Strong, cohesive sales teams are every good manager's goal. To build them, you need to hire the right people and keep them around long enough to tap their potential. Start by giving your team members a chance to win, and then give them your support. Follow the sales management best practices below to provide the right environment for sales success, and chances are your people won't stray to greener pastures.
1. Be honest. Hardworking salespeople generally enjoy great earning potential, but selling isn't always a bed of roses. Be honest with new recruits about the positives and negatives. Tell them a sales career can be hugely rewarding, but warn them to expect their share of rejection, call reluctance, and dry spells. Reassure them that all salespeople experience these things and that you will be there to help them through the tough times so you can enjoy the good times together. A little honesty will help prevent the disappointments and disillusionment that can cause turnover later.
2. Get in the trenches. Being a competent, capable, likable manager may not be enough to keep your salespeople around. Your team may need you to play different roles at different times – educator, motivator, cheerleader, and counselor. So know all your sales management responsibilities and how to handle them. When you train your reps, go with them on sales calls to observe their performance and model the techniques they should use. Limit the time you spend in your office, and let your team members know that whenever they have a problem to discuss, they can come to you. It's up to your team to sell, but it's up to you to help in any way you can.
3. Praise often. Few things give your team the lift that a heartfelt word of thanks or praise will. For many, even cash doesn't compare. Rather than make your team complacent or careless, praise should raise level of performance. Whenever you see your salespeople doing a good job, let them know. Remember, praise is most effective when it's specific, timely, and sincere. Use sales meetings to recognize consistently good performance, and show your people how much you appreciate their efforts with rewards such as gift certificates or tickets to sporting events. When you see behavior you want to change, offer constructive criticism and meet with salespeople privately to discuss problems.
4. Compensate generously. Hard work deserves real rewards. Money (or some equally valuable incentive) talks, and companies that want to attract and keep top talent need to offer more of it. Find out how your company's compensation package compares to others in your industry, and bring yours up to par if necessary. Survey your salespeople to find out what kinds of rewards most motivate them, and modify your compensation/incentive program to meet their wishes. Hold sales contests with prizes for several of the top finishers. Compensate salespeople, not only based on current performance, but on how much improvement they show over past performance.
5. Encourage goal setting. Goal setting gives your team a measurable way to evaluate performance and ensure ongoing improvement. Meet with team members collectively to set group goals, then individually to set personal objectives. Review their past performance, then work together to set attainable but challenging performance targets. Ask everyone to submit a strategy with action steps for reaching personal goals, and conduct periodic follow-up meetings to track their progress. As your salespeople accomplish their objectives, meet with them again to set new ones. Before you set either individual or group goals, find out what your company wants to achieve in the next one to five years, and set sales goals to help the company accomplish its objectives.
Good sales management is about compensating beyond just a paycheck. Your team has emotional and professional needs as well – as the manager, you need to help meet those needs. When you create a working environment in which your salespeople feel supported, enabled, and well compensated, you can likely count on them to stay around and make the most of it.