Advice

How to Wake Up a Sluggish Sales Team


Question: My sales team is struggling to meet their quotas month-to-month. Any suggestions on how I can motivate them or help them be more successful?

Answer: Start by diagnosing what’s at the core of their struggles. You can’t motivate away a fundamental flaw in your product or service. Perhaps your price point is too high, your reputation needs a makeover, or your competitors are simply putting out a better-value product or service than you are.

Ask yourself and your sales manager whether you’re in sync with industry trends, whether new competitors have changed the market, and whether your sales quotas are realistic, suggests Tim Hurson, author of Never Be Closing (Penguin Portfolio, 2014).

Talk with your salespeople and encourage them to be honest about what’s affecting their performance. You may uncover problems that you should have been aware of long ago, says Connie Kadansky, a Phoenix-based sales coach and president of Exceptional Sales Performance. “I suspect that the manager does know what’s wrong, but is hiding, denying, or suppressing it because they don’t want to take responsibility,” she says.

Here are some possible problems:

Sales call reluctance: You aren’t supplying your team with enough highly targeted prospects, and they’re uncomfortable making cold calls. “It may be that you have people who are more used to being reactive because your marketing efforts have created a lot of leads. Then, if that changes, your salespeople don’t have the emotional skills to be proactive,” Kadansky says. Beef up your advertising and marketing and consider hiring a sales coach who can help. Just make sure you’re paying for training that is positive, not punitive.

Lack of motivation: Do your team members have high enough personal and professional goals to push them out of their comfort zones? If they’re not engaged, rethink your compensation structure. Consultant Dan Kleinman suggests that recognition can be a great motivator—even obvious visuals like a rising thermometer, or ringing bells and cheers when a sale is closed. “If it is sincere, recognition tends to build on itself, and that leads to more sales success and payouts,” he writes in an e-mail.

No clear goals: Maybe your salespeople aren’t absolutely sure what they should be doing to achieve their quotas, says Scott Messer, principal at Sales Evolution. Your sales manager should set daily or weekly activity goals for things like: number of contacts with new prospects, first appointments, and demos or presentations—all of which can easily be tracked with sales software. Once your sales people are spending their time on high-value activities, “sit back and watch sales fly out of the end of the funnel,” Messer says.

Stymied by voice mail: Between 60 percent and 90 percent of telephone sales calls now go to voice mail, Kadansky says, “and people do not know how to leave a good voice mail, or they aren’t calling enough times to get someone on the phone.” Write a script that will bring out your value proposition immediately, embed the company and salesperson’s name in the middle of the message, and keep it to no more than 32 seconds. “There’s a formula they should be following that can help them succeed,” she says.

Karen_klein
Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

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