Having been so fortunate to work with some the best sales leaders in the world over the course of my career; there is one lesson I learned from them all. They were all completely focused on ensuring that their team were happy. They each recognised that it is an important aspect of their business to motivate and keep talented sales staff. Sales teams have a particularly difficult task, and it is not a surprise that there is usually high turnover in sales departments. The job is high-pressure and often difficult, and it imperative that staff feel valued and rewarded adequately.
I once read a quote from W. Clement Stone which really stuck with me:
Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the sales person – not on the attitude of the lead.
But how can you motivate them so they work harder and stay longer?
This may seem like an obvious one, but money is a great motivator. Fiscal and physical incentives are obviously an important driver, usually in the form of commission and bonuses. However, support and recognition is also vital. Be specific in your praise if you want to encourage staff to reach particular goals. Things like company announcements and a merit system can be good for the morale of those members who are working hard, and can be motivating for those who could work harder. However you do want to structure it – whether you do an employee of the month award, which could be in the form of a weekend away, or a voucher, or even a gift, or whether you choose to simply have a leader board of team members’ sales, be sure to make it a level playing field and reward those who are actually working hard.
Educate and upskill your staff
This is often overlooked, but educating and training sales staff is crucial to the success of the business, and for their career growth. Obviously, training your sales teams on the products they sell, and on your business services and products they work with is critical – they cannot sell what they don’t know. But more than that, identifying areas within your business or industry that staff would like training in is important too. Sales personnel may have the desire to grow and advance within their careers, and helping them by offering training and education to reach their goals is an important factor in motivating them.
Integrate them with existing teams in the business
Have regular meetings with the full sales team, as well as the wider teams. Sales personnel generally spend a lot of time out of the office, so are either alone or with clients. Getting them to spend time with other team members and the wider organisation gives them a sense of belonging. They will feel less stress, will be more inclined to feel a part of the organisation and will be more loyal to your company and to their teams. During meetings, ask the sales staff what it is they want to get out of the meetings, to be forthcoming with any issues and concerns they may have and to make suggestions for the outcomes.
Create a culture
Have a sports team, go running together, get a pool table, allow them to customise their desks, go out for dinner together, have drinks as a team. Whatever it is, you need a culture. Create a space and an environment that allows the team to feel like that – a team. You should also praise staff when they do good things. This will make them feel valued and as though there is a culture of genuine concern for their well-being and that they have a place within the organisation other than simply bringing in revenue.
Set realistic targets
It is very demotivating to never meet your targets. If the targets set for sales teams are always unrealistic, it means they are highly unlikely to ever meet them, and therefore never going to get bonuses off the back of meeting targets. This will ensure they do just enough to make commission, but not enough to meet their targets. Not good for anyone. Set targets based on previous performance – and not just performance of the sales team as a whole, or the organisation, but actually based off of individual team members’ past performance. The idea is to get sales staff to beat their own targets, not to set them unrealistic goals that they cannot ever hope to reach.
Your sales team are often the face of your organisation when it comes to directly selling your products and services. You need to ensure they are happy, healthy, and loyal to your company and that they actually want to sell your services. Doing the above ensures that your team will work harder for you and the organisation, and that is extremely good business practice.
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I am the Director of Emerging Search Consultants, an African recruitment business that focuses on Middle Management to Executive level placements across Africa. I am also the Director of Emerging BEE, a South African specialist recruitment partner in sourcing highly skilled BEE candidates for the South African market. You can also follow Emerging BEE on Twitter for up to date industry news and events at https://twitter.com/EmergingBEE. Feel free to connect with me should you be seeking talent or require any career advice.