In the last 20+ years I have done countless training programs for sales managers from most every genre you can imagine and they all have one question in common. Why is it some of my sales people won’t do what they are supposed to? Given a sales force size of 100 you can expect that 3 to 5 of them fall into the extraordinary category, 15 to 20 would fall into the really good category and the rest will range from just above average to seriously struggling! That said, they all will have some level of difficulty trying to do what is expected of them. The question is … why?
With all of the head scratching and consternation amongst the collective that is called sales management I don’t want to over simplify things but there are only 3 reasons why the men and women, we call sales professionals, can all come up short of the mark from time to time. They are;
- They don’t know what is expected …
- They can’t do what is expected …
- They won’t do what is expected …
That’s it in a nutshell!
The vast majority of performance issues will fall into the first two categories and are relatively simple to correct. The most difficult challenges and the ones that really require us to be a student of leadership will fall into the third. With that said, what do we do?
Don’t Know What Is Expected … the bad news here is that most of the responsibility for under achievement in this category usually falls on our shoulders as sales managers because we fail to adequately and clearly communicate what it is we want and need from our sales teams. The remedy is communicate, communicate and communicate some more! Well written job descriptions, holding performance reviews every 6 months and consistently communicating with the reps regarding how they are doing in regards to “Key Performance Indicators” all play a part in making certain our sales teams KNOW what is expected.
Can’t Do What Is Expected … the solution here is to train, train and train some more. It amazes me how often I am doing sales training for one of our clients, even large and sophisticated companies, and there will be a number of sales reps in the class who have never had any formal sales training 2, 3 4 or more years into their sales careers. We invest so much money supporting sales efforts to drive business when our dollars would be better spent helping our teams “sharpen the saw” through some form of sales training. The best of the best we have been fortunate to serve through the years have well defined development programs for both sales and sales managers on a regular basis.
Won’t Do What Is Expected … this is by far the most difficult of the three categories we have to deal with as leaders. What do we do when a sales rep doesn’t seem to care anymore, is going through the motions or has simply become comfortable with where they are in their career? As was stated earlier in the article I think this is where it is imperative that sales managers become a student of human nature and what motivates people. There are several motivation models we teach in our sales management courses but one of the simplest lays out 3 distinct categories. They are;
- Pain … or fear! When a sales rep is afraid of losing their job, being reprimanded, not making enough money to pay the bills they ca, at times, kick it into gear. Here’s the problem with pain/fear … sooner or later it runs out of gas as the sales rep can’t sustain the performance and resigns themselves to losing and the consequences that accompany the threat. And, constantly motivating a sales force with fear gets old especially if it is the only motivation tool we have in our bag!
- Pleasure … or joy! This is a lot more fun that pain or fear as we motivate our teams with the pleasure of more money and the “stuff” in life that can come with a rising income, or they are motivated by the growth trajectory of their career through promotions and added responsibilities. Here’s the deal though … at some point pleasure and joy are going to run out of gas as well as we reach the limit of what we can pay for performance and keep our economic model intact or we run out of room on our leadership structure to promote top performers into!
The only motivator that endures day in and day out is a sense of …
- Purpose! Identifying and communicating, individually and collectively, a sense of purpose that goes beyond a paycheck or career. This approach challenges our teams to reach out for something that pushes them to the limits they thought weren’t attainable and beyond. Record setting years, customer service scores that are unheard of, growing the company to new levels are just some of the examples of the rallying cries of sales managers who lead their teams to great heights. It is the coolest thing on the planet to watch men and women discover just how amazing they are when they go beyond, sometimes way beyond, what they thought was possible!
So, the next time you find yourself asking why is it I can’t get my sales people, or an individual sales rep, to do what they are supposed to just ask yourself is this a doesn’t know, can’t do or won’t do problem and then communicate, train or motivate as needed!