How to Make and Maintain a Great Sales Team
 
 

How to Make and Maintain a Great Sales Team

Making a great sales staff is what happens over time when top producers come together with the right attitude, right environment and right support. Your sales team will evolve. If you manage it well, it will evolve into a great team. If you manage it not-so-well, your company can become known as "the revolving door" because of your turn over.

Words of Affirmation

It doesn't matter much what type of background you come from or what your particularly personality type says about you, everyone wants, needs and likes to be told good things about themselves. Your sales team is no different. It is important to recognize that most top producers and strong personalities pay close attention to the detail of your communication. It's a trait that helps them to become top producers – they listen to people very closely.

So, what ever you say to your staff will be taken to heart, taken in and will function to either keep them motivated producers, or to discourage them into non-production. Your words of affirmation help to function as psychological maintenance for your team. This is especially important if your team members are not particularly spiritual. Most spiritual people have a book or set of teachings that help them to stay focused each day in a positive way. Those who do not have a church, synagogue or other spiritual habit [such as meditation] are frequently lost as to how to keep their internal "motor running."

For the non-church group, you will need to "feed" them so that the gray matter between the ears stays moving in the right direction for the productivity of your company. The easiest way to do this is with words of affirmation; encouraging words and positive reinforcement are never in over supply. The language that you use to encourage your sales staff is part of what will keep them motivated and enjoying their work. When people enjoy their work, they become committed to your company's goals and bottom line.

Staying involved with your team

There are two basic management styles: micro-managers and "call me when you need me" managers. Neither work very well for very long. Most top producers will not work for a micro-manager. The personality of the top producer requires trust and a fair amount of latitude. However, it is not wise to completely manage such hot dogs with the latter "call me when you need me" style. This style fails because people do not "feel" connected to the team leader – you.


In a sales team, it is important for the hot dogs to feel like you are in the pit with them, working hard like they are, concerned about what concerns them and generally looking out for them. To communicate this level of involvement and team playing, you must stay involved with your team. It helps to have an open-door policy that invites the team members to come to you anytime with their concerns. Otherwise, you can seem aloof and unapproachable to them – not a team message. Keep an open mind with your team members and regularly call meetings – once a week, once a month, whatever is needed. Pump them up with kudos and small rewards and let them know that you're paying attention to their hard work.

Incentives and Rewards

Incentives and rewards do not have to be large amounts of money or high dollar items. But they are important to use in letting your team know that you recognize their hard work and appreciate them. Some of the best incentives are the most personal ones. For instance, during my days at AmEx some of the best incentives I received were the ones that made a difference for my family – box seats at the hockey games and baseball games. The box seats were $200 each and I could not have afforded to take us all to the games at that time. The company executives had purchased a box for the season just to entertain business interests and to reward their top salespeople.

Sometimes the rewards are even smaller or they are for the entire team – great for team building. A friend once told me that her best boss at AT&T rewarded the entire team for exceeding their monthly numbers by bringing in her most fattening, best tasting, home-made banana pudding for the entire group. Similarly, our banking group at Citibank regularly rewarded the accounting group for crunching out the numbers on time each month with a monthly departmental cake and ice cream afternoon – always in the last hour of a Friday.

Rewards have a way of keeping people's spirits up and helping your sales team to feel like their hard work does not go unnoticed or unappreciated. Some of the incentives help to create a regular time of camaraderie among team members which helps keep tensions down and cooperation up.

Regular Sales Training

Regular sales training will go a long way to help keep your best performers at the top of their game. Training sharpens people's skills, reminds them of things that they forget in time, and helps them to refine what they already know very well. If you rotate your presenters or courses, then you will help to keep a fresh edge on what your team is learning each week or month, and that will help to keep their interest.

I once worked for a man who sent me to training once a month along with the other managers in the company, but we would literally sleep through the class after about the first six classes because the company used the same instructor week after week. It wasn't really the instructor's fault; he was doing his best. But the fact is that salespeople have an insatiable need to learn new things and they get bored easily. Before the days of the psychological diagnosis of ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder], companies just dealt with the reality of a common short attention span amongst their sales teams.

The need for new information and the fact of getting bored easily does not make your team member ADD, it just makes them a normal salesperson. There is an advantage to this psychological profile and it benefits your company to have a staff of people who need to move on to the next thing so they don't get bored. This characteristic helps to move people along the sales process. I would even go so far as to say that if your sales staff does not have a certain amount of unrest in their souls, then they will likely not be top producers.

The key to successful and regular sales training is to keep it mixed up for the team so they stay interested and engaged. If you need to have different presenters each week or each month, then go the extra mile to get different people in. If you need to spice up the training or upgrade the training, then consider a group seminar or professional course.

Diversity

Diversity always helps your sales team to be sharp and successful. Consider that you will want to be able to serve every segment of the population that purchases your product or service. The best way to appeal to any segment of the population is to have someone on staff that looks like them.

Don't spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about having to cater to a diverse group to meet everyone's cultural needs. Give equal respect to all and let them figure out what works and what doesn't. When you treat people like adults, they will amazingly act like adults.

Keeping A Great Sales Staff

Keeping your great sales team is at least as important as building it. After all, why give up on a group you have invested your time, money and heart in? If you lose your team members, then you only have to start over with new people. Starting over sets your company back each time and it costs you more than just your time and effort; it also costs you in lost productivity, training costs and more. Here are some things to consider about keeping your team when you have developed a great staff.
Encouraging Team Work


As the owner or lead manager, part of your greatest concern is keeping your team happy and together. An involved owner who regularly encourages the team's involvement with one another and the group is one who builds the morale of his sales team. Team work and team involvement help to encourage cooperation and make the team effective.

My brother burns microchips at Texas Instruments and has for the last 30 years. His lab manager regularly encourages the team to go for drinks after work on Fridays and to play on the department's soft ball team. Although they are a technology company, the principle is the same – team work, team sports and team activities increase productivity and cooperation.

An Unbiased Manager

An unbiased manager is hard to find and even hard to do if you are also the owner of the company. If you are the owner, then it is more difficult for you to remain unbiased because you automatically look at every situation in terms of how it affects your bottom line. But conveying an unbiased attitude is essential to keeping top performers.

You may think bias is restricted to race or gender, but in reality it is more commonly related to individual personalities. When you like a person, then it is human nature to give them favor. Although you may not think of it as a favorable bias toward someone, others will see it that way and will interpret it as a strike against them. If you can truly balance your views of people without an out of balance bias toward or against them, then you will gain and keep the respect and interest of top performers.

A Sense of Fairness

Closely related to bias is fairness. If your sales team has a sense that fairness is an integral part of the company's culture and values, then you will retain more of your top performers for longer. Sales can get real dirty depending upon the company's culture and all types of nastiness can ensue between sales reps. It is not uncommon for salespeople to steal each other's sales, horn in on their prospects or set out to build relationships with other team members' associates.

Stealing sales can undermine the integrity of the team and create a lot of bad blood between team members. After all, if left unchecked, it amounts to stealing food off of a team member's table or stealing clothes from their children. No one takes it lightly when money is stolen and especially not when the person has worked their tail off to make the sale.

You can keep a lock on your company's exit door by implementing strict rules concerning issues of fairness. Regularly upholding your own rules will give each team member a reassurance that fiscal anarchy is not tolerated by management and will help to retain your best and brightest. Keep an open door policy to your team for addressing issues of fairness and you will close the door on bad attitudes, stealing sales and potential lawsuits.

Seperate Business and Personal Relations

Sometimes team members develop personal relationships in their own homes during off hours. When a manager or owner does this, it can create a sense of favoritism among the team members. This is back to bias and fairness. You never want any team member to feel like she is "out of the loop" or out of the group. For this reason, it is important to never discuss what you did with your friend whose family came to your house over the weekend for a barbecue in front of other team members. If you have that type of friendship with members of the team, keep your at work discussions of the weekend off limits – and be sure to let your friend know it, too.

Appreciation and Recongnition / Consistent Bonus System

Appreciation and recognition is part of what keeps good people on your team and with your company. The other element is bonus pay. If your company is going to give the sales team bonus pay, make sure that the bonus pay is a consistent factor in the reward system. In other words, don't pay it one quarter and not the next. Inconsistency in bonus pay only lowers morale and discourages people. If you do not know if you can do it each month, quarter or year, then tell the team that the bonus is connected to their level of productivity in the corresponding period. This will help to keep the requirements clear and the disappointments down.
 
 
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