Some managers spend time tearing down their sales team by blaming all of their woes and worries on the very people who can make or break a company. I once worked for a PCB shop owner who insisted on having an expensive annual meeting where he flew in his salespeople from all over the country. For the better part of a week, they would go over the prior year’s numbers, examine what went right and wrong, and set strategies, forecasts, and goals for the upcoming year. These productive sales meetings fired up the troops—until the owner had his say.
Every year, he insisted on being the final speaker of the four-day session right before everyone left to catch their flights home. In the last hour of such a productive week, he proceeded to berate them. He finished his “inspirational talk” by letting them know that if they did not increase their numbers by at least 30% in the coming year, he would fire them. With these words ringing in their ears, the salespeople crawled out of the room ready to do whatever they could to keep from being fired in the next year.
There was no good reason for him to act this way, except that he was the owner and he could. In reality, he had a professional team that increased the company’s sales by almost 20% each year. As you might have guessed, everyone eventually left for greener—or shall we say, kinder—pastures and he eventually went out of business. Of course, when people asked why he went out of business, he would say, “I could never find any salespeople who were worth a damn.”
His behavior sets a bad example, but you don’t have to follow it. Owners and sales managers should be motivators. Even if you don’t have a great sales team at first, it is your responsibility to make your sales team successful. Here are a few tips on how you can create the best sales team in the world:
- Treat your salespeople like they are already great and they will rise to the occasion. If you don’t think your team is great, change the players because your job is to always field a great team.
- Treat your salespeople with respect. There is never an advantage to be gained by disrespecting others.
- Challenge your salespeople to do things they don’t think they can and then show them how. The more wins they have under their belts, the stronger salespeople they will become and the more confident they will feel to take on more challenges.
- Give your salespeople full credit for their successes. It’s all about them as a team, not you as the manager.
- Teach your salespeople to learn something from both wins and losses. For example, showing your team how to bounce back from losing a contract is a sign of a true leader.
- Help your salespeople believe they are in a movie and show them how to take advantage of this vision. They may never catch a pass from Tom Brady, win the U.S. Open Tennis Championship, or have thousands of people watch them close a deal, but they are the stars of their own lives.
Finally, have fun in everything. Learning, strong teamwork, and a plan coming together are all fun. Most of all, surpassing a forecast is fun. Celebrate the wins.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.