Are You Facing Sales Fatigue?
by Ken Thoreson
The past three years have been a challenge for most partner organizations. The economy has caused sales teams to face declining prospect budgets, more competitive bidding, fewer opportunities, lower incomes and general personal stress. As someone that works with partner organizations on a daily basis we have seen all of these situations cause an increase in mental and physical fatigue.
As partner executives, we have witnessed increased levels of stress because of managing cash flow, personnel decisions, increased costs, decreased margins and personal stress have caused the same problems to appear. As we face another year most individuals are unclear as to the future, will it either be a recovering economy or another challenging series of events?
What is the recipe for ensuring your organization exceeds its goals this year and create a culture of high performance? From an executive’s Action Plan there are specific tactics to ensure your organization is focused, energized and mentally tough. It begins with a focus on communication and a series of actions to build belief within your sales team. Sales organizations are the critical ingredients in building a total organizations culture of expectation and success.
Executive Action Plans
Monthly Meetings: When a company launches, its first employees typically feel that they share a mission. Everyone knows everything that’s happening and what’s needed to succeed. But when the staff grows beyond about 15 people, that sense of mission-along with clearly defined expectations and common beliefs-can be difficult to maintain. In challenging times improving communications and providing a sense of mission is an absolute requirement.
We believe that monthly employee meetings are crucial for keeping everyone engaged and informed. (Larger organizations and those with remote offices may want to opt for quarterly day-long events instead.) Such gatherings give you a chance to remind your staff about your business philosophies, plans and expectations. This is your opportunity to provide vision, positive expectations and your roadmap to “better times”.
You can also use them to recognize outstanding employees that contributed to the success of the sales organization, a client’s implementation or company operations. You may consider honoring a Most Valuable Player chosen by the sales team at each session. This will provide a sense of teamwork and sense of good business practices.
Remember to make the meetings fun as well. Creating FUN in your organization and making people want to work hard are two objectives for leaders who understand employee motivation. Consider sponsoring a fun game, competitive contests for sales leads or even offering simple door prizes. One company meeting I attended featured a surprise visit from an Elvis impersonator, who sang several songs. It is amazing what happens when laughter occurs and the sense of “team” builds.
The real purpose: during your monthly company meetings share your vision for the next 18-24 months and your philosophy for success. This is your opportunity as a leader to build consensus and ensure you communicate your message to your team. Stay on message, create a theme for the year, reinforce that theme with actions and provide that sense of direction to all employees. In our sales leadership workshop we discuss the five styles of leadership, the second style is a “selling” style, at your company meetings and at other important events this style is critical. It means you will describe a problem, provide your solution and sell your employees as to why it is the course of action.
Sales Action Plans
In working with our clients, where sales are being lost or the sales team is faltering due to fatigue we often find that the underlying problem is actually an emotional one: lack of passion. Individual team members or the entire sales organization-or both-simply don’t have the combination of enthusiasm and belief that’s essential for success. Their either don’t believe in the products or the ability of the partner organization to successfully deliver quality services.
Salespeople have to be emotionally invested in their work with a burning desire to achieve. They must also believe that the company they represent is the best and the solutions or services they sell are of the highest quality. That belief must be genuine. It’s not just a marketing message, and it’s not something that they can fake. It must be real.
Many sales leaders forget this emotional side of leadership is critical and they don’t build into sales training programs belief-building activities. Or if they do, they only do so occasionally. Our experience shows that the most successful sales teams constantly undertake on-going belief-building initiatives. Examples include:
Storytelling: People from different cultures and generations pass along stories about their ancestries, traditions and lore. Companies need to take a similar approach to capturing and preserving their histories. To do so, write down customer success stories when they occur. Put together detailed descriptions of your company’s role in helping customers implement new technologies, launch or salvage important projects or earn recognition from Microsoft. Then share these stories at sales meetings and other employee events. You can also use the best stories to recruit top performers and help orient new employees. We recommend that you record these stories and play them during your monthly company meetings.
Customer Visits: Each quarter, have your entire sales team visit a client’s company that’s successfully implemented your solutions. Ask the customer’s executive to describe the impact your company has had on their business, their competitive position or to review the savings they’ve gained from your products and services. You might also invite customers to share their experiences at some of your monthly meetings.
Reference Letters: Ask your best customers for testimonials. While such letters are, of course, highly useful as tools for future sales presentations, they’re also valuable for building belief in-house. Frame the letters and display them in your lobby or sales presentation area. Have new employees read them as part of the orientation process.
In our business, it’s all too easy to get bogged down with lost sales, missed project dates and other problems. Regularly reinforcing the positives goes a long way toward keeping everyone’s belief and passion strong and moving in the right direction. These efforts will build a culture of success, a sense of mission and common teamwork and those ingredients are the recipe for a great entrée’.
Ken Thoreson “operationalizes” sales management systems and processes that pull revenue out of the doldrums into the fresh zone. Ken provides Keynotes, consulting services and products designed to improve business performance. Visit his blog here