Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The recent announcement that the U.S. economy is on pace for its sharpest year of labor expansion in 15 years, combined with the fact that the unemployment rate dropped to the lowest rate in 6 years (5.8%) confirms what many have already felt -  2014 was good, but 2015 can be great.

Now is the time of year when many leaders begin to project revenues for 2015.  As you are gazing into the revenue projection crystal ball you may want to take some time to rethink how you manage your sales professionals.  If you are using the same approach to sales leadership you did 5 years ago, you may find it difficult to realize your maximum revenue potential.  Let’s review some critical elements of sales leadership:

Gone are the days when you look for the most extroverted, most able-to-work-a -room person that can charm anyone.  Look for critical thinkers that can carry on a difficult business conversation with the most difficult personality.

Understand that the difference between extroverted and introverted largely hinges on how they recharge their batteries.

The extroverted person recharges their batteries by being around others, being social – drawing their energy from the energy of others.  An extroverted person would look forward to going out for a cocktail with coworkers after work or basketball with friends to unwind. The introverted person recharges their batteries by spending time with themselves – going for a run or a simple dinner with their family.

Both of these types can do very well in sales.  As a matter of fact, there have been a number of recent studies that show introverted salespeople may actually do better.  Personality types that lean toward introversion don’t feel the need for people to like them (or get distracted/frustrated when they don’t) and can focus on calmly discussing needs, goals and solutions with decision makers.

When hiring, look for people who like to win and set goals in order to be able to do so.  Ask about past failures and how they were handled.  You want to hear how the failure frustrated the candidate and the plan they put in place to get back on top.

Additionally, look for an independent person that has a demonstrated ability to work well with a team.  Avoid the person who feels the need to run for help or provide updates after every call.

It is a globally shrinking world and unless your business really demands your sales staff be in a specific location, consider the possibility that your sales professionals could be remote employees.  This may be out of state talent or talent that simply works from home.

Long gone is the reality that “face time” means productivity.  Having your sales staff in the office can often result in lower performance.  They are easier pulled into unplanned meetings, distracted by office politics or general reindeer games.  You want salespeople who value every minute and see some of the office games (official and unofficial) as distractions and impediments to their productivity.

Standards of Performance for revenue generating professionals are the product of outdated thinking when it comes to managing sales leaders.  Sure, if you are training brand new salespeople you need to instill good habits as a part of the training.  If you have a seasoned professional, SOP’s act as a micromanagement tool of a bygone age.  Instead simply focus on the desired revenue goal.  Did the salesperson meet or exceed the goal?  That is the only important factor.  If they did meet their goal, nothing else matters – leave them alone, brainstorm with them when needed, congratulate often and ask them what they need to continue to be challenged.

If the goals were not achieved, meet often, brainstorm and mutually set mini-goals to get back on track.  As an example, for my business I look at sales goals as a quarterly number.  If a person did not meet the quarterly goal, I may want to focus on a monthly mini-goal.  You may also want to review their approach and mutually set goals around activities that will get them back on track.  If those mini-goals are not met then hold accountable – reset mini-goals with more brainstorming.

“Brainstorming” is the critical word for both productive and non-productive sales professionals.  This partnership approach to tackling the challenges of sales is more centered on how business can move forward, rather than what a person is or is not doing.  However, if a salesperson is simply not putting in the work then a discussion will need to be had.  At the end of the day, sales is a numbers game.  If someone tries to tell you otherwise, be very careful.

Your sales staff should have the most up to date technology in the organization.  If your sales team is client facing, make sure they have the latest model of laptop or tablet – rotate their older models with non-sales staff if necessary.  This will maximize their productivity (personally & in front of clients) as well present a solid professional image with clients.  Nothing creates a less than desirable first impression during a client presentation than the spinning rainbow wheel of frustration holding up the start of the meeting.

Make sure the CPU, RAM & drive speed are maximized so that they can efficiently utilize the most up to date tools.

Be realistic.  Set two goals with the members of your team – the goal and a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).  Know what you want to do, what you think you can do and what the expected percentage of growth of your industry.  If what you want to do and think you can do is significantly above or below the expectations of your industry then you should be able to logically articulate why your goals differ.  There may be a logical reason, and that reason needs to be understood and supported by the sales team.

Keep perspective- don’t be impressed with high activity for activity sake.  The frantic person is not always the productive person.  Instead value planning, results, and the ability to work effectively with other members of the organization. 

Salespeople value 3 things.  These are not in any particular order and can vary based on the person you have on your team.  Realizing what is important to them will allow you to keep them a motivated and a committed member of the team.

Compensation – It doesn’t need to be the top end for your industry, but it does need to be a structure that provides unlimited potential based on results.  If you try to under-compensate your sales team you will lose revenue you never knew you could be bringing in.

Recognition – Winners want to be recognized as winners.  Tell them often, personally and publicly, that they are a critical part of the team and recognize their results.  When they bring in a big piece of business or meet goals be sure to make a big deal about it.  Publicly they may act like it is not a big deal, internally they will thrive on the kudos.

Flexibility – Top performing sales staff must feel that they can come & go and make their schedules based on their needs.  This control trade-off will pay huge dividends in loyalty and results.  As a side note, top performing sales professionals will not respect you if you allow under performers to have this flexibility.