Every sales manager knows the gut-wrenching pressure of looking up on the leader board and seeing nothing big coming down the pipeline. You can try to shift blame to poor communication, lack of resources, or the time of the year, but sales teams may need a little extra motivation to meet the goals you have for them. You might even be destroying the motivation of your staff without even knowing it, so be careful. If you recognize some of your own management style in this list of bad habits, you should refocus your efforts and get your team back in the selling game.
Problem 1: You Use Salary As Your Main Motivator
Money can attract and retain great employees, but is much less effective at changing behavior than real emotional investment in a company or product. In fact, in a meta-study by Edward Deci and colleagues, intrinsic motivation in work environments decreased 25% for every standard deviation of increased reward. The study also showed that the more tangible the reward, the tougher time employees have staying motivated; intrinsic motivation decreased by 36% in cases where sales staff knew the exact dollar amount of the potential increase for performance.
Solution: Emotionally Engage Your Team
Instead of focusing all your attention on using monetary gain to improve your sales team’s performance, you should try to emotionally engage them in their projects. In a recent study of 600 pharmaceutical salespeople conducted by Saraj Kumar Sahoo and associates, one of the most powerful indicators of success had to do with feelings of belonging, regardless of external monetary stimulus. By fostering a feeling of community, keeping communication open, and emphasizing personal connections with customers and teammates, your sales staff will be more productive and loyal to the goals of your organization.
Problem 2: You Deliver Mixed Messages
You might not know you are even committing this sales management transgression. As pressure increases to make sales, motivate your team, and meet internal success metrics, it can be difficult to avoid mixing messages. While the organization might tout customer service as the number one priority, close rates may be what employees are actually being evaluated on for promotion. Even though you desire to give employees autonomy to make their own schedules and close accounts in the most natural way, you may still continue to micromanage their processes. These paradoxical goals are not just confusing, but frustrating for a sales staff, and can leave a team understaffed when some members quit.
Solution: Work With Employees and Upper Management to Provide Corporate Consistency
Sales managers must provide a consistent bedrock of ideals and processes in order to keep sales staff on track for success. Work with upper level management to ensure that the company’s ideals are being correctly reflected in the daily tasks and incentives that are presented to the sales team. You can also help your sales team with a new CRM solution, which will allow your team to collaborate as well as streamline expectations and rewards. Make sure that your own words and actions reflect a respect for the individual as well as for your own standards of work performance.
Problem 3: You Shoot Down Ideas Immediately
Whether you recognize it or not, your relationship to new ideas drastically changes the amount of creative problem-solving your team can do. Research has shown that the tendency towards creative thinking can turn a good salesperson into a great one. Unfortunately, this can’t happen in an environment where the sales team is competing against one another for their ideas to be heard. In the book “Give and Take,” Adam Grant of the Wharton School cites research that shows that those who create ways for fellow employees to be heard are more respected and valued than those who are only interested in promoting their own agendas.
Solution: Be Aware Of Dismissive Tendencies
When you are working with your sales team, be aware of your own tendencies towards narrow thinking or over self-confidence. In the book “Decisive,” by Dan and Chip Heath, the authors encourage better relationship management by avoiding four key demotivational mindsets. Narrow framing, short-term emotional responses, overconfidence about the future, and confirmation bias (seeking only opinions that support your own) are surefire ways to drive employees away from bringing up good ideas and will lead to frustration and attrition. By being aware of these pitfalls, and studying relevant sales manager resources, you can manage your own emotional responses to employee ideas and create a safer environment for employees to share.