Younger members of your sales team – or individuals who may have come from a non-selling discipline – often have fears you wouldn’t expect.
Sidebar: If you’re the Founder, Principal or business owner who has built the business, you may be surprised that anyone on your team actually has these concerns (as you probably don’t). But it is quite common, so take care with how you help them.
Fears can undermine sales team performance
From experience working across many teams I have seen these fears include (in the words of the individuals):
- Fear!… that clients wont be interested and that I’m wasting their time – irrational but paralysing.
- Negotiating price.
- The final closing of the sale.
- Initial approach when you don’t know the customer.
- Not understanding enough about what you are selling.
- Searching out initial contacts.
- Converting quote to order.
- Giving it the time needed.
- Dealing with aggressive people.
- Organising myself, and confidence.
These are often unspoken concerns that gnaw away at the confidence of your team and undermine the individuals self-confidence which is essential for success in any sales role. And if you don’t address these fears it could accelerate the departure of potentially valuable staff members. Recent studies like the Deloitte Millennial Survey in Australia repeatedly show that for Gen Y-aged people (also called Millennials, born 1980 to 2000) half of them plan on leaving their jobs within the next 2 years. Of those who say they will leave 69% say it’s because they aren’t being given the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.
Whilst it’s not always possible to let everyone try their hand at leading a team, the idea of self-leadership is an important factor to consider. And when reviewing the list of concerns above we can see that factors such as ‘organising myself’, ‘not understanding enough’, and ‘initial approach/not knowing the person’ are all within the scope of self-development and self-leadership. They are valuable career skills that can be proactively developed.
Example: Using the phone to call people is intrusive
And there are some challenges for younger staff that may seem incomprehensible to more mature team members and managers. For example many older people have grown up using the phone as a device to have verbal conversations. That’s right – you call someone and talk to them. Everyday. Any time. But for younger staff that can be a foreign experience. Research has found they often see the phone as being intrusive and risky. When you call someone on the phone you don’t get time to craft a written response like you do with a text message. You need to respond on the spot.
And you need to develop Emotional Intelligence to cope with the immediate reactions and assessments needed for live verbal conversations. That’s why many young staff feel threatened and under-pressure when they have to use the phone to call prospects or clients. They’re just not used to it. Let alone the huge level of difficulty they have to overcome when they need to call and speak to people they have never met before. It’s a generational technology thing. But it is real.
How do you help younger sales staff overcome these fears?
The first thing for any manager or business owner to realise is that we’re talking about the individual team members undergoing a degree of behavioural change. Moving from what they used to do (for example, avoiding making phone calls), to being comfortable doing the required tasks (for example, making calls whenever needed). Achieving behavioural change takes time and focused effort. It won’t simply happen – as if by magic – as a result of the individual attending a training session. The manager must be involved.
Here are a few tips on how to keep team members accountable for making the change.
1) Set clear expectations.
Does the person really understand what you expect them to do/achieve? Be sure to have a sincere two-way discussion with them.
2) Ensure clear capabilities.
Make sure the person has the capabilities to do what is required. And if they don’t what is the plan to equip them with the necessary skills and/or knowledge?
3) Establish clear measurement.
Before the person begins their performance improvement journey be frank with them about how you and they will be measuring their results. Don’t assume or leave it to guesswork.
4) Provide clear feedback.
During regular review sessions provide open, honest and ongoing feedback. Be specific about what is working or what needs more attention.
5) Apply clear consequences.
Once you have followed the previous steps any gaps between expectations and actual performance should be well understood. As the manager or sales leader you need to decide whether to reward the results, replace the person in the role, or continue to support the behavioural change process. Either way some consequence must be applied. It is counterproductive to ignore the outcome of the process.
Note: You may recognise these five steps (adapted from HBR) as being the same as what you do when you, as a manager, delegate a task to someone. Yes, that’s correct. In this situation you are delegating the task of behavioural change to a member of your sales team.
Holding your team members accountable can be difficult. Sometimes it can create awkward moments between you and your team member. But it must be done if you want to achieve sales performance improvement.
Would you like to discuss your situation?
If you would like to explore options to improve your own sales coaching skills, or access on-demand sales management expertise please get in touch for a no-pressure consultation. We’ll review your situation and some options that might be suitable.