Problems in sales teams can be found to some degree in almost every organization. Smart managers are aware of this and work to avoid the potential reduction in morale and performance. Any one of these problems will not necessarily hurt sales efforts, but multiple conditions at once can be extremely harmful.
Affliction 1: Wasting time
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Affliction 2: Poor sales meetings
The objective of any sales meeting should be to increase sales. Period. Every high-performing salesperson in a meeting thinks, “Is this meeting making me money, or is my time being wasted?” Powerful salespeople are self-motivated and intuitively know if their time is being wasted. If it is, management is hurting morale -- and sales. To ensure effective meetings, develop a strategic intent that includes clear success metrics. Define in specific terms what metrics are needed to determine whether goals are met. It takes a deep understanding of the business, the market, and the competition to do this. Powerful sales meetings produce sales and keep morale high.
Affliction 3: Poor strategy
Ineffective marketing or sales strategies will always hurt the sales team. This is especially true for teams selling commodity products or services. A player with small market share who enters a commodity market without a well-defined and well-implemented strategy can be assured of certain death. These types of companies usually say, “It’s a huge market, and we can grab some of it,” but it’s not that simple. The sales team will recognize ineffective strategy and will lose faith in the managers who developed it.
To compound the error, companies often try special promotions to save sagging sales on ill-conceived products. Some promotions can be effective, but managers should never call for a pointless charge of the light brigade. Sending the sales team to support a poor product or service is a severe tactical error. A successful sales effort hinges on good strategy. Companies that fail in this regard severely handicap their sales teams.
Affliction 4: Capping or reducing income
Powerful companies have managers who do not envy large sales force paychecks. Managers who resent highly paid salespeople often respond by reducing commissions, capping earnings, reducing territories, or removing products. Avoid these practices. They destroy morale. Powerful salespeople want to leverage today’s efforts into greater sales and income for tomorrow. If their earnings are limited, they will feel that ability has been taken away. High performers will soon look for employment elsewhere.
Affliction 5: Favoritism
We all have favorites in life, and that’s normal, but playing favorites on a sales team is destructive. Salespeople want to work for companies that keep the playing field level. If select salespeople are given extra incentives, benefits, or favors not available to others, management is creating a privileged class. Managers can’t build loyalty by strengthening a small political power base. Keeping the playing field level will pay big dividends.
Wasting time, poor sales meetings, poor strategy, capping income, and playing favorites are, with few exceptions, situations to be avoided. They are destructive to morale and lead to poor performance. Effective managers avoid these situations, and astute salespeople will bring these practices to the attention of management for correction.
John R. Treace is the founder of JR Treace & Associates, a sales management consulting business. He is the author of Nuts & Bolts of Sales Management: How to Build a High-Velocity Sales Organization. Website: www.treaceconsulting.com.
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