Attracting and keeping good salespeople is at the top of every sales manager’s list of priorities. The better we are at inspiring and holding on to great salespeople, the happier, the more engaged, and the more successful they will be. Getting the best contributors to stick around makes our sales management job much, much easier. Here are three things that you may want to pay attention to this summer to help your organization keep the best salespeople.
1. Remove the Roadblocks. You want your sellers to focus on selling: having conversations with prospective buyers, making sure that they have enough opportunities in the funnel, managing the funnel through from contact to close. What does it say about your organization when salespeople complain to you (or among themselves) that it is easier to sell a prospect than it is to get anything done internally? We hear that kind of thing a lot, and that’s a shame. As a leader, you must make sure it’s as easy as possible for your team members to get a given deal through the internal systems. That means taking a stand to minimize the administrative load your sales contributors must carry. Yes, they need to do some reporting, and they must get essential information to senior leadership. No, they don’t need to generate detailed reports that no one ever looks at. And no, they shouldn’t be spending big chunks of their day managing inventory or attending operational meetings they don’t contribute to (and are bored by). Do your best to remove the organizational roadblocks that keep salespeople from doing what you hired them to do: interact with buyers.
2. Consistency. Salespeople want consistency in three different areas. One is how they’re treated. Number two is how you, as the leader, react. And number three is how you, as the leader, choose to act. Let’s look at each one.
Do we treat the members of our sales team consistently? Or do we give some people “special consideration” – and try to run our team with two different rulebooks? The phenomenon of treating a so-called “star performer” differently from the rest of the team is known as entitlement, and it’s poison to any sales organization. Enabling a sense of entitlement is counterproductive. For those not being treated the same way as the “star performer,” there is inevitably resentment, confusion, and a sense of unfair play. And those who are receiving special treatment come to feel like they’re above the law, that they don’t need to participate in the same way the rest of the team does, and that they are justified in focusing on “me” over “we.” Add it all up, and you’re looking at a tumor on the sales organization. (This topic is covered in depth in the book The Success Cadence.)
How do we react? Salespeople want to know how we react to certain situations; they want to understand our emotional makeup; and they want stability. If we have a strong emotional response to issue X on Monday, but for no apparent reason downplay the same issue on Tuesday, we are sending mixed messages, and that makes salespeople uncomfortable. Without consistency, our salespeople will not be able to gauge what our reaction will be to anything. They won’t have any sense of what the guardrails are – how we view the big issues, what’s acceptable and what’s not. If our emotional response is unknown, or if it is an ever-changing target, that’s very confusing and unsettling for salespeople. We want them to focus their energy on the buyer environment rather than on figuring out how we’re going to react to something.
How do we act? What are the processes that we follow? Do we even have a process as sales leaders? Think about all the things that must happen within a sales organization. Do those things happen predictably? Do we include them on our calendar? For instance, do we have brief weekly one-on-one meetings with each salesperson who reports to us? We need to have a known process, and salespeople need to experience for themselves how this process is executed. Most salespeople will tell us that they don’t like process, that too much process represents micromanagement. In fact, the right amount of process equals freedom. Consistency equals freedom. The sales team should know exactly what the input should be, and exactly what the output will be. That consistency, that comfort, should always be clear to the members of our team, both in terms of their behaviors and ours.
3. Tools/Training. We always want to ensure that we provide the right tools. Salespeople may sometimes feel bombarded with too many tools or may not understand the value a given tool brings to them as an individual seller. Our job is to identify the tools with the highest impact, and then make sure they are being used properly, to make the salesperson’s working day easier and more efficient. For instance, you certainly want to use this time to train your salespeople. What are the tools that connect to that training? In today’s environment, you want to make sure you’re going over talk tracks based on that training, that you’re role playing based on that training, and that you’re coaching based on that training. Videoconferencing tools like Zoom are going to be important. Another great tool is Crystal, which allows you to identify someone’s behavioral profile before you talk to them.
Personalized playbooks are also important tools, because they clearly lay out the daily and weekly behavioral plan for each individual salesperson – and once you and the salesperson collaborate to create the right behavioral plan, the sky’s the limit. This single step can transform mid-level performers into top-tier performers!
Another tool we would suggest you to closely look at is the Pre-Call Planner (available for free -download here), which helps both managers and salespeople to focus on the critical action items for an upcoming call. From a management perspective, you want to identify where your coaching can add the most value before the call, and the Pre-Call Planner is a great coaching tool for identifying the gaps. From an individual contributor perspective, the Pre-Call Planner allows salespeople to strategize ahead of time about the most important things that they should be paying attention to and trying to accomplish during the call.
Address those three big issues – roadblocks, consistency, and tools – and you will find it much easier to hold on to the best salespeople this summer and beyond!