Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said:
“Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”
The same is true of sales managers. A manager who is simply competent at training sales reps could be replaced by a good book on salesmanship. But just learning sales tactics isn’t enough to get salespeople to their peak performance levels and keep them there. That part takes motivation. And while motivation is ultimately internal, the sales manager can play a key role in spurring it. The question is, how does the sales manager do this?
Because motivation is such a personal and internal quality, sales managers should invest time and effort in understanding what drives each member of her sales team. To do that, the manager should learn the answers to the following questions about each person on her team:
Does the team member love to win, or does she hate to lose?
I know that sounds like a redundancy, but it’s really not. An individual may love to win because she loves the feeling of excitement, accomplishment and success that accompanies it. But that individual might be completely blasé about losing. And the person who hates to lose may not feel the thrill of victory with the same intensity as the agony of defeat.
To motivate someone who loves to win, the manager should coach her in that direction by framing each sales goal or income milestone as a potential win. When the individual has one of those wins, no matter how large or small, the manager should make a point of congratulating her on it.
To motivate someone who hates to lose, the manager might ask her how she would feel if she lost a lucrative sale, and then work with her to help avoid that loss. On those occasions when the salesperson has a perceived loss, the manager should be empathetic. At the same time, the manager should remind the salesperson of her strengths and encourage her going forward.
Another way sales managers can apply this winning-versus-losing dynamic is by using sales competitions. Even in this context, exceptional effort should be recognized, no matter who wins.
How does the team member use money?
Just as in the first example, the difference here can be subtle. Some salespeople spend money on themselves before they’ve actually earned it, as an incentive to force good performance on themselves. Others spend money on themselves as a reward for it after the fact. By knowing which salespeople fall into which category, sales managers can tailor goal setting and other coaching sessions accordingly.
One sales manager I recently read about uses an extreme version of the buy-before-you-earn idea by actually requiring salespeople to purchase a new Cadillac as a condition of employment. I’m not advocating such an extreme idea here. But what a manager could do is ask the sales rep what’s at the top of her wish list of “toys,” and then challenge her to go ahead and buy that item as an incentive to produce.
A variation on this approach can be used to motivate those who buy things for themselves as a reward for goals already accomplished. Instead of challenging these reps to buy their number-one wish-list item ahead of time, have them promise themselves that they’ll buy the item when they’ve reached a specific goal.
How does the team member respond to being managed?
Some salespeople respond well to being closely managed, or even pushed from time to time. Other salespeople are self-starters who prefer to be left alone, and are most productive under those circumstances. The mistake many sales managers make is to prefer self-starters to the exclusion of all others. But, just because an individual needs to be closely managed or occasionally challenged, doesn’t mean she can’t or won’t be productive.
Managing the self-starter is fairly easy. Just establish mutually agreed-upon goals, and meet with her periodically to review her accomplishments relative to those goals. Even self-starters needs some contact with their managers.
Managing the salesperson who requires closer supervision actually employs the same basic formula. The only difference is that the manager usually has to clearly mandate expectations, and get buy-in from the salesperson that she is capable of meeting those expectations. With these individuals, the frequency of review sessions will have to be higher.
By being aware of each individual’s preferences, you can manage them all in a way that helps them optimize their productivity levels. Sometimes, you’ll even turn those who require closer supervision into self-starters.
Learning the answers to these questions can be done through observation over time, or the sales manager could simply ask each salesperson these questions directly. This direct approach might yield even more valuable information about each member of the team. It’s also a subtle way to encourage some self-examination, which is always a valuable exercise.