Are You Helping or Hurting Your Team

Some owners or managers attempt to “manage” all aspects of their salespeople’s activities.  When a salesperson senses that someone is looking over his shoulder, he’s typically right-it’s the sales manager about to ask for a quote report, opportunity update, prospect list or sales forecast.  Something he does much too frequently.  Or, it’s the manager that is constantly asking, “how did your sales call go?”  Believe me, if it went well, he would have shared that with you immediately – maybe even before he arrived back in the office.  If he doesn’t bring it up right away, I can almost guarantee that there is no reason to ask – he didn’t get it.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are owners and managers who have a hands-off “I’m only interested in the end result” attitude.  They occasionally ask for a prospect update.  But for the most part, they pay little attention to the day-to-day goings on.  Their only directive to the sales team or individual is, “just hit your numbers.”  No direction, no guidance, no rules to go by or path to follow.

Neither management strategy is particularly effective.  And, neither does much, if anything, to improve team or individual productivity.  One might argue, that those strategies-too much or too little supervision-actually reduce productivity.  Someone once said that “people don’t quit companies, they quit people”.  Unfortunately, this is where it can start.  Sales can be a frustrating experience for some people.  Add too much or too little supervision can be the beginning of the end for some.

There is middle ground, however – a strategy that keeps your sales team focused on the required day-to-day activities (and ensures that the long term results will materialize) without having to scrutinize their every move.

The foundation on which a middle-ground strategy is built is a set of distinct goals.  You can’t hold people accountable to specific outcomes unless they clearly understand what it is that they are working toward, specifically what is expected of them, and by when its expected.

Measuring, tracking and coaching salespeople on their sales activity is a critical step in helping them arrive at their goals.  Activities can include, but are not limited to, cold-calling, referral requests, networking events, creating leads from social media, “drop-ins” or even speaking engagements.

So, the first step in helping your team achieve higher levels of productivity is to provide them with clear departmental goals.  Tying those goals to corporate initiatives will help them see the big picture and better understand the part they play in creating it.

The next step is to assist your salespeople in translating the department goals in to individual goals.  Those goals should be specific, with defined objectives on which they can focus.  A goal to grow a territory, for example, should define how much of that growth will come from existing accounts (and more specifically, which ones) and how much will come from new accounts.  A goal to qualify and disqualify prospects harder can be a goal if they understand how to achieve that by teaching them the right questions to be asking.  

Once goals are formulated, they need to be analyzed, organized, and prioritized.  High-value goals, those that directly relate to corporate initiatives and contribute to the accomplishment of other goals, should be placed at the top of the list.  After the goals have been prioritized, action plans for accomplishment need to be developed.

The more detailed the plan, the easier it is for your salespeople to stay on track and measure their progress.  And, if the process becomes temporarily derailed, a well-defined plan makes the path to getting back on track more visible.