Keeping Your Sales Team Motivated

Sales managers frequently approach me for advice on how to keep salespeople

motivated, especially when sales reps get into a rut – and seem to keep slipping

deeper into it. Telling managers what not to do usually solves the problem. Most

managers do things to de-motivate salespeople without even knowing it.

Let’s take the idea of funnels and forecasts, for instance. Funnels and forecasts are

important aspects of running any sales operation. Both salespeople and managers

need to know where they stand in terms of potential opportunities, and funnels

serve to track those opportunities. No successful business can operate and properly

plan for the future without accurate forecasting. In theory, these are absolutely

essential to the success of any operation. In reality, however, few words strike terror

in the hearts of salespeople like “funnel” and “forecast.”

For most salespeople, the term “funnel review” equates to micromanagement,

probation and performance improvement plans. Just hearing the term is enough to

shift a sales rep’s frame of mind from positive to negative. He or she suddenly loses

enthusiasm and doesn’t know why. Many managers increase funnel reviews as

performance slips, which causes performance to slip further, and in the end nobody

wins. Endless funnel reviews, especially if they’re not positive, only serve to

reinforce salespeople’s self-doubts and limiting beliefs.

Forecasts are a similar problem, but in different ways. Few salespeople forecast

accurately. Nobody wants to fall short on their forecast, so they embellish,

exaggerate and make sure the numbers add up to where they should be rather than

where they really are. This results in managers who expect those numbers, and

salespeople who dodge managers because they know they aren’t going to perform

as forecasted. Then there are salespeople like myself who do the exact opposite –

since I hated nothing more than having a manager constantly ask me, “When is this

one going to close? When is that one going to close?,” I intentionally left good deals

off my forecast. While it eliminated the problem of constantly being asked when all

those deals would sign, it created another form of stress in having to deal with the

consequences of a funnel that fell short of expectations.

Another word that instantly de-motivates salespeople is “activity.” Unfortunately, in

the absence of any other viable advice, most managers simply blurt out, “You need

to increase your activity” to anyone who isn’t at quota. This accomplishes nothing

other than setting up the rep to believe that a series of funnel reviews and

performance improvement plans are soon to follow.

Finally, I see entirely too many managers pushing too hard to spend extra time with

salespeople who are falling short. While it’s necessary to spend time with these

people, it’s not a good idea to keep asking them what they need help with and to

insist on riding along with them. This only turns up the heat another notch on an

already stressed-out rep. Nobody who is having trouble likes to be singled out,

especially when the extra attention easily can be mistaken for micromanagement.

To keep a struggling salesperson motivated:

1. Keep the talk of funnels, forecasts and activity to a minimum.

2. Offer help without being overbearing.

3. Put your trust and confidence in that salesperson.

Stick with these guidelines and you’ll not only do a better job of helping those who

are having difficulties, but you’ll see an overall increase in your sales team’s

motivation and enthusiasm.

What Should a Sales Performance Standard Look Like – Or What You Should Expect From Your Sales Team

When defining the tasks and goals for a sales person, it is important to be clear regarding what you expect. What should you sales performance standards look like however. Shown below is an example (at a high level) of a Sales Performance Standard.

  • Maintain a high level of customer satisfaction with each of our clients.
  • Maintain a professional attitude congruous with what would be expected of a professional salesperson
  • Sell the amount in your territory as agreed to with the VP of Business Development or your sales manager.
  • Properly qualify prospects Actively pursue all opportunities within your sales territory to maximize sales revenue potential for your entire territory.
  • Provide estimates for all product lines monthly.
  • Provide 3X the number of estimates for each product line. X = the quota number for each product line monthly.
  • Know how to use the company CRM for all sales processes including: contact management, lead management, opportunity management, deals closed and look back into historical data etc.
  • Track, maintain and update your leads, contacts and opportunities using the CRM.
  • Properly qualify and identify probable leads in your region and develop them into estimates and deals.
  • Actively grow your contact database gathering all contact information as noted in the CRM. This includes: name, address, phone, email address and any additional information that can be used for either marketing or sales purposes.
  • Demonstrate professional selling and negotiation skills in all engagements.
  • Be able to present and demonstrate all product lines per you sales plan.
  • Demonstrate a high level of expertise for each product line that you sell.
  • Develop industry relationships with influencers in your selling geographies.
  • Attend all sales meetings and functions.
  • Follow up on company generated leads.
  • Utilize all company resources to your fullest advantage to accomplish these goals.

With these as suggestions, develop your own standards. If you are a sales person you can even do this. By going through the exercise of creating what you think your company should expect of you, you might surprise yourself about what you learn. Happy selling!

Direct Sales Team Vs Distributor – Which is Better For an International Market?

If you’re looking to expand your sales to new markets, then there’s one big question you must ask: do I build a direct sales presence or use a distributor? Each method has its benefits and drawbacks, but we’re going to make a strong case to use one method over the other in almost every instance.

What’s the difference between direct sales and distributors?

A direct sales presence means that your company establishes, manages, and pays a sales team of one or more people in the target market.

An outside agent is any entity that will sell your product in exchange for a service fee. One example is a sales rep, who sells your product in exchange for a percent of the sale. A distributor is similar to a rep, except they would buy product from your company and sell it directly to the end customer.

Is Direct Sales Better?

For most businesses expanding into new markets, especially international markets, hiring a distributor is a better decision-at least until there is enough return from the market to justify building a direct sales presence.

Sure, there is one major advantage to having a direct sales presence-control. Control over the day to day activities of your sales personnel is appealing to most business owners. But this control comes at a heavy price. To start, you’ll need to spend the time to hire someone in that market, then train them, then equip them with sales material and management, if not office space and equipment. These costs are prohibitive for most small businesses looking to expand internationally.

And there are even more costs that we haven’t mentioned yet. Each market has it’s own unique laws, cultures and customs that are essential to master if your company wants to establish a successful sales presence. Japan is a classic example of a marketplace with unique legal structures and business customs that, if not followed, guarantee the failure of any sales efforts. It’s hard to pin down an exact monetary value to this learning, but ask yourself this: Can you afford to establish, manage, and pay a sales force in a foreign country for at least a year while they learn the ropes and generate no revenue?

What about a Distributor? Is a Distributor better for new markets?

Distributors are a cost effective means to enter a new marketplace successfully. Here are just a few of the reasons:

  • No Overhead:
    Unlike running your own sales team, a distributor will take care of the hiring, managing, payment, and optimization of its channel. You’re just borrowing their distribution, while they handle the maintenance.
  • Established Channel with Local Knowledge:
    A good distributor will already know all the laws and customs of the market you’re entering. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel-you can use someone who already has valuable local knowledge.
  • Understand Pricing and Purchasing Power of Market:
    Along with knowledge of the laws and customs comes knowledge about the most successful ways to price and market your product locally.
  • Cost Effective:
    Since you won’t be paying for the above items, distributor relationships are much more within reach of a small business trying to enter a new market.

Using a distributor has some downsides as well, but they can be minimized by building a good relationship with a distributor.

  • Not your own people:
    You won’t be able to directly manage every step of the process. While it may make you nervous to lose some control over the sales process, you can manage the risk by building a transparent relationship with your distributor with constant updates and feedback from both ends.
  • Distributor has many products to represent:
    You may not be the distributor’s top priority at any given time, and you want to be sure your product is not getting shuffled to the back of the line. Once again, a well-established relationship with constant contact will ensure that your product is getting the attention it deserves.
  • Not a “turn key” solution:
    You can’t just give the distributor your products and expect success. You’ll have to manage the relationship. This takes time, but it’s still less costly than trying to install a direct sales team from scratch.

So what do I do next?

If you aren’t convinced that a distributor would be better for your organization than establishing a direct sales team, seek help from a consultant who has experience establishing a presence in new markets. A consultant can use his or her experience to analyze your opportunity and recommend the best course of action.

Before you choose a distributor, you need to know….

Choosing the wrong distributor will set you up for failure. The wrong distributor simply won’t generate sales, and you’ll have wasted at least a year finding and setting up an unprofitable relationship.

There are certain things to look for in a distributor, and they are different for every market. The best thing to do is to find a professional, one with experience in distributor relationships, and hire that professional to help you search for and identify the right distributor.