sales Psychologist
There has never been a more critical time for sales leaders to work overtime to ensure that their teams remain focused and fully motivated: Attitude is, after all, that small thing that makes such a big difference. Strong leadership from the front, and by example, is the only way to reverse the downward spiral that comes with self-limiting beliefs and fears." -Jonathan Farrington, Chairman of The Sales Corporation & CEO of Top Sales Associates
"In order to re-energize your team you need to help them become more successful. The fastest way you can do that is by establishing a killer sales strategy that focuses on a moderate amount of ideal clients. An effective strategy positions you as the industry expert, educates the client/prospect on how to run their business better, sets the buying criteria and establishes doing business with you as a forgone conclusion. Your sales people will be fired up because they are closing lots of business, making good money and loving life!" -Andy Miller, sales strategist
"Although the current economic situation presents problems for you and your sales team, it also presents unprecedented opportunities. There are still prospects buying and customers purchasing additional products and services, and your competitors are facing the same daunting and depressing news. Salespeople who overcome their lethargy and seek new business can turn this economic downturn into a record-breaking year. Empathize with their issues, but emphasize the tremendous opportunities your team has while their competition is sitting on the sidelines." -Paul McCord, management consultant and author of the Sales and Sales Management Blog
"Salespeople will be excited to come to work when they adopt a referral-selling strategy. They'll meet with decision makers, shorten their sales process, and convert prospects to clients more than 50% of the time-while acing out the competition and landing new, profitable clients. They'll meet only with the people they want to meet and who want to meet them. What an irresistible proposition! Money in their pockets. What a great motivator!" -Joanne Black, founder of No More Cold Calling and author of "No More Cold Calling™: the Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust"
"The issue has become one of finding and sustaining mental energy. Not just the energy you and your team need to achieve sales. Even more important is your ability to sustain the enthusiasm, calm and inspiration needed to get your team through these torrid times. Instead of work life balance, it's about getting the right flow of personal energy input and business energy output. Having an enjoyable personal interest that enables you to switch off is a good start."-Peter Nicholls, Director, Work Leisure International
Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of the award-winning book, "Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager." Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazine, a print columnist for SalesforceXP Magazine, and the host of the Internet radio show, "Secrets of Business Gurus." Look for Lee's new book in February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage" where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or 763.416.4321.
Today's News: The Sales Bloggers Union have just released their first ebook and you can download it by simply clicking on the banner below - it is a scream! (Can't believe I said that, Munch will be turning in his grave :-(
Tomorrow: "Thoughts About Leadership And Thoughts About Followship" You are either one or the other and whichever it is, you have a new set of challenges this year!
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