If you have ever managed employees, or more specifically sales professionals, you know how delicate the balance between pushing and pulling for better performance can be. I remember when I was just starting out as a business owner. I thought that everyone I hired should be able to perform at my level. This, of course, was catastrophic when it came to my demeanor when managing my sales team; as a manager I was certainly much more of a stick man than a carrot. So how do you find that balance and what seems to work the best?
Let’s take a few realities of the typical sales professional into consideration. They tend to be hungry for recognition, are used to winning, are frequently gregarious, are horrible with paperwork, and are often less detail oriented than other folks. These general traits create havoc when trying to manage a group of individuals that don’t necessarily respond to the exact same motivation techniques. Some feed on the competition and beating out their neighbor in the next cube, while some only focus on their own wallet and could care less about what the person sitting next to them is doing.
In the past I managed each individual exactly the same and did not take into account their personal motivating factors. More recently, I’ve realized that to achieve the best results, each team member needs to be managed according to what best motivates their performance. For example, I have a very good salesperson that works for my team and it took me quite a bit of time to break through his veneer to determine what mattered most to him. It turns out that it is his family’s overall happiness and providing for them. So instead of treating him like part of the herd, I take the time to ask about his family, and now when I meet him, I use the proper analogies to motivate him effectively. Once you determine what someone’s motivating factors are, you can communicate with them more effectively to get better performance.
Here are a few tips to help you strike a balance and achieve better performance from your sales staff:
1. Determine their motivating factors. You can have a system in place and manage staff within that system. But that does not mean you should ignore their individuality. You can use assessment tools or your own intuition to determine someone’s true motivation to help keep them focused on achieving their personal sales goals.
2. Rules are meant to be bent. Now, this isn’t true of every rule. Your sales goals are your goals. What I mean is that you need to take into account a complete overview of a staff member and their performance when doling out a reprimand or even a compliment. If you have a professional that pulls in 60 percent of your business and they are not following some paperwork guidelines, get them the help they need to do it. Remember, you are in business to make money—not to be fair to everyone. Top performers do get special treatment. If others want that special treatment, it will encourage them to work harder and perform better.
3. Praise more. Give people credit for the little things they do during the day, so when you bring the hammer down it really strikes a chord and it properly motivates them to corrective their behavior. Having a tendency to be consistently negative will not only make your staff immune to true criticism but will also drag performance down. Kill them with kindness, but be prepared to use forceful language and tone to make your point when necessary. And keep in mind—always be professional.
Small business expert Rob Basso is the founder of BassoOnBusiness.com, a web-based community dedicated to inspiring the entrepreneurial spirit and getting American businesses back on their feet. He is the president and owner of Advantage Payroll Services, the region’s largest independently owned payroll provider, and the author of The Everyday Entrepreneur. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to purchase your copy of The Everyday Entrepreneur today!
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