Running A Successful Sales Team Pt 3
In my experience people are all motivated by many different things. Some by money (and that is ok!), some by the prospect of furthering their career, some simply to keep their job and some just knowing the leader is happy with what they are doing. The old-fashioned pat on the back if you like.
A good leader needs to know where each of their team sit in terms of motivation needs and then carry that out individually daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually whenever is relevant.
Some sales managers methods utilise the praise and embarrassment factor or using league tables to motive their sales staff. I personally find these methods demotivate staff more than motivate. There will always be a first and last place…what if the person last place has been working harder than anyone else but we will never know they were just about to deliver the biggest win of the year as the embarrassment and demotivation from being shown as “last” in front of their peers puts them off course?
A leader should understand their league tables but instead of putting it out there as a best to worst ranking, instead use the insights behind the data with each team member in isolation to control the message you want to deliver, bespoke to that person. This will drive true motivation.
It is important to remember that your team is made up of different people who are all in different situations at work and in their personal life. Each person is individual and likely to have different or varying attributes to one another. It’s the job of the leader to understand these and manage accordingly.
It’s therefore essential when recruiting to ensure each member not only has the core skill set required to do the job but also fits within the culture of the business and the team.
I have spoken about some of the basic characteristics I believe ensure a successful sales team, but the core ingredient is of course the people themselves. People are the biggest asset to any business and it’s important as a leader you get the right people to deliver your culture, strategy and ultimately the numbers.
Any team can develop and evolve, and individuals are no different. It’s important to remember that part of your role as the leader is to coach, encourage and develop your team.
Good luck selling!
Lee Hamill – Sales Director
Organisation Structure and Management
Our industry is facing a major breakpoint – a dramatic shift in the market that makes current winning strategies obsolete.
In the future, the most valuable opportunities will be those where leverage can be obtained by projecting and stretching existing competence into new areas. However, the success of this strategy to build on existing experience and resources and to mobilise an organisation depends entirely on its corporate culture.
Our organisational structure most closely resembles Charles Handy’s description of ‘Power Culture’. The strength of this type of organisation is the “ability to move quickly and react well to threat or danger”. Throughout our history, the company has maintained steady growth by “spawning” other organisations and other “spiders”. Indeed, each satellite company is managed as a local company where the Branch Managers have total responsibility for profitability and a share in that profit. The result is a group of autonomous companies each with its own culture, strongly affected by the local culture in which it operates.
Senior Managers assumptions are very much along the lines of McGregor’s ‘Theory Y’, encouraging employees to become innovative, seek responsibility, make decisions and react to opportunities. Individuals can help corporations stay ahead of a changing environment by moving their organisations beyond what they already know, into the more uncertain realms of innovation.
Although it is obvious that the organisation must be innovative to survive, we must also have formal control systems which, in themselves make innovation difficult. Because of its very nature innovation involves unpredictability, risk taking and non-standard solutions. If there was a guaranteed way to promote innovation, as there is to manage cash flow, most organisations would adopt it and there would be little competitive advantage gained. It is precisely because of uncertainty that a competitive advantage is possible for innovative firms. Our aim is to create an environment where everyone recognises the importance of challenging the status quo, design systems that tolerate some failure, encourage risk taking and provide resources and open communication.
As far as we are concerned the case for empowerment comes from business needs that are central to the success of the company, fast response to customers, strong cross functional links at multiple levels and the need to take opportunities that are too local, too fleeting and too many in number to permit a centralised decision-making process.
However, a major dilemma has always been, exactly which decisions should be taken by employees? If decisions are held too close to the top, employees will be hampered in fulfilling their responsibilities and exercising their authority in a timely manner. On the other hand, if too many decisions are pushed too far down the organisation, it runs the risk of becoming disjointed with different parts of the whole coming into conflict. At some fundamental level, the answer must be ‘whatever decisions the employee thinks at the time it is appropriate for them to take’. Without this level of discretion employees cannot be said to be truly empowered. It must be up to the employee to decide and what must be pushed up the ladder to higher management. There is a certain amount of risk attached to this. The employee is more exposed and the manager less in control. However, this is the nature of an empowered organisation, in many ways it is the antithesis of the traditional management hierarchy.
The Advantages of an Empowered Workforce
We have always considered our primary source of competitive advantage to be our people. When value is delivered through information. Personal interaction or group work, the human element is of paramount importance. The only way to tackle the ‘new world order’ is to have everyone giving 100% effort in the right direction all the time. This combination of effort and alignment rarely results from a top down management model. Only a system of distributed decision making will provide the flexibility and motivation for our people to maintain peak performance levels.
When the organisation’s overall direction is clear and its overall structure and resource base are adequate for its needs, then an empowered workforce with responsibility and authority for most day-to-day decisions can have the following advantages:
- Better Customer Service. Not only are our employees in touch with customers able to make decisions themselves and provide an appropriate response but they also give customers the impression that the customer is dealing with someone who has power and influence in the organisation.
- Flexibility: Empowered employees are ready to respond to changes as they arise
- Speed. They know responsibility for outcomes rests with them therefore they take action swiftly to solve problems.
- Formation of important cross–functional links. Without having to raise most operational issues up the hierarchy, they are free to make appropriate horizontal connections. Cross-functional teams formed and reformed as necessary and because these links were not officially resourced, they tended to be efficient. Benefits came from not being on the team itself, but from what the team contributed. If a link ceased to add value, the participants would drop it.
- Morale. Most feel better about their work because they know they have more control over it. Of course, individuals ‘high morale’ if widely shared, can give the organisation a positive quality that is visible to all stakeholders.
- Compensation for limited career path. Many employees now face the prospect of limited advancement given the current state of the industry and the tendency towards flatter hierarchies. Broadening their responsibility and authority is one way that employees may find their roles challenging and rewarding enough that promotion ceases to be their only criterion for remaining.
The Other side of the Coin
Most of the potential difficulties associated with empowerment are the converse of the advantages.
- Greater potential for chaos. The same local action that can lead to increased customer service can also lead to conflicting messages being given to customers and across departments often resulting in a co-ordination manager being appointed.
- Lack of Clarity. The flexibility and speed that resultfrom distributed decision-making are likely to lead to lack of clarity about who is responsible for what. Job definitions become less useful and people often find themselves under more pressure because there are fewer limits to their responsibilities.
- Breakdown of Hierarchical Control. The emergence of more cross-functional links often signals the breakdown of the formal hierarchy for the carrying out of many decisions. Control ends up being shared, not only across hierarchal levels but across functional boundaries too. Cross functional teams may do an excellent job of problem solving but managers with ultimate responsibility are likely to feel a real loss of control which they may reject as too risky.
- Demoralisation. Although empowerment seems attractive to many people, we have found that not every employee wants the responsibility that comes with it. Managers have the habit of assuming everyone is like them – desirous of more power and the concomitant rewards. However, some employees would prefer not to be burdened with additional authority and the decisions that come with it. These individuals can become seriously demoralised if they are forced to take a more active role in the management of the organisation.
When faced with a challenge, most individuals respond positively. Psychologists believe it brings out the best in people. On the other hand, when faced with a crisis, people can go one of two ways. They can emerge as strong individuals who meet the crisis or they can become cowering wrecks under its enormity.
One advantage of the crisis is that Managers have the full attention of all the players. The shock of this pandemic has opened previously closed minds. People quickly became aware of the forces and need for change. Another advantage was that our direction was clear. To save the business only a few value-creating ideas were relevant. There was little risk in leaving any resistors until last because of the effort built up organically, gradually invading the organisation, before taking it over entirely. Any resistors were reduced to a shrinking group in the face of the accelerating bandwagon.
By Annette Bell, Bell Group Director & Co-Founder
Running A Successful Sales Team Part 2
A good leader not only communicates well with his or her team, but also promotes good communication within the team itself. The individuals who make up the group usually have a variance of skill sets, experience, as well as shared common problems and solutions. Promoting good open communication will help you get the most from your team, by helping them learn not only from you, but also from each other.
It’s important as the leader, to ensure your team are well communicated to covering topics such as the wider business performance/projects, the team performance and their own individual performance. I have found creating a culture that ensures people are comfortable to open up to you with requests for support, frustrations and anything impacting their personal or work life, creates a stronger team. It is essential for the leader that when they do this, you must listen and support/respond accordingly.
Use of Time
Time is precious in all our lives. I am a believer that a salespersons’ job is to sell and as such, their entire job should be structured to maximise the amount of time they have to carry out their primary remit. Careful consideration needs to be given to travel, reporting, events and meetings. All of which can take up considerable time out of a salespersons’ day where they aren’t actually selling.
Travel – Does the individual need to be at the meeting in person? Can they hold that meeting on the same day as meeting x? Can they use a train to reduce carbon footprint as well as give space to work? Do I need an overnight to maximise my day? These are considerations to think about for both individuals and leaders.
Reporting – Is key for any business. I am by no means suggesting this is forgotten about, but I believe you should only report on the information that matters and will be used – don’t report for the sake of reporting. I have always tried to centralise reports where possible with admin and subsequently have them issued to the team. I then use my face to face time with my team to understand the insights, detail and key points. This can save valuable time, freeing up a salesperson to sell rather than to report.
I have found that if you communicate well, you will understand what your team are doing, rather than ask for report after report about their productivity. I talked about trust earlier and of course understanding productivity is essential, but I find the balance of reporting with trust gives much better results vs focusing purely on a report for every detail. i.e. think to yourself, do I need a report that shows someone in my team made 60 phone calls today and sent 50 emails that documents every voicemail, message, and conversation? Or am I better hearing about the 10 big wins with an appreciation of the work that went behind it due to the trust factor? I for one would much rather 20 big wins in 2 days than 10 big wins and a great detailed report over the same period.
Events & Meetings – All salespeople love face to face meetings and the thrill of closing a deal in front of the client. I am no different, but the time allocated to meetings needs consideration.
The first question one should ask themselves, is there any benefit/objective for me or the client in my presence? If the answer is no, then why are you going? Don’t tag along or allow your people to tag onto meetings that have no relevance. This is dead time that should be used to… yes, sell!!!
You need to also consider can this be done via video call? Meetings can take hours out of our day with travel and again, killing valuable time we should be using to sell. Of course, face to face meetings are important but consider the requirement.
Another consideration are networking events. The question to ask yourself is, what’s the reason I am going? To network shouldn’t be an acceptable answer. I’ve seen salespeople go to an event with no objective, goal or any idea who will be there. Ensure they have done their research and what their objective for going is. I want to meet x or I want to hear x speak to further my knowledge in this area.
In summary, a good leader maximises the time their sales team has to sell by minimising wasted time and promoting efficient use of resources.
Lee Hamill, Bell Group Sales Director
Running A Successful Sales Team Part 1
I am often asked about my methods on running a successful sales team and how do I ensure continuous improvement year on year. For me, any team needs a unique mixture of people, strategies, attributes and styles to really excel. Over a series of blog articles covering 7 areas, I will discuss what are the do’s and don’ts of running a sales team from my perspective.
Today I will be speaking about the first 3 of these areas; The Leader of the team, Responsibilities & Strategy.
I chose the word leader carefully, as in my experience, people who lead sales team’s vs managing them achieve much greater results. A leader should be out there in front, motivating his or her team and leading by example. Showing the team that they can do what is being asked of them along with supporting and developing their team’s ability to achieve and succeed, whilst driving the team forward.
A true leader will support their team in their role and allow them the space to reach their goals. If you are trying to micromanage a sales team, what is the point? I have always found this to be counterproductive and demotivational.
Trust is a major factor and micromanaging can erode this very quickly. Lead from the front and trust your team to do their job… after all, you are the one who decides whether they are part of your team or not.
Moreover, a Leader will take responsibility for his or her team, supporting them when required, developing their skills and holding them accountable when needed. In my experience this will ensure your team grow and evolve as a group, who will take ownership and responsibility for their performance.
Clear Responsibilities & Targets
It is essential that every member of the team understands their role and what they are responsible for. Think of a sports team where no one knows what position they are playing and relate this to your sales team. If there is no clear remit, expect to find lots of confusion, inefficiencies and even conflict. I have always been a believer that if you are paying someone to do a job, then they need to be clear on what that is and allow them to get on with it. SMART objectives, first coined by Peter Drucker back in the 50s, are a really good way to give set clear expectations.
When operating a team that covers multiple cities, counties or nationwide like ourselves, the team need to be clear on not only the remit of the role itself, but also the geographical remit and what they need to do if an opportunity represents itself out with this area; who does it go to, at what point is it no longer in my remit etc? This is a smooth process in my team, I ensure individuals get credit if they started the process even if an opportunity is passed on to another region within our company. This may seem like basic acknowledgement, but the number of times I have seen such a simple step fail over the years would probably surprise you.
Any salesperson needs to understand what the end goal is and what constitutes a great performance. Thus, deciding which targets to give your team is important. Too many targets dilute the message but without a clear target then there is no path to success. I have found that allowing the team an element of input into the targeting process and keeping the numbers element of any target as simple as possible. This generates better buy in and also makes monitoring of performance vs those targets easier for all involved.
A Clear Strategy
Any sales team needs a clear strategy. For example, we are a Painting, Decorating and Building Maintenance company, so our strategy needs to reflect the type of work we want to secure and which sectors we wish to target etc. Without a clear strategy, a sales team has no focus and inevitably will waste valuable time working on areas that do not necessarily fit with the business.
The strategy needs to be well communicated. I sometimes refer to it as a framework or parameters.
The strategy should set these but, as per previous comments, allow the salesperson freedom to do their job within the framework/parameters.
A good sales strategy fits perfectly with the overall business strategy and if it does not? Well you have a big issue on your hands.
Next time I will be discussing the importance of communication and efficient use of time. Look out for that post next week.
By Lee Hamill, Bell Group Sales Director
Amey Defence Regional Prime
‘It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change’ – Charles Darwin
Never, in the history of mankind, have organisations faced such challenges. This pandemic has brought chaos and uncertainty. Classic change management theories and strategies have been thrown out of the window. Companies are being made and broken on the ability to adapt to, or exploit, the rapidly changing environment.
Leaders can try and predict the future, indeed history teaches us that failure to do so will undoubtedly result in commercial ruin or the collapse of society however, in the current climate such predictions produce, at best, a blurred picture of what might be, not a blueprint of future events. The effective and progressive management of change leads to the creation of future environments which will at least reflect the organisation’s needs.
Managers must recognise that change, in itself, is not necessarily a problem however, their inability to effectively manage it does create many real difficulties, why is this the case? Possibly, this is due to managers’ challenges to appropriate, develop and reinforce their role and purpose within complex, dynamic and challenging situations.
Resistance to Change
The strength of the resistance to a change force depends on what people have to gain or loose by changing and on how the culture of the organisation shapes the way they respond to change. An organisation that is open to change, with a significant number of change agents and people who are willing to try new things, is said to have low resistance whilst a closed organisation with very few change agents, will have high resistance – the ‘but we’ve always done it this way’ brigade.
‘Change is not a threat. Change is an opportunity’
Buchanan and McCalmans 1989 model; Theory & Practice
Trigger Layer: Opportunity, threat crisis, clarify, express, communicate
Vision Layer: Define the future (including structure), challenges, excitement, innovation
Conversion Layer: Persuade, recruit disciples, detail the structure
Maintenance and Renewal Layer: Sustain and enhance belief, reinforce and justify, regression avoidance (ritual)
‘We are not creatures of circumstances; we are creators of circumstance’ – Benjamin Disraeli
The main reasons for resistance to change are
- Comparison – thought alternative was better
- Disbelief in solution
- Loss – high personal cost
- Inadequacy – insufficient rewards
Dealing with resisters
- Convince them
- Of the validity of the chosen strategy
- By appealing to their self-interest
- Buy them
- Marginalize them
An effective change strategy and management of same can be the difference between life and death for organisations in the post-pandemic world.
Prince Niccolò Machiavelli
“It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”
History shows us that there is more to success than simply recognising the ‘triggers’ for change. Successful exploitation of a change situation required knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the situation and an understanding of the interactions and potential impacts of associasted variables.
By Annette Bell, Bell Group Director & Co-Founder