Sales leaders are often challenged by the demands of managing the individual characters within their team to maintain not only harmony amongst the team, but also a sense of satisfaction within the individual.
Old-style sales management used to focus on creating monetary incentives as the only reward for great performance. However times have changed and over the last 15 years a more responsive approach has been required to ensure your sales team is engaged and effective.
Don’t get me wrong. This “more responsive” approach isn’t based on a soft-centred, warm-hearted, everyone-is-a-winner mentality. It is based on the hard facts of generational change.
Your team now have different expectations than a team of 15 or 20 years ago
And managing the individuals now requires a more nuanced, and more diverse approach than what has been required in the past.
If we go back through the history of selling we find that during the 1950’s and 1960’s the role of the ‘professional’ salesperson flourished. In those heady days of steadily growing consumer wealth customers believed what they were told in advertisements, and the sales person was in control of the buying process. Customers had the money, but sales people had the information.
Sales was a numbers game
As a result of that ‘easy’ market the sales profession was very much a numbers game. See more people. Make more sales. Earn more commission or bonuses.
For decades since then the field of sales has been simplified by many involved in managing it. The answer to “How do we improve the performance of our sales team?” has often resulted in the answer of “Give them more financial incentive”.
Sales people have been viewed as machines, with the input being financial incentive and the output being more sales.
But the generation now moving into or currently in sales roles – either in field sales or internal sales positions – has fundamentally different expectations of how they want to work and how they want to be managed. They don’t want to be machines.
Sure, people are always concerned about their pay packet. They want to receive competitive remuneration for the job they are doing.
But money isn’t everything
Previously I have written on how to motivate and retain a Gen Y sales team and included a suggestion that sales leaders develop a dual-track development program for their sales team.
In fact, a recent Australian study of the Top 100 Ideal Employer Rankings found that: “When it came to what the graduates wanted from their employers, aspects relating to people and culture were weighted as heavily as remuneration and advancement opportunities.”
And in a separate analysis of how the millennial mindset is shaking up the food industry, Laurie Klein of US-based Copernicus Marketing writes:
To understand why Millennials act so differently, we must first understand their world. In my generation, we all followed the same path and were assured of positive results. We worked hard to get into a good college. We studied hard so that we could get a good job upon graduation. After establishing ourselves in the working world, we then got married and a few years later started a family.
The road looks incredibly different for today’s Millennials and it is not the straight path that previous generations have walked. In fact, they are rethinking every step of the path and finding that even if they do follow the straight path of previous generations that they may not end up with the same results.
Australian business management consultants Pathfinder Advisors highlight the fact that while monetary factors are top of the list when it comes to employee requirements, other factors that also rate highly include flexible work location, flexibility in scheduling, and supplemental training.
What should a modern sales leader do?
Based on experience working with sales leaders and their teams here are 12 tips across 6 categories to help sales leaders create a productive relationship as a modern sales manager.
(1) Stay close to your team:
- Spend time on the job with them, either in the office or in the field
- Get to know them as individuals
(2) Create an expectation of ongoing development:
- Implement a personal improvement plan for each team member
- Discuss progress on a regular basis
(3) Provide frequent skill development opportunities:
- Include training segments as part of regular sales meetings
- Provide individual coaching feedback during your one-to-one time on the job with them
(4) Review their performance frequently:
- Don’t use the old-fashioned once a year appraisal, or annual performance review
- Focus on future goals and development rather than what has happened in the past
(5) Use a combination of leading and managing:
- Have a vision for you want your team to be, and communicate that to them to provide direction and inspire motivation
- Monitor performance towards goals and clearly address areas that need improvement
(6) Recognise achievement:
- Pay attention to catch people doing things right, and doing things well
- Take time to recognise their achievements, or the outcomes they have influenced, through both private conversations with them and public acknowledgement with the team
If you would like to discuss some options for how to be more effective and develop the skills of a modern sales manager please get in touch.