Tragedy, recession, and layoffs can create a difficult aura in which to stay motivated to make sales calls, much less to actually close sales. It's possible that all three have affected your organization in some way.
This is the time more than ever when sales managers of all levels and breeds really earn their money and show their managerial prowess. So if you were ever a cheerleader in school now is the time to bring those pompons down from the attic-figuratively of course. Whether you're managing a field sales force for a service organization or a group of member service reps working a teller line responsible for cross selling, staying positive and keeping your team excited is the name of the game.
Granted, all people in a sales role are expected to turn on their internal motivation, but even the best could use a push during times like these. A manager I worked for as a sales rep early in my career would look at me with a blank stare when I walked into his office excited about a big sale I had made. He felt that the commission I received was the proper motivation given by the organization and felt no need to celebrate with me when a sale was closed. This particular manager is one of the most intelligent people I know and a good friend today, but he was completely misguided on his style of sales management. Any management consultant worth his salt will tell you that money is a secondary motivator. People want to have fun at their jobs. If holding a two-minute "rah-rah session" with a staff person is going to accomplish that it's worth it for the added productivity it can foster.
Here are some low-cost ideas to keep your team excited about selling and coming to work:
Have a Contest
Sales people are naturally competitive. They play to win and they love realistic challenges. The prizes don't have to be extravagant, although the winner won't mind. As a sales manager, I used to hold a monthly contest among the sales reps where the top prize was merchandise from Big Dog. We named the winner the "Big Dog of the Month." It was a catchy title and we had fun with it. Reps really began getting excited about it two weeks into the program. The cost was under $50 a month, but the recognitiion was worth much more.
Hold Role-Playing Sessions
It helps to critique each other and it's much better to make a mistake in front of your peers than with a prospect. Have one rep pitch a product to another rep acting as a member or client. Make sure everyone has a turn to be on both sides at least once. This is the sales equivalent of a scrimmage in sports. It gets everyone in the right frame of mind. Most important it helps the entire team to stay on top of their game. If time is at a premium, an in- house lunch meeting for role-playing may be effective. Sessions such as these merit a few pizzas.
Don't Forget The Support Staff
Everyone in the organization should rejoice when a big sale is made. It's a clear sign of progress and success that keeps everyone in a job. It also sends the message that there are more people responsible for the sale than simply the salesperson. There are usually support people that help to bring a close to fruition whether it's a secretary, a marketing assistant, or an IT manager that answers a critical question. Even those that don't directly participate in the sale can create an environment conducive to closing new business by providing good service and a positive experience. This is an important concept to get through people's heads especially if you want to build a strong sales culture. So include them in the festivities. Make those that go above and beyond an honorary "Big Dog" and single them out for some public recognition as well.
Do Something Out of the Ordinary
Show a motivating movie like "Rocky" or "Hoosiers" at the next sales meeting. Pass out audiotapes that inspire such as Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles' "Gung Ho! or Zig Ziglar's Ziglar on Selling." Take the staff to the local gym and play hoops or HORSE. Anything to get the competitive juices flowing.
Take The Pressure Off
Understand that it's a tougher market than usual. Acknowledge it in front of your team but also explain to them how great it would be to make goal in spite of it. This is one of the few times salespeople may have a custom-made excuse. Tell them how good the team would look if they rise above the obstacles at a time when most teams won't. This should take the pressure off and bring out the competitive spirit at the same time. It also lets the team know that the sales manager is behind them and understands what they are going through. I used this tactic during late 1999 around the Y2K scare. While my team didn't make goal, we came pretty darn close and did a lot better than we probably would have without that speech.
The key is to add the kindling to light their internal fire. Consistent performers who have just hit a snag should respond well to these approaches and get right back on track. It's probable that many reps that normally struggle to make goal may show improvement as well despite the current environment. Remember that part of the reason most of us became sales reps, or decided to stay in the profession, is for the fun of it. So let's make sure we all take the time to have some.
Kenneth C. Bator is president of Bator Training & Consulting, Inc. He can be reached at P.O. Box 4844, Naperville, IL 60567 or at 630-854-6380.