First football, then cricket, now rugby. Last month England teams completed a triumvirate of failure in our national sports leaving supporters underwhelmed and wondering how, with so much in their favour, it can all go so wrong. Of course, this will be nothing compared to how the players will have felt in each of these teams as they have failed to live up to expectations.
Whether you are a professional sportsperson or a sales person, living with the highs and lows of success and failure are all part and parcel of operating in a competitive environment.
But there are also some times when a bad run seems never-ending, the contracts you expected to come in evaporate away and your team faces what seems to be an insurmountable challenge to get back on track. Turning a team around from these set backs is a critical skill for anyone responsible for any sales manager– so what can you do to get your people performing again?
1. Not just business as usual
The first thing is to avoid going on with ‘business as usual’. If you haven’t achieved your targets you need to find out why so you can make sure you don’t keep on repeating the same mistakes.
2. Listen to the team
Your first port of call should be your team. Obviously you need to talk to the individuals who haven’t hit their targets and find what they think are the causes for you losing out. The key here is to ask open questions and listen rather than make it the kind of confrontational inquisition which won’t surface the real issues. Be clear about the areas of their performance they control, the additional support they think would make a difference and any external factors they think are relevant.
3. Ask the performers
In every team there will still be an individual who is still making a strong contribution above that of the others. Ask these performers why they think they are succeeding. This will allow you to compare what you hear from the rest of the team and learn about things which can be done differently.
4. Spend time observing the sales process
The effective use of call listening for internal sales teams and observing sales meetings out and about with external sales teams, will quickly help identify any opportunities for skill improvements to sharpen up the approach and improve results through the sales process.
5. Talk to your prospects
Many buyers these days will offer feedback to vendors in the wake of a procurement exercise. Take advantage of this valuable insight to build a picture around how your team managed the sales process. What is it that would have made them decide differently: your proposition? People? Price? Relationship?
6. Review the game plan
As with sports teams, the evaluation and refinement of goals and alignment of sales peoples focus and effort to best match targets needs constant review. Make sure sales teams are targeted in the right areas to make a difference.
7. Make a plan
Once you have this insight, work with your team to remodel the sales process. Of course they will need to meet a financial target but think about the specific things they need to do to hit that target, so you can measure and monitor these on a regular basis.
8. Create competition and incentivise with tactical rewards
Successful sports people revel in the competition and focus on achieving the goal and prize. Balance the use of short term and long term competitions and reward schemes to maintain optimum performance.
This is particularly relevant as we consider how to end the year well, and ensure a fast start to 2016. All too often, important sales time is lost in January through a sluggish start to the new year. Consider how a tactical competition in January could accelerate the pace.
9. Coach to succeed
The last area to reflect on is how your management style will need to change in order to support your team. Some individuals will need coaching to rebuild their confidence others will want specific support to work around blockages in the sales pipeline. Don’t let fear of failure set into the way your team performs. Show them you are there to support them and help them succeed.
Just as is the case in sport, when a team succeeds or fails it is never about the individuals but about the way they are managed. Recognise the achievements, reward progress and you will soon get back to your winning ways.