NEW YORK (
) -- You've launched your business, your product or service is gaining attention, but after some initial success your sales staff seems to be wavering a bit. How do you keep the team motivated?
While the obvious answer may be to throw money at them, few small or young companies can afford to put significant amounts of cash towards this kind of incentive. But this may not be a problem. In fact, many experts say money only goes so far in motivating workers. In order to truly set your sales staff on a path for success, you need to first understand their personalities and preferred ways of working so that you can then set attainable goals for them.
"If you're empowering your people to set objectives and goals and reach them -- you're winning as a manager by very definition. It's really about committing to make your team great rather than worrying about being great yourself," says Karen Leland, president of
Leland says the first order of business is to identify what you are motivating your staff to do: Should they be selling more products? Should they be getting higher-quality customers?
Once that is determined, managers need to recognize that workers are motivated in different ways. This is important to understand because once you know that, you can begin to present their goals -- and a system for attaining them -- in a way they can relate to.
"As a manager you have to uncover the motivational underpinning of each staff member. You have to pay attention to what people do and the language they use," Leland says.
Salespeople who are motivated by numbers and analytics tend to talk in technical lingo and data-speak. Salespeople who are more about the excitement of the idea tend to talk more in language that is expressive. If they're motivated more by the relationship, they'll tend to talk about the people side of things.
The biggest mistake a manager can make is to assume that all of their staff is motivated by the same factors. Nor should they assume that just because someone is enthusiastic about the sales process it means they can bring in the expected results, Leland warns.
Greg Scheingold, president of
, a business-coaching franchise, cautions that managers should also ensure they hire the right kind of person for the job, not just someone who fits the job profile.
Managers or owners should assess whether the prospective salesperson shares their values. Scheingold suggests that in order to find that out, put people in hypothetical situations and ask them to tell you how they would react.
The best salespeople tend to think in a positive light, are self-confident, present themselves well, are professional in appearance, are caring (or at least appear to be) and are persistent, he adds.
"In general most sales people and teams face a lot of rejection," Scheingold says. "It takes a certain type a person to handle
Here are five suggestions from Scheingold and others to keep employees motivated and excited about their positions:
1. Clarify expectations.
The more you can explain what it is you're trying to do, the easier it will be to get staff on board.
2. Challenge employees.
A little competition is healthy for your team. Set the bar high enough so that not everybody reaches the goals but they are attainable.
3. Keep the communication doors open.
Make sure your staff is aware that you are willing to help them achieve their goals.
4. Education and training is important even for the most seasoned salesperson.
"Motivation is really about education, communication and care," says Tony Horwath, founder and CEO of
, an outsourcing company that provides sales staff mainly to small businesses that can't afford full-time hires, or to Fortune 500 companies that want additional support.
"Most companies bring somebody in, they train them and then say 'Ok, go get them.' It doesn't work that way. Sales training has to be a constant and evaluated," Horwath says. "We
already assume all salespeople need to be motivated by money."
5. Provide plenty of positive reinforcement.
"That will allow you, when you need to, to challenge them or hold them more accountable. They're going to be much more accepting of your message. You don't want them to give you excuses, you want them to give you solutions," Scheingold says.
Horwath agrees that recognizing achievements, whether that's in front of the whole staff or as simple as a text message, is necessary. "You want to build the momentum of success on a daily basis. We're not going to wait until the end of the month or the end of the week," he says.
-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.
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