Are you doing all you can to bring out the best in your sales staff? Being the one in charge, the leader, is not just about planning strategies, setting goals and exhibiting strong levels of assertiveness. It’s also about displaying enthusiasm, listening, communicating, motivating -- knowing what it is you should say and do in order to manage your employees to peak performance.
In addition to overseeing processes, sales leaders need to master the art of employee motivation and coaching; doing so typically goes a long way in maintaining harmony, increasing productivity and compelling workers to excel. The ability to tap in, at will, to the specific hot and cold buttons of your staff can be the best weapon you have when it comes to winning the war against lackluster employee performances.
Know the personality of your sales staff. Make sure they are targeting the appropriate prospects and communicating effectively with them, speaking the same language. A producer’s inability to establish rapport may delay or even destroy a potential sale.
For example, a prospective client who is reserved and technically oriented might not always respond well to someone boisterous and flamboyant; it will be up to you to tell your very gregarious employee to tone it down! Let him or her know it’s often beneficial to listen more and talk less. This is where your ability to function not just as a leader, but also as a concerned, resourceful coach comes into play.
Find the balance between aggressive and realistic goals. Setting high bars for your sales personnel can imply you have faith in their abilities and are prepared to push them to their limits. However, to some it might also seem like you’re expecting the impossible. Gain insight into the objectives each employee can truly achieve. Overly ambitious expectations of your staff can trigger frustration, discontent and feelings of inferiority if those expectations are not met. Your job is to motivate, not intimidate.
In your role as a coach, you may also find it necessary to set short-term goals for employees who are hesitant or uncertain about themselves or their abilities. And be ready to modify those goals if they start to seem more detrimental than inspirational.
Conversely, it may be that your highly ambitious visionaries need you to give their lofty ideas a reality check. It’s admirable to be fiercely driven to succeed, but attempting to do too much, too soon usually leads to little more than overextension, disorganization and a mountain-high pile of unfulfilled aspirations.
Know the limitations, as well as the potential, of your staff.
Successful managers find ways to make their team members think for themselves. Everyone is fully aware that you are the boss, but this doesn’t mean you must issue nonnegotiable edicts, monopolize conversations and ideas, or spend your days holed up within the inner sanctum of your office. Be accessible to your staff. Keep in mind that some employees will be more reliant on you for input than others, so promote yourself as an open-minded, concerned, second set of eyes and ears. Be more or less available, depending on what seems to be the needs and expectations of each staff member.
Because most sales personalities thrive in ever-changing, unpredictable environments, anything repetitive or mundane is apt to bore them. You can inspire your sales professionals to work to their peak by keeping them busy and challenged. Be spontaneous! Surprise them with some new incentives to reignite their dimming enthusiasm.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a manager is to force fast-moving, variety- seeking employees to work within the same predictable routine day after day. Don’t be afraid to frequently shake up their world, as anything new is apt to pique their interest, buy their attention – in short, prevent them from getting bored.
In your role as a leader, coach and mentor, you’ll almost invariably find yourself interacting with subordinates who differ from you in their abilities, reactions, attitudes, ambitions and expectations. And that can sometimes be a good thing! Recognize individual traits and accept them for what they are and then utilize your insight as a manager to do what you can to find the strengths of each employee.
Is there someone on your sales staff who’s trying hard but still falling short of expectations, failing to meet goals or settling for second best?
If so, it may be due to:
• Sensitivity to rejection -- Some personalities take every No to heart and subsequently remove themselves from scenarios that could be risky, thus limiting their success. They need easy wins to build their confidence and reassurance that turndowns are inherent to sales -- you win some you lose some.
• Fear of seeming pushy -- Individuals who place their highest value on being liked are often reluctant to press hard for a close. They focus their attention on the needs of others and are, therefore, willing to forego their own objectives. Shifting their stance to one that is more assertive and competitive helps; in lieu of this, consider teaming them with more self-serving, business-minded go-getters.
• Lack of focus -- People who are continually stressed, preoccupied or tired can have problems applying themselves. Traits that could be assets magnify to the point where they become liabilities and workers seem unlike their more typical selves. Try uncovering the root of their anxiety to better determine if it is something you can diminish or if it is permanent, and likely beyond your control.
Unfortunately, not every leader in insurance and financial services manages for peak performance. However, those who do are the ones who reap the rewards that come with knowing how to develop top-ranking professionals in what is an increasingly competitive industry.