Let's talk about sales strategies within your human resources operations.
I was recently visiting with a business owner of a successful organization. He was sharing with me that, although he had a very good product, he was dealing with challenges in regards to his sales team. As he put it bluntly, he “just couldn't get the salespeople he needed to do the work that he expected.”
He shared with me that he was having difficulty in two areas: 1) they weren't closing on sales; and, 2) they weren't motivated by the base-plus-commission compensation structure in place. As a result, the performance of the sales team was below expectations. They just weren't motivated to do a great job.
If you are an owner of a company as my friend, you are generally more passionate and focused about your organization's sales performance than any employee. More than likely, you either were “Salesperson #1”, or you have a deep investment into the organization. It's not easy for you to walk away from that desk at the end of the day when you know you could do better. When you see one of your employees “do the time” and punch out at 5:00 p.m. with not much to show for the time spent, it makes you frustrated because you know that person could and should have done better. Sometimes you feel cheated because you paid for that time – both in payroll and in utilities, resources, etc.
This is a problem in a lot of organizations. It's also a problem that can bring an organization to its knees. If you don't have enough revenue coming in, you're going to be shutting your doors for good.
So what would you do in this situation? What suggestions or ideas come to your mind?
There are a lot of good ones out there, but I would like to offer three ideas to increase results in a situation like this.
Evaluate the goals and expectations of your organization and especially how they relate to your sales team.
This may be one of the easiest suggestions to offer. It could be the most critical one for your organization's success. It's not enough to tell your sales team to sell. You have to set up your sales team for success with sales strategies. It is the executive team's job to look carefully at what the organization does well. Then it's important to build a culture and resources to communicate those values and expectations – including sales strategies.
The next step is to communicate why your organization and its products and services are so important to your customers and stakeholders. It is very easy to put a brochure and other collateral in front of your sales team and tell them to “go get 'em”. What makes the difference is when you sit down with your team to gain their loyalty and engagement. Talk about why your products and services are excellent. And that requires you to speak with passion and clarity about these points.
If you can't speak with passion and clarity the reasons why your organization's products and services are worthy of your time and investment, that's not because you can't sell. It's because you need to figure out why your organization is important.
Recognize what strengths you need in your sales team and hire to those strengths.
For many business owners, they hire a sales team to do what they as owners don't do well: selling at a high level. That's understandable. If you're a “systems” person and trying to sell something is a draining event, it makes sense that you want to hire someone who gets excited about sales.
When you go through your hiring process, have them complete a personality profile. There are some really good ones out there, such as the Kolbe Profile and the Gallup StrengthsFinder profile. Frankly, we use both of them, depending on the situation and the information we need. These profiles reveal to us what our candidates and employees are like so that we can put them into a role that they will exceed expectations.
Keep in mind, though, that you have to be careful that you don't use the profile results as the main factor to decide whether or not to hire someone. Not only it is illegal, it's also an unwise approach. You need to spend time reviewing their experiences and skills and to interview them carefully as well.
Set up clearly defined expectations for your sales team.
This may be the most common mistake by business owners and executives: telling someone to “go sell” without good resources and without any clear details about what is expected. If you send someone out to represent your organization and they are ill-prepared, the most likely outcome is failure. You have to provide the answers for those questions that your sales team will have. Most importantly, you need to answer the questions about what you expect from them. Cover the consequences of success and failure as they represent your organization.
You may be in a situation where you don't know where to begin when it comes to building sales strategies for a sales team, much less managing that team. In that case, you need to get a skilled advisor to train you and your sales team. If you're on a tight budget, there are some very good online-based classes and resources by great advisors. They will teach you the fundamental skills you need. If you want to get to a higher level as quickly as possibly, hiring an advisor to come to your organization is the best option.
What you can't do is try to maintain the current situation without changing it. Commit to change. Commit to making your organization's sales team the best it can be. Work on expanding your sales strategies and abilities. If you can successfully sell why your organization is so impactful to your sales team, you will see great results. It starts with you.