The past three years have been a challenge for most organizations. The economy has caused sales teams to face declining prospect budgets, more competitive bidding, fewer opportunities, lower incomes, and general personal stress. As someone who works with organizations on a daily basis, I have seen all of these situations cause an increase in mental and physical fatigue.
Sales executives have witnessed increased levels of stress because of managing cash flow, personnel decisions, increased costs, decreased margins, and personal issues. As we face another year, most individuals are unclear as to the future. Will it be a recovering economy or another challenging series of events?
Making sure your organization is focused, energized, mentally tough, and able to exceed its goals begins with a focus on communication and a series of actions to build belief within your sales team. If you can do that, other parts of the company will also improve. That's because sales organizations are the critical ingredients in building a total organization's culture of expectation and success.
The following action plans will help you motivate your sales team, as well as others in the company.
Executive Action Plans
Monthly Meetings: When a company launches, its first employees typically feel that they share a mission. Everyone knows everything that's happening and what's needed to succeed. But when the staff grows beyond about 15 people, that sense of mission—along with clearly defined expectations and common beliefs—can be difficult to maintain. In challenging times, improving communications and providing a sense of mission is an absolute requirement.
Monthly employee meetings are crucial for keeping everyone engaged and informed. (Larger organizations and those that have remote offices may want to opt for quarterly day-long events instead or lock into Skype/video conferences.) Such gatherings give you a chance to remind your staff about your business philosophies, plans, and expectations. This is your opportunity to provide vision, positive expectations, and your roadmap to "better times."
You can also use these meetings to recognize outstanding employees who contributed to the success of the sales organization, a client's implementation, or company operations. You may consider honoring a Most Valuable Player chosen by the sales team at each session. This will provide a sense of teamwork and sense of good business practices.
Remember to make the meetings fun, as well. Creating fun in your organization and making people want to work hard are two objectives for leaders who understand employee motivation. Consider sponsoring a fun game, competitive contests for sales leads, or even offering simple door prizes. One company meeting I attended featured a surprise visit from an Elvis impersonator who sang several songs. It is amazing what happens when laughter occurs and the sense of "team" builds.
The real purpose of monthly company meetings is to share your vision for the company over the next 18 to 24 months and your philosophy for success. This is your opportunity as a leader to build consensus and ensure you communicate your message to your team. Stay on message, create a theme for the year, reinforce that theme with actions, and provide that sense of direction to all employees.
Sales Action Plans
When sales are lost or the sales team falters due to fatigue, the underlying problem is actually an emotional one: lack of passion. Individual team members or the entire sales organization—or both—simply don't have the combination of enthusiasm and belief that's essential for success. They don't believe in the products or they don't believe in the ability of the organization to successfully deliver quality services.
Salespeople have to be emotionally invested in their work with a burning desire to achieve. They must also believe the company they represent is the best and the solutions or services they sell are of the highest quality. That belief must be genuine. It isn't just a marketing message, and it isn't something they can fake. It must be real.
Many sales leaders forget that this emotional side of leadership is critical, and they don't build belief-building activities into sales training programs. Or if they do, they do so only occasionally. Experience shows, however, that the most successful sales teams constantly undertake ongoing belief-building initiatives. Examples include:
Storytelling: People from different cultures and generations pass along stories about their ancestries, traditions, and lore. Companies need to take a similar approach toward capturing and preserving their histories. To do so, write down customer success stories when they occur. Put together detailed descriptions of your company's role in helping customers implement new technologies, launch or salvage important projects, or earn recognition from your vendors. Then share those stories at sales meetings and other employee events. You can also use the best stories to recruit top performers and help orient new employees. We recommend that you record these stories and play them during monthly company meetings.
Customer Visits: Each quarter, have your entire sales team visit a client company that has successfully implemented your solutions. Ask the customer's executive to describe the impact your company has had on the business and the firm's competitive position. Or ask them to review the savings the organization gained from using your products and services. You might also invite customers to share their experiences at some of your monthly meetings.
Reference Letters: Ask your best customers for testimonials. While such letters are, of course, highly useful as tools for future sales presentations, they're also valuable for building belief in-house. Frame the letters and display them in your lobby or sales presentation area. Have new employees read them as part of the orientation process.
It's all too easy to get bogged down with lost sales, missed project dates, and other problems. Regularly reinforcing the positives goes a long way toward keeping everyone's belief and passion strong and moving in the right direction. These efforts will build a culture of success, a sense of mission, and common teamwork.