Top-performing sales teams start with smart hiring practices. You should be looking for entrepreneurial spirit in potential sales reps because those will be the ones that are self-propelled to hustle and the word “commission” won’t stake fear in their hearts. Rather than worry over whether they can make a sale and thus get paid, prime candidates will be drawn to factors they know will give them a jump ahead such as established accounts on their starting client list, bonuses and pay dates, and strong sales support.
They’ll listen to the sales manager’s prescribed sales pitch and then promptly create their own. They’ll make the sales meetings, virtual or in person, exactly as required but expect them to tune out. They know the game and that in-house meetings are not a score. And, yes, they will squirm in their seats at any hint of excessive oversight.
Sales reporting they get as such is more clearly linked to their pay but turning over their own client contacts is something they will fight all the way. There is no a successful sales person alive who doesn’t know their client relationships are their bread and butter, and they’ll always, yes, always, want to be able to take those contacts with them if and when they ever jump to another sales job opportunity.
A top performing sales team is not really a team at all. It is instead a collection of highly motivated individualists with a common goal. This being the case, poaching accounts from one another is fair game unless expressively prohibited by management. But most sales managers won’t curb that action because star sales reps will increase their book by any means necessary and that’s exactly why they were hired.
So how do you make such a strong and individualistic group more efficient than they already are, especially when they tend to be suspicious of anything they think will rob them of their contact lists or unduly track their movements
You do it by acknowledging the nature of the beast and feeding it accordingly.
1) Give them a REAL sales manager. Typically companies promote a top sales rep to sales manager. But not all sales reps have management skills therefore it is not uncommon to see this model fail. You need a sales manager that knows both sales and management and one that can truly motivate the team without whipping the lash or over-cajoling. This is a vital skill mix and you’ll need to search for it with all due diligence for if you choose the wrong individual, the entire team will underperform.
2) Give bonuses more often. You don’t have to pay out more in bonuses than you planned but you do need to distribute the money more often than once a year. Sales reps tend to respond well to immediate gratification. Use that tendency to your advantage.
3) Accept that sales reps ARE going to keep their client contact list. Stop fighting to keep their client list because you are not going to win this one. No matter what you do, sales reps are going to keep a list on the side and update it frequently. Further, they will update their contact list before they update the company list and if their time is limited, which it always is, the company list may get updated extremely infrequently, incompletely, or not at all.
The smarter tactic is to acknowledge this and use sales tools that enable the rep to do the update once and have a copy of their own as well. Tell them upfront that you’re ok with them keeping a copy for themselves. Scared they’ll use that list against you if they move to a competing company? Guess what? They would do that anyway. You stop nothing and risk alienation and work in the shadows if you push this issue.
4) Let them have a say in sales tool selection. If you haven’t already deployed sales automation and CRM tools, then let your sales team do trials of different programs and listen to their feedback before selecting one. Studies show adoption rates soar when sales teams have a say in the selection. If you already have a system in place, regularly inquire about its performance in the field and ask for suggestions to make it better. Then follow through with changes accordingly. Schedule meetings with the vendor for training and trouble shooting sessions so the team can voice their complaints and find solutions as well as learn how to use the system better. By increasing adoption of these tools, you’ll have all the company data you need to further direct the team and increase their individual efficiencies.