Hire the Right People
There is an old adage – “Hire slow but fire fast”. Consider this when selecting your candidate. Too many managers make the mistake of hiring too quickly, or for the wrong reasons, and end up regretting it when the cycle quickly repeats itself. Use a proven interview tool which asks probing, behavior-based questions. Consider using a skills/behavior assessment tool to find the right match against a predetermined benchmark. Skills can be trained or honed, but instincts and character cannot. You either have it or you don’t. Avoid trying to put a round peg in a square hole.
Training is the Path to Success
Train thoroughly and demand active participation and commitment from your team member. Use a training tool which doubles as an accountability checklist. Revisit this tool often and carve out time during each ride along or visit to ensure that training is on track.
Coach Your Team
Coach every chance you get! Coaching moments exist everywhere. Face to face coaching is clearly the most effective and timely, but coaching can also be done over the phone and even in email. Never let a coaching opportunity pass you by.
Challenge and Grow
A sales staff is usually comprised of people at all different places in the learning curve. Keep everyone engaged at his or her own place or risk losing a newbie because he does not understand, or boring a more tenured person. Keep them focused and challenged in order to keep them growing.
Set standards and demand that they be met. People will perform to the level of expectations set. If you will accept mediocre performance, that is what you are going to get. At the same time, remember that sometimes “Good really is good enough”. Pick your battles, and keep the most important things the most important things.
Set targets and goals regularly. Reaching small goals usually brings big results. Set weekly performance goals. Hold monthly challenges. Inspire competition.
Celebrate and Praise
Praise publicly and celebrate with your team, both individually as well as in group. Hand-written Thank Yous and notes of congratulations or encouragement go a long way. Make time to publicly celebrate victories (top performers, challenge winners, exceptional sales calls, etc.) Small tokens such as ribbons or medals may seem silly, but most sales people will treasure them. Keep in mind that salespeople are often motivated by recognition. Don’t underestimate a “High Five” in the parking lot after a successful sales call! The opposite side to this coin, discipline or course correction, should be handled privately in a swift manner with an eye on improvement. Get the salesperson’s buy- in by giving them input. Course correction should be handled firmly, but kindly. Remember that in most cases, discipline or course correction is about a behavior and not about the person.
Know your Team
Ask your team members what motivates them. You may be surprised. Take the time to develop teamwork when possible by encouraging your staff to get to know each other as well. Remember special occasions such as birthdays. People like to feel important.
Be truly present when you are with a salesperson. Try not to allow distractions and minimize phone calls and other work. Understand that this may be a routine day for you, but guaranteed, your salesperson probably does not feel that way. Whether they welcome your visit or ride-along or not, your presence is important. Make the most of your time, whether it is on a sales call or another coaching moment. Encourage your team to keep an ongoing list or folder with current questions or support needs.
Be Accessible and Approachable
Admit that you are not perfect and that if you are any good, you are still learning too. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. Encourage your team to take risks and step outside of their comfort zones by modeling. And, keep in mind that there is no I in Team. Make sure your team knows that you are on their side and that you are in it together.