Improving Sales Productivity by Motivating the Sales Force

Improving Sales Productivity by Motivating the Sales Force

Christine was just recently hired by a media company as a sales representative. Her primary job was to generate new leads for her employer and develop more sales.

Christine was able to meet new customers and make sales after she had completed the induction (or basic sales training) within her first week.

Christine had not closed a single sale even though she was making four appointments per day for two months. Christine was actually one of the “high-potentials” in her initial sales training. Christine was to be a “star performer” and not a “laggard” in the future.

Christine was asked to “refresher training” at the end of the second month. This was to re-attend her initial sales training, which she had when she joined. Christine was asked to “shadow” experienced salespeople, i.e., She was asked to “shadow” some of the experienced salespeople, i.e., to be with them at their sales meetings and learn from them. Although most sales professionals are happy to have Christine accompany them, many of the customers she visited were old customers. Christine can learn a lot from these customers about winning new customers and developing new ones.

Even worse, Christine’s experienced sales staff were not transferring sales leads meant for new hires. Some even crossed into Christine’s territory.

Christine was fired along with her new batch of salespeople at the end of the third month for being ineffective. Most of the new hires in sales did not last more than one year. A few experienced salespeople generate as much as 90% of company sales.

Although the company tried to find new salespeople to help them sell new products to new markets, they were unsuccessful. The company’s sales have plummeted, and it is not clear how to change this trend.

Finding the right balance

Most sales organizations find it challenging to achieve a balance.

• Motivate sales professionals to make a more significant contribution to the bottom line
* Training sales professionals to adapt to market changes;
* Getting up to speed ASAP by hiring the right salespeople

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Companies are often reluctant to fire or discipline experienced salespeople who become complacent or resist changes made by managers in response to market changes. They are “untouchable” because they generate most of the sales results and have developed strong relationships over time with key accounts.

Some companies are now hiring fresh graduates to counter the unhealthy bargaining power experienced salespeople have.

Their hard work will pay off in the form of new customers. These companies went to great lengths to give the “young guns”, who are often the most successful, more attention at Annual Sales Meetings. Even though they may not have the same sales numbers as the more experienced salespeople, it sends a clear signal to the incumbents that if you continue to be complacent, you will lose your title of the top salesperson.

Some incumbents will not give up without fighting. The majority of the positive-thinking salespeople will work harder to earn respect from their managers and rookie salespeople. Negative-thinking salespeople, however, can cause trouble.

* To leave the company and work for a competitor (and to bring over their customers);
* Making it difficult for new sales reps by taking their leads away from or entering their territories.
* Use their power to get them preferential treatment

Management must have the courage and will to intervene to save the sales team.

Keep the right sales talent.

The turnover rate in sales is high. A salesperson who performs poorly will be fired. He will be fired if he does well.

Companies offer a variety of financial incentives and perks to retain top-performing sales personnel. There will always be better deals than your best offer. You lose sales talent in such situations.

Companies will need to take into account:

* What can be done to keep a person happy, besides offering better financial rewards?
* Who should be retained.

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A common misconception is that salespeople are only motivated by money and can only be retained through financial means. Research shows that even financial rewards have a temporary effect on salespeople. It can lead to experienced salespeople using their relationships with key customers to bargain for more money whenever management wants to retain them.

Either way, it is not a good idea to promote high-performing salespeople to managerial positions. Research shows that only 15% of top-performing salespeople can become managers. It is a mistake to appoint salespeople who are passionate about selling but not able to manage.

It is possible to retain top salespeople by giving them more recognition for their contributions and involving them in formulating new sales strategies. Salespeople enjoy the freedom and autonomy they have, as well as the feeling of accomplishment on the job. Sometimes, giving them more recognition at work is better than small financial rewards in the long term.

It doesn’t always have to be the top performers in the short-term who are the future most outstanding performers. In the long-term, salespeople who are not able to adapt to changing market demands and increasing customer expectations may not be as successful.

Motivational Training and Coaching

New salespeople can be discouraged if they don’t see the possibility that they will reach their sales targets. This means that if they believe they can’t succeed no matter what, they won’t try.

Many companies use coaching and training to motivate their salespeople. Even the most experienced salespeople look forward to coaching and training sessions because they believe there may be areas that they can improve on to win more business.

Most sales training and coaching programs are done in scattered and random ways. Many companies ask their sales managers to hold regular refresher training sessions and, more importantly, to act as internal coaches for junior salespeople.

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Although sales managers have the experience to coach, not all of them are qualified. They view coaching as telling salespeople what to do rather than helping them to think about how they can improve their results. Additionally, internal training and coaching are considered necessary but not essential, so it is unlikely that the coaching or training is delayed for more than a day. Many managers are busy and tend to put off such coaching or training sessions in order to focus on their most urgent tasks first. There will always be more pressing tasks to deal with.

Here are some tips to help companies make their coaching and training sessions more motivating.

1. It won’t get done if it isn’t written down in the weekly meeting schedule or in the diary. Schedule sales managers’ training and coaching sessions AS IF it is a crucial sales appointment.
2. Make sure the session is short and concise. Contrary to external training, internal sales managers can hold a coaching or training session for 30-min or two hours that address specific issues.
3. Do not tell them what to do. Get them thinking. Salespeople will need to be able to adapt to the changing sales environment. Sometimes knowing what to do is more important than knowing why.

c.j. He is also the first-ever sales trainer and consultant to speak at the American Society for Training & Development’s International Convention. So far, c.j. So far, c.j.

* Leading international hotel will produce an equivalent of 5,000 more room nights in China during the summer months of 2007
* Global leader in architectural hardware company increases sales revenue by 10% for a key client in Shanghai within three weeks
* World leader in PC sales has hired a transformation team to make their sales force more collaborative and solution-focused. This will allow them to regain their global pole position against their closest competitor.