Step 3: Keep your word
When she commits to doing something, she should always keep her word. Reliability is a pillar of trust; once reps know a sales manager is dependable, they’ll become more loyal.
It’s easy to keep track of the larger promises she’s made, such as, “I’ll take you guys to a steak dinner at Harry’s if everyone shows up to the weekly sales meeting the entire month.”
But she shouldn’t forget about the smaller ones she makes, like, “I’ll send you my feedback by tomorrow night,” or “I’ll put in a request for new presentation software this afternoon.”
These are just as important and contribute equally to the sales manager’s reputation for being trustworthy.
Salespeople are looking for a bigger reason to show up and work hard every day beyond simply “make money.” Although a common vision isn’t a prerequisite for success, it’ll keep reps motivated when times are tough and encourage them to work together.
The mission should be specific and unique. For example, it might be “Become the most successful team within the company,” or “Improve retention by X percentage.” If possible, it should be measurable so everyone knows where they stand. You also want a vision that the team is excited about, so consider including them in the planning process.
Regularly bring up your team’s progress and reference individual contributors. Doing so reinforces the vision and keeps it top-of-mind for your reps. To give you an idea, imagine one of the tenets of your sales vision is “Become industry thought leaders.” When one of your reps launches his own podcast, you bring it up in the team meeting by saying, “Way to go Vincent for starting a podcast; everyone should download it. This will help our company gain recognition as thought leaders.”
When another rep publishes a LinkedIn Pulse post that receives 500-plus likes, you drop a line in the team Slack room: “Congrats Julia on the awesome LinkedIn article that’s taking off. Can everyone like it when they have a chance? Love seeing our reps establish themselves as domain experts.”
Not only will this make the people you recognized feel good, it’ll also inspire the others to follow suit.
Salespeople should always be picking up fresh skills and strategies. Not only does buyer behavior change, but technology enables new tactics and makes old ones obsolete.
Unfortunately, many training programs are:
- Interruptive and one-off: Such as a week-long all-day off-site.
- Product-focused: Mostly about the company’s latest line or service.
- One size fits all: Generic and not tailored to the industry or niche.
To fix this, make your training:
- Integrated and ongoing: Coaching should be a part of the sales manager’s weekly check-ins with reps. They should also regularly do call reviews and win-loss analyses.
- Skills- and product-focused: While product training is important, sales skills usually trumps product knowledge. Make sure you’re spending enough time teaching reps how to sell.
- Customized: Whether you hire a training firm or use in-house specialists, the program should be specific to your product, market, and company values.
Keeping people accountable is an important aspect of a healthy team. If reps see poor performance go unchecked, quotas will start feeling more like suggested targets than hard ones. Even worse, if a manager doesn’t communicate a salesperson is in danger of being fired for their disappointing results, the sudden, seemingly unexpected termination will hurt morale and cause team members to wonder if they’re next.
Do you struggle to maintain accountability within your sales team?
First, clearly define your expectations. Each salesperson should know exactly what they’re supposed to do. That might be a certain number of calls per day, meetings per week, or demos per month, or it might be revenue quota.
Having objective standards and making sure everyone is aware of them helps you avoid any nasty surprises.
Second, if someone is struggling, don’t wait to see if things will get better. Step in and ask why they’re not performing. Are they feeling demotivated? Are they struggling with a specific part of the sales progress?
Third, when necessary put them on a performance improvement plan (PIP). These outline a set of specific, unambiguous goals the rep is supposed to achieve within a set window of time.
An effective PIP diagnoses the issue (i.e. where the rep is falling short), what they’ll do to address the issue, any support or tools they’ll need, and how much time they’ll receive.
For instance, if they’re only setting four demos per week, and the quota for their role is 12, their actions might be “Call 50 prospects per day. Do one call review per day. Write a new talk track with manager’s help. Attend a workshop on objection handling.”
Support might be: “Meet with manager for call review; get ticket for workshop.”
Timeframe might be: “Reach 12 demos per week by X date.”
Other common accountability pitfalls sales managers fall into include trying too hard to be their reps’ friends, rather than their boss (which makes it harder to get the necessary results and crack down on mediocrity) and never accepting responsibility themselves (which causes their team to ignore them when they try to manage).
Building and maintaining a strong sales culture isn’t easy. However, it’ll have a greater impact on your results than you could’ve thought possible. You’ll be able to recruit and train great reps, get your desired results, and make everyone on the team happy to work there.