Jennifer Smith, CWS, is vice president for Moti-Vitality. Smith can be reached at [email protected] or 810.655.9600.
This article is the third in an in-depth series focusing on how to build, train and retain an amazing sales team. Read the rest of the series:
- Training & Staffing Part I: The Foundation of an Excellent Sales Team
- Training & Staffing Part II: How to Train an Excellent Sales Team
- Training & Staffing Part III: Employee Retention
Whether you are adding to an existing sales team or you are introducing a sales department to your existing business, it is common to become overwhelmed with the whole process. Hiring, training and retaining a sales team can be a challenge. The cost associated with bringing on a sales team is not inexpensive, so you want to make sure you get it right.
In this three-part series we will discuss best practices for hiring a sales team, the do’s & dont’s of training, and retaining a team that will represent your company and the industry with honesty, integrity and passion for years to come. This segment will offer recommendations on how to retain a great sales team.
Make Your Employees Your #1 Priority
“If you take care of your employees they will take care of your clients” ~ Richard Branson.
When an employee feels respected and supported they will remain faithful to the team and your customers. This is especially true in sales and customer support. If an employee feels defeated and unappreciated they may unintentionally take it out on customers. Creating a professional and fun workplace will create a productive team.
Make It Personal
There is a fine line between “boss” and “friend.” That does not mean you cannot walk on that line. When a new employee starts work, take them to lunch. Ask questions about their family and hobbies. Discuss things you have in common and inquire about topics you are not familiar with. You may learn about exciting events, such as an upcoming wedding, or trying times, such as an ailing parent. Offer support to your new team member.
Take this time to share information about yourself. Discuss your family and hobbies. Share your history and experience in the industry along with your passions and goals for the company. This will make an employee feel like they are working with you—not for you.
Communication Is Key
Keep the lines of communication open. Have regularly scheduled team meetings. These meetings should include every employee. Make these meetings uplifting, educational and fun. While profit and loss is important, do not make the whole meeting about numbers. Keep the team in the loop about the direction the organization is moving in. Discuss goals, ask for suggestions on how to reach those goals, and discuss the reward if that goal is met. Give each person the opportunity to discuss accomplishments and concerns. Make it known if they have a concern they need to offer a solution to the problem respectfully.
Managers should not only meet with their team on a regular basis, but they should meet with each of their team members individually once a month. This is a scheduled meeting and should not be rescheduled, especially by the manager. When you reschedule a meeting with an employee, it states the employee is not important. In this meeting, discuss personal goals, successes, management and employee concerns. Sales professionals do not like to be micro-managed; however, they appreciate guidance. Always ask, “What can I do to help you be successful?”
Always speak in a tone you would expect your team to use with you. The concept of leading by dictatorship is no longer acceptable by employees. That may be a harsh statement for some to hear, but it is the truth. How would you react if one of your employees called you with a raised voice, disapproval and demands? It is possible they would be disciplined for their actions. If you want respect you must give respect. Speaking in a calm manner and phrasing your concerns in a kind tone will gain that respect.
Empower Your Employees
Have you ever had an idea you felt was wonderful only to have it shot down? When this happens, an individual feels frustrated and unheard. Request employees come to you with ideas. Sometimes fresh eyes and thinking outside of the box can make for a successful team. Discuss the process and what they hope to accomplish. Once the process is agreed upon, decide when you will meet to discuss the progress.
When an employee has a vested interest in making an idea work then they are going to take pride and work 110% towards that goal.
Create a Team Environment
Unfortunately, sales teams are often segregated from the rest of the company. The sales professional was hired to create business and run sales leads. They should be on the road and not sitting in the office. Most sales professionals might not start working until 10 a.m. because they are running evening and Saturday appointments. The other employees may view this as the sales professional “slacking off.” Another common misunderstanding is between service and sales. “It takes the salesperson two seconds to say it and service two hours to do it,” is a common phrase.
It is beneficial for each member of the sales team to spend time with every employee. Not only will this help them understand the process, but it will build team camaraderie. Frustration sets in when a sales professional asks for assistance on a procedure or project and they are met with push back and the response that “it is not my job to help you.” At the same time, it is important the sales professionals understand that the office staff is not “their personal secretaries.” Discussing this with your team is beneficial. Every job description should include the following: “Assist others within your ability to accomplish the success of the team and the company.”
Get Involved in the Community
A great way to build a team bond is volunteering in the community as a team. Helping others in a relaxed setting gives everyone time to get to know each other. However, be cautious of over-extending your sales professionals if they are commission-based. Taking them out of the field multiple times a month can lead to a loss in sales.
Have Patience & Empathy
This was mentioned in the second segment of this series but cannot be stressed enough. There is so much to learn in this industry. A new sales professional will make mistakes. Treat each mistake as a learning experience. Patiently explain the correct application. Be available for guidance, even if it is the fourth time you have answered the question.
You have most likely hired a sales professional to create their own business and self-generated leads. Understand building relationships take time. It usually takes a minimum of six months for most relationships to come to fruition. During this time your sales professional will need house leads to stay a float. Monitor and express the importance of maintaining those relationships by creating benchmarks.
When a sales professional is having a bad month, do not focus on the lack of sales. Approach them with an offer to help. Buy them a gas card. It is so easy for us to reward others when they are having success, offering financial help means a lot more when money is tight and will help prove you care.
Consistency Is Vital
Multiple changes in policies and pay structure can be overwhelming. If you are building a new sales team, express the possibility of some changes; however; do not make the changes so dramatic that the team feels punished.
It is also important to keep consistency within the departments. For example, if your service department or management is selling equipment they must have the same price list and guidelines as the sales team. There should never be a price competition between your team members.
Creating too many commission rules can become confusing and frustrating. Make it simple and do not change it. If there are too many exceptions to the rules a sales professional will feel like they are losing money. If there needs to be a change in the pay structure, make it in favor of the sales team. Morale fails when a sales team feels like they are losing commission. If employee morale fails, the whole team is not far behind.
Create a Sales Professional That Can Find New Employment
A successful sales professional can find employment anywhere. This is a fear managers have. If you create an organization your sales professional wants to grow with, then you will be successful in keeping a well-educated team. Do not prevent them from bettering themselves. Encourage them to take classes or become Water Quality Association (WQA) certified. This proves you are vested in their future with the company and as individuals.
Creating a sales team can be a challenge. Observing the success of your sales professionals and knowing you had a little part in their accomplishments is rewarding.