How to shore up your sales team when times are tough

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Commitment is a slippery concept; more often than not, the intensity and depth vary from time to time, situation to situation and people to people.

Just imagine a situation, the economy is slowing down, credit is tougher to get, creditors are defaulting, and the consumers are cutting down on demand for your products. Your board and investors want to know, how you will manage the situation and not become a part of the corporate burial ground. You put a strong plan of action, more client facing time and a slew of other initiatives to shore up your numbers. You need to hit the revised numbers, as the wage bill and expenses don’t stop, they just accumulate.

Time and again you go back and check with your sales team on the deal flow, conversion, and closures, and you hear from them, please trust we will deliver the numbers. Now that’s a difficult situation to be in, you know the team is good, and they seem to be on the right path, but you don’t have a kick ass sales automation platform like Platformax to predict in advance whether they will hit the ball or not, so what do you do?

I used to be in a similar situation before developing our sales automation tool – Platformax, I used the following behavioral methodology to capture and confirm the sales team’s commitment.

Acknowledge any doubts or disbeliefs

As the sales team evolves, they quickly establish fixed routines, norms, and ways of interacting. These behavior patterns may not be useful, and sometimes they can even be self-destructive, but at least they are familiar. Whenever you ask people to change, you are asking them to step out of their comfort zone to try something that may be new or unsettling. Before your team members can offer their commitment, they must first acknowledge that they have reached a critical pain threshold that is they must believe that the discomfort of trying out new behaviors outweighs the distress caused by the current situation.

You May Also Like To Read: Is Your Sales Team Fit For Challenges?

It is understandable that some member’s of your team may feel some anxiety about tackling team performance problems. Some people may believe that they don’t have the time to take on additional responsibilities or projects, or they may think the problem under review is too large or complicated to tackle. To others, the problem may appear too sensitive to be resolved through team discussions. Still, others may have placed the responsibility of shoring up the sales numbers on the shoulders of the sales manager.

Capturing team commitment means getting all your team members to acknowledge that they are all responsible for making the numbers happen. They must understand that the sales manager or you as the CEO or departmental head may provide necessary guidance and direction but cannot carry the full burden of changing the direction. Team success will depend on the best efforts of each member of the sales team.

Some of the team members may hesitate to openly express concerns and reservations about the proposed team improvements or change initiatives to shore up the sales numbers, but it is important to allow them to do so. My approach was to acknowledge from the start that there are certain reasons why it may be difficult to attack the problem. You might want, to begin with, an introduction like to what I used in this situation.

“Before we continue, I think it’s important for us to openly discuss any concerns or reservations we might have about our ability to move forward in the current situation. I will be the first one to admit that we are in a tough situation and we have decided to eat the frog first, the approach taken by us to keep our business running requires a lot of our extra time, commitment, and effort. Our families will have to support us during this time because we will be eating into their time. What I would like to do is to go around the room and listen to any concerns that you might have. As you talk, I will post the comments on the flip chart for our review. If you don’t have anything to say, just say pass, and we will skip you for now, but check again with you by the time we get to the end of this session. As a ground rule, I am going to ask you not to comment on anyone’s concern until we have everything listed on the board.”

All commitments are not equal

It’s mission critical that you calibrate your sales teams commitment levels because team members respond differently to the need for change and their level of participation to make it happen. Unfortunately, the team members with the most severe reservations do not state their views openly; instead, they prefer to express their concerns indirectly through sarcastic comments or halfhearted participation after the company has started moving in the direction of change. By calibrating the commitment, you will be able to get the full range of support from the team.

You May Also Like To Read: The Four Stages In Making of A Great Sales Team

A simple way to do this is to ask each team member to give you a number ranging from 1 to 10, with a 10 representing 100 percent level of commitment to tackling the situation at hand and a 1 indicating the minimal level of commitment. After posting these numbers on the flipchart for review, invite the members who expressed low levels of commitment to share their concerns. Next, ask them the following question “ What actions could we take that would enable you to raise your level of commitment. In my experience, the answers involve subtle actions on the part of the team and improve the commitment levels.

Make a public pledge

Once your sales team has agreed on ways to address team members concerns, go back and once again ask the members to voice their levels of commitment to the desired course of action. It is commonly seen that once people publicly affirm their commitment, they are far less likely to backtrack. For this reason, one of the strongest moves a team leader can make is encouraging team members to affirm their commitment to the team as a whole publicly.

Now tough times and disaster can rock your company anytime; it’s always better to be prepared with data so that you can get a better grip on the situation. Try using our all in one sales automation platform – Platformax and see the difference; after all, it’s a matter of survival.

Srđan Mahmutović

Founder & CEO of Platformax.com

 

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