Getting more from my sales team

Dear Ken Keller,

Over the holidays (and most of the last half of 2015), I have been wracking my brain as to how I can get my sales team to be more productive.

I don’t think anyone is lazy or not interested in doing a good job, but they regularly miss their sales goals and lose out on commissions.

What bothers me is that none of them seem to be too concerned about it. It’s as if they shrug their shoulders and say, “I’ll try harder next month.” Only next month it is more of the same.

I’m considering making changes, but I wanted to ask you what other companies do to shake things up and get sales going again.

Dave P.

Dear Dave

Sadly, I remember hearing about one company that had a tradition of firing someone in sales before each annual national sales meeting.

It was never made clear if it was the lowest-performing person, the biggest jerk or someone who made a big mistake, but I suspect that it kept the company gossip mill churning and sales people walking on egg shells for a while.

The place to start is with your own expectations about the results you want from those in sales.

Are the goals so high that no one will ever meet them and as a result, after making a tentative attempt early in each month, by the end of the second week of the month, everyone has given up hope of hitting the numbers?

Or do you have a team that wants to win, and could hit the numbers if they could exclusively focus on sales? If this is the case, what are the obstacles standing in the way of each sales person that you can address and resolve?

It is important for you to define what your vision of the sales team is. What do you want from them? Is it possible to achieve? Is the total compensation package reasonable, and how does it compare to others in your industry or outside your industry?

Secondly, check on the support they may or may not be getting. It is possible that there is a large fault line as long, as deep, and as dangerous as the San Andreas in your company. It’s the gap between your sales team and everyone else.

People working inside of a facility (offices and warehouses) are paid a wage or salary, and are charged with doing tasks within a set working schedule. But, if the person who is supposed to be calling late-paying clients doesn’t make the calls, what happens to them?

Sales people set their own schedule, are often out of the office and earn a salary, commission or both based on achieving certain results in a set period of time. They might also earn bonuses and have opportunities to win trips, prizes and so forth. Sales people are often the focus of special recognition at company events. When a sales person doesn’t bring in a new account, what happens to them?

Your email to me is all about the getting the sales team going because you are frustrated with their lack of results. But have you asked the sales team members what their issues are with those who are supposed to be supporting them in the office and warehouse?

You may have deeper issues than just your sales people not performing. You may have two companies that aren’t working together because one (sales) is focused on taking care of clients and the other (supposed to be supporting sales) is watching the clock and counting the days to the next paycheck.

Thirdly, ask yourself when was the last time you were out calling on prospects and current clients? And what about your management team? Why couldn’t they be managing an account or two to comprehend how your company serves its clients now and what could be changed for the better?