There is as always, a plethora of articles, solutions and reference material for sales leaders, sales directors and business owners to consider when trying to find a solution for a sales team not getting to the targets set or required by the business. As a former leader of countless sales teams for some three decades, sales teams that got bigger and bigger and more globally disperse the more senior I became, I recall using the same old tactics and strategies to try and drive results when the numbers said it was needed.
The carrot and the stick. The aggressive rant and the inspiring speech. The league table to ‘name and shame’ or to boost the egos of the superstars. Conference calls daily to ‘challenge’ and conference calls rarely to reward.
Incentives to encourage effort and implied consequences for those who didn’t. Observations of activity and meetings for those who were failing while profiling those who were delivering as role-models and mentors. Formalised performance management when needed and several ‘this is not the role for you’ chats if all else failed.
I am not saying that any of the above were right, wrong or wholly appropriate in every situation. I am sure there are many more ‘tactics’ and methodologies that other sales leaders apply but it appears from discussions with clients just today, that many of the above are still in the sales managers ‘kitbag’ and still have their use today.
Despite admitting my rather simplistic approach to sales leadership, I am pleased to say that I did reasonably well as a sales leader over the years, perhaps some or a combination of these tactics did indeed work. Maybe it was ‘un-intended situational leadership’ on my part? Maybe I got lucky and applied the right strategy and tactics to the right sales people at the right moment and the cumulative outcome was success, most of the time.
Being honest, I can’t really tell you specifically what it was. In spending the past several years researching ‘success and achievement’ for my latest book on the subject, I am pretty certain that if I had understood some of the foundational themes that underpin success that I now know of today, I am certain that we would have had considerably more success than we did.
So what is it that I wish I knew then that I understand better now? What are the three ‘things’ that I rarely notice or observe in struggling or frustrated sales managers and business leaders when I first start working with them today?
Firstly, taking full OWNERSHIP. Ownership for your results. 100%. No blame. No excuses. Understanding as a sales leader, that the results you have today are pretty much a direct output of the decisions, choices, actions and strategies you have taken, or not taken, to this point. The same must apply right down through the whole team.
Blaming the client, the marketing department, the product teams, the old boss, the new boss, the weather, the regulation, the paperwork, the size of the targets, the compensation plan….it’s all irrelevant. There are no justified resentments. You own your number and until you grasp and own that, you will often revert to some level of blame or excuse.
When energy and focus is on such distracting themes, at any level, you send a message right down through your team that such thinking is acceptable. Own it 100%, of course you must demand support from stakeholders like marketing and product functions but focus your thinking and actions on what you control.
Secondly, PURPOSE. What drives your people to perform, more specifically what drives each of them individually to succeed. Is it money? Is it pride? Is it desire to be promoted? Is it because they HAVE to win? Is it status and recognition? Or is it something else? When an individual is fuelled and driven by a ‘purpose’, a reason so personal to them, that it is coming from the very centre of their being, you should leverage that purpose fully and then stand back and watch them soar!
Until you know that for each of your team and motivate them accordingly, and yes it does take more work than applying the same approach for all, you are not playing to purpose, and therefore compromising success.
Identifying Proven Systems – Tip 3:
Thirdly, goals and SYSTEMS. I have a goal to run a marathon in the next 12 months. A big goal for someone my age and with my fitness levels! However, I have systems to enable that goal to happen. I have a training plan. I have a nutrition plan. I have new trainers designed to suit my running style. I have a running group who hold me to account when we meet up and train. I have every chance of hitting the goal because I have the systems in place to support that.
Do you equip your sales teams with the right systems, in addition to demanding they hit the goals? It is your role as a sales leader to ensure your teams have the right ‘stuff’ to hit the goals you require. I think that goals without systems to deliver them are pointless. Targets and quotas without enablement is the same thing. How focused are you as the sales leader on enablement and ensuring the team or individuals have the right enablement. As a quick starting reference point, look to assess enablement in knowledge, skill and then attitude.
Three component parts, ownership, purpose and systems. There are a few more to complete the SUCCESS Code™, but for now, progressing your thinking and activity on these three will certainly make success considerably more likely than before. Think about this in your business or in your team when targets are a challenge and you should see the gaps that need addressing. Address them and I am certain those targets will be smashed. Good luck.
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