Lead Your Sales Staff To Great Heights

by Pam Lontos

What went wrong?

Robert was the top salesperson. It only made sense that he would be the best choice for sales manager. However, when he assumed his management duties, morale and sales took a dive.

Robert could sell. Selling is an egocentric job. He loved the praise he received and being number No. 1. But, as a manager, he missed the attention he got as top salesperson. He didn’t know how to focus his attention on others and let them take the credit.

Sally worked as a manager at a broadcast engineering company. All the engineers she managed respected her. Productivity soared. Sally took a new position as sales manager. The sales staff couldn’t get along with her. They complained that they didn’t have time to sell because of all the detailed paper work Sally demanded.

Sally knew how to manage engineers, but she couldn’t relate to emotional salespeople. She also didn’t understand their needs and the clients’ needs. Sales were lost because Sally didn’t know what it took to sell.

These scenarios repeat themselves at companies all over the country.

If top salespeople are often missing an important part of management skills and non-salespeople can’t relate to sales needs, what is the answer?

The answer is to promote based on a person’s qualities rather than background. Choose people who have a desire to learn management skills and a willingness to change to become an efficient manager. To be successful, a sales manager must be able to motivate others to sell more, handle problems quickly and discipline fairly when needed. In addition, they must inspire teamwork and cooperation while keeping the salespeople interested in achieving their own peak performance. These skills can be found in any department, not just sales.

Here are proven skills that will help a manager be effective:

      1. How To Treat Salespeople
            Treat your salespeople the same as you would treat your best client. Salespeople know that they can’t yell at their best client or be critical and negative toward them, or the client will cancel. Salespeople treat their best clients with the importance they are due, listen to their needs and respond to them. Just as clients bring salespeople money, salespeople bring managers money. So, treat your salespeople as you would treat your best client. Ask yourself, “Would I want to be working for me?” This attitude will pay off in higher sales.

        Make your salespeople feel special. Listen carefully to their ideas, triumphs and problems. Give your undivided attention when talking to them. Don’t do other tasks or paperwork when they come to talk to you. Put your sales team first. Your staff will love you for it.

        Effective managers have salespeople who want to please them. If you establish this type of environment, it not only leads to higher billing, it also makes your job as a manager easier.

        Don’t do anything as a manager that you wouldn’t like if you were on your own staff. If you have to do something unpopular with the salespeople, you need to explain why you are doing it. Let the salespeople see the overall picture. The salespeople need to feel they are a part of the whole organization and see how their efforts are important to the total growth of your company. Change “you” and “me” to “we.”

      2. How To Give Praise And Recognition
            Give people immediate recognition for sales made. Ring bells, put out memos, make announcements in meetings. The most successful people are not working just for money. They are working for the rewards, the challenge and the excitement of winning. Show confidence in your salespeople. If you expect people to win, they usually will.

        Praise in public, but reprimand in private. Also, reprimand as soon as the problem is evident. Give the salesperson a chance to explain before you criticize. You may have the facts wrong. Begin with a question, not an accusation. Be constructive and keep it short. Come across as being concerned with their welfare. The strongest human need is the need to be appreciated. Praise your salespeople as much as possible. Salespeople love and respond to recognition. When you give praise, be specific. Don’t just say, “You’re doing a good job.” Instead, tell the salesperson exactly what he did that made it such a good job. The ultimate praise is to compliment your salespeople in front of others.

        It is natural to think that all good ideas in the sales department are a result of your management. However, you need to be fair, and give credit to those who deserve it. If a situation arises where you share credit with a salesperson, give all the credit to the salesperson. This will pay off in the long term with greater loyalty and more sales.

      3. How To Have A Positive Staff
            Meet with each salesperson individually once a week for 15 to 30 minutes to discuss sales made, sales lost, who they are calling and who they need help with. Don’t cover these topics in a group meeting because it wastes the time of the other salespeople, and it embarrasses the salesperson who is talking about himself. You will inspire more loyalty and trust by doing this in person.

        Hold sales meetings often and focus on the positive. Talk about who was sold. This inspires more confidence. Don’t talk about who wasn’t sold. This causes salespeople to remember their failures and makes them feel inadequate – leading to an inability to sell for the rest of the day. In a 15 minute meeting in the morning, have each salesperson talk about positive sales, getting an appointment with a tough client, etc. This improves confidence and morale. Since you are involving the staff and their success stories, these meetings do not require a lot of time or pre-planning by you.

        Any private meeting with a salesperson that involves negative elements of his or her activities should be scheduled in the afternoon, late in the week. If negatives are brought up in the morning or early in the week, they will adversely affect the salesperson’s mood, and their sales will suffer. You must remain positive whether sales are up or down. Your attitude, positive or negative, is highly contagious. It sets the mood for the entire department. When salespeople have a manager who is consistently confident, cheerful, positive and approachable, they will display these same traits.

      4. How To Set Goals Effectively
            Show salespeople how to set goals. All good performance starts with clear goals. Often, salespeople don’t know what managers really expect of them. When it comes to increasing your sales, you need to pinpoint what that increase is to be. Let the salespeople know weekly what the total monthly goal is. Break goals into bite-sized pieces so they seem achievable to your staff. For instance, if you need $40,000 more to achieve your monthly goal and you have eight salespeople, tell them you need only $5,000 more per person in the next two weeks. This is only $2,500 per week, which may be less intimidating.

        Encourage your salespeople to set their own goals. Often, salespeople will set goals for themselves that are higher than the manager would have set. People work harder to make their own goals. Have salespeople write down their goals. As a manager, you should work with the salespeople to make sure the goals they set are neither too large nor too small. Very high goals can be overwhelming and self-defeating. Low goals indicate that the salesperson is in a comfort zone. Let them know you are there to help and support them, and that they can break through that comfort zone.

      5. How To Motivate Your Staff
            Hit the streets with your salespeople at least once a week. They will respect you for it. Also, you will get an opportunity to see what they are doing right and wrong in their presentation. Give them feedback both positive and negative, so they are encouraged by what they are doing right and can correct what they are doing wrong. You will motivate them by honestly taking an interest in what they are doing.

        You need to role play, role play, role play. Sales meetings should be for learning and practicing sales techniques. Role playing involves everyone and promotes team spirit as it instructs.

        In handling disputes between two people, don’t talk to each separately. Bring them into your office together so they each tell his or her side in front of the other person. You will get a more truthful version of the situation and cut down on back-stabbing and game-playing.

        Don’t delay meetings waiting for late arrivals. This punishes the people who were on time and lets them know they can get away with being late. Simply start the meeting on time.

        Allow your salespeople to spend more time with customers. Avoid extra paper work, office problems and long meetings.

        Have your salespeople listen to sales or motivational tapes in sales meetings or in their cars. They face rejection on a daily basis and need the daily boost provided by this material.

      6. How To Be An Effective Leader
            As a manager, you see situations in a broader scope than the salespeople.

        Salespeople see them in terms of “How does this affect me?” Your decisions will impact your salespeople more positively if you maintain an appreciation for their perspective.

        Some parts of your job are more fun than others, and you are tempted to devote more time to the tasks you enjoy. You know that in the long run, this will cause you to spend enormous amounts of time catching up. Learn to budget your time, and get each task done as it comes up.

        Sales managers must have tenacity: the ability to persist until success comes. You should not give up just because you don’t see results. Persistence pays off. Push through the tough times and discomfort and keep going. You not only will set a great example for your staff, but also your persistence will pay off. As Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.”

        A new breed of managers is needed in the closing years of the 1990s. Authoritative styles don’t work on today’s salespeople.

        Salespeople today respond to a teacher, a team builder, a coach. Become that and your billing will soar.

Copyright © 1997 by Pam Lontos. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Pam Lontos is president of PR/PR, a public relations firm based in Orlando, FL. She is the co-author of I See Your Name Everywhere and is a former Vice President of Sales for Disney’s Shamrock Broadcasting in charge of 8 radio and 2 TV stations. PR/PR has placed clients in USA Today, Entrepreneur, Time, CNN, Reader’s Digest, and Cosmopolitan. Clients include Brian Tracy, LeAnn Thieman (author of Chicken Soup for the Nurse’s Soul, Second Dose), and Sy Sperling (founder of Hair Club for Men). They also work with professionals who are just launching their company.

You can contact Pam at:

Pam Lontos, President
775 S. Kirkman Rd., Ste. 104
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 299-6128
Fax (407) 299-2166
[email protected]