Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said:
“Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.”
The same is true of sales managers. In fact, those who can train sales reps in the various sales tactics they need to master could actually be replaced by a good book on salesmanship. But simply learning tactics aren't enough to get and keep salespeople to peak performance levels. That takes motivation. And, while motivation is ultimately an internal thing, the sales manager can play a key role in spurring motivation. The question is; “How?”
Because motivation is such a personal and internal thing, sales managers should invest time and effort in understanding what drives each member of his or her sales team. To begin to do that, the manager should learn the answers to the following questions about each salesperson on the team:
I know that sounds like a redundancy, but it’s really not. An individual may love to win because they love the feeling of excitement, or accomplishment, or success, or whatever 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 them 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 them on it.
To motivate someone who hates to lose, the manager might ask them how they would feel if they lost a lucrative sale, then work with them 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 them of their strengths and encourage them going forward.
Another place sales managers can apply this winning vs. losing dynamic is in the context of sales competitions.
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. Others spend money on themselves as a reward for it. 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 variation of the buy before you earn idea by actually requiring new 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 his or her wish list of “toys”, then challenge them to go ahead and buy that item as an incentive to produce.
A variation of this tactic can be used to motivate those who buy things for themselves as a reward for goals already accomplished. But instead of challenging the rep 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 certain specific goal.
Some salespeople respond well to being closely managed, or even pushed from time to time. Others 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, it doesn't mean they can't or won’t be productive.
Managing the self-starter is fairly easy. Just establish mutually agreed-upon goals, and meet with them periodically to review their accomplishments relative to those goals. Even self-starters need some contact with their manager.
Managing the person who requires closer supervision actually employs the same basic formula. The only difference is the manager usually has to clearly mandate expectations, and get buy-in from the salesperson that he or she is capable of meeting those expectations. With these individuals, the frequency of review sessions will have to be greater.
By being aware of each individual’s preferences, you can manage them all in such a way as to help them to be highly productive. 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 salesperson. In addition to that, it's a subtle way to encourage individuals to engage in some self-examination, which is always a valuable exercise.