If you are a director or sales manager, you’ll probably know that managing people and sales teams is not an easy task.
Your decisions determine the effectiveness and the motivation levels of your sales network, which is capable of guaranteeing the competitiveness and, sometimes, even the survival of your business.
If you don’t manage it properly, the objectives and the intangible value of your business will not be perceived by consumers, and the entire organisation will soon be in crisis.
Unfortunately, these two events are closely related to each other.
The theory, as always, is quite simple: a good Sales Manager can easily recruit the best talent and provide them with the tools they need to do their job. Then, he/she can measure their success according to the sales figures and the turnover.
But in practice, it is different.
A sales network is mainly made of people, so it is essential to understand how to inspire, motivate and help them in trying to achieve their goals.
If you just set your aims and simply wait for your sales team to reach them, the profitability of the entire organisation will surely decrease.
It is also very difficult to intervene when the expected objectives have not been met. In these situations, you have to understand what your sales team needs and, above all, what you have forgotten or neglected to do, in order to help them achieve the expected results.
For this reason, you will find below, the most effective strategies to manage your sales team and, in particular, to ensure that they are always highly motivated towards achieving corporate goals.
The importance of a sales network for companies
Increasing digitisation and the importance of the online world makes us wonder if, today, a sales network still has the same importance for a businesses. As a matter of fact, we can buy any product from our smartphones and have it delivered within an incredibly short time period compared to the past (the Amazon case is emblematic).
Moreover, managing a sales network involves certain fixed costs, which are higher than those occurred through supplying goods online or through other intermediaries.
The question is: why do sales teams and networks still exist?
Because relationships between people are unique, and the Internet cannot replace them (at least for the time being). The purchases we make on a daily basis are not always rational: sometimes we are just driven by emotions. It is certainly true that relationships with other people are what involve and stimulate us the most.
It is not only a matter of the human factor, there are also important implications from a business point of view.
While the Internet has made it easier to reach any company, it has paradoxically increased the distance between businesses and consumers from a relational point of view.
Sales teams are those who know the organisation’s final consumers in a deeper and more detailed way. Their knowledge is often decisive for:
- Making strategic decisions.
- Innovating and developing the corporate offer
- Implementing Customer Care activities.
- Developing an effective online strategy.
- Improving the corporate value proposition.
If companies know and understand who are their ideal clients, it will exponentially increase their chances of acquiring them. If companies don’t know them, they will not provide customers with any valid reasons to be interested in their business.
If the corporate value proposition is boring, dull or impersonal, all potential customers will take a similar attitude towards the corporate offer.
The presence of a sales force has strong consequences for the efforts made by the Marketing Department, both offline and online. In fact, while excellent marketing staff can define realistic buyers, only sellers know exactly who the real customers of the organisation are.
They are fully aware of all their questions and concerns, their decision-making processes, expectations and much more.
Without the help of the sales force, the Marketing team often fails to identify and target ideal customers in sufficient detail, nor do they manage to involve and stimulate them effectively.
Do you find this hard to believe? Let’s look at the data: this is what has been reported by the State Of Inbound 2018 created by Hubspot.
Sales teams may be able to obtain more qualified leads and customers than those obtained by the Marketing Department. That’s why using the know-how of sales teams and their ability to understand the customer will surely enhance all marketing activities.
Furthermore, sales employees are the only corporate players that follow the customers through every stage of the purchasing process, so the information they get about the ideal customer is very relevant.
Following the customer throughout the purchasing process also means that the sales teams have the opportunity to solve emerging problems, making the buying experience more engaging and stimulating than online.
This is important because satisfied customers tell on average nine people how enjoyable their shopping experience was. On the other hand, the dissatisfied ones tell on average 22 people how unhappy they have been.
The main methods of organising a sales network
No sales team or network processes can be effective if they are not defined and planned on a specific and organised model. There are currently two main methods of organising a sales network.
- The island sales network model.
- The sequential sales network model.
The island sales network model
This is the historical model based on the division of responsibilities among various sales managers who manage different sales teams.
Tasks can be organised according to the types of products (for example, corporate brands), locations etc.
You don’t need a source.
Every sales manager is fully responsible for every step of the sales process, from the generation of leads to sales closures.
The advantage of this model is certainly simplicity and the fact that it encourages the responsibility and autonomy of sales managers.
The disadvantage is the greater difficulty in controlling and measuring the performance of each island, as well as the potential increase in fixed costs because the island model often involves the use of similar or equal professional figures (for example sales managers).
The sequential sales network model
This sales network model cannot be applied in all sectors (for example, retail). It can be represented as an assembly line. The sales process is divided into different phases which are coordinated by a manager and his team.
It is generally organised as follows:
- Lead generation team
- Sales Development Representatives (DSP)
- Account executives (AE)
- Customer care team
The first and the second group contact and qualify the leads. The third team closes the sales. Finally, the Customer Care team is in charge of increasing the customer’s lifetime value (CLV).
The difference with the previous model is that Sales Managers are not responsible for the entire sales process, but only for a single phase.
Although the second model requires greater coordination among all the sales teams, it reduces the complexity of the sales cycle, it increases efficiency and makes it easier to scale up a sales network.
Find and hire the best talent
In order to stimulate and motivate a sales force, it is essential to make sure you have good workers at your disposal, otherwise, despite your efforts, you will not see any improvement.
While building your sales team, don’t worry about the corporate culture too much. It’s better to focus on the background and the personal characteristics of the people you deal with.
According to CPSA, over 55% of salespeople or managers within a sales team are performing a role which is not suitable for their personality. In these cases, incentives and efforts to increase their motivation could be unproductive.
But what are the key qualities of a great seller? According to CPSA, they can be summarised in these five points.
Empathy is the ability to identify with customers, to experience what they feel and to make them feel respected and understood. Be careful: empathy is NOT just about being nice, but it implies a real sense of loyalty to another individual. It is not understanding other people’s concerns from an objective point of view, but of internalising them.
A salesman who shows empathy can quickly gain the trust and establish a relationship with customers, they will appear to be on their side, and not appear to be judging them. Empathy enables the seller to read customers’ minds, show concern and clearly demonstrate his/her interest in providing a suitable solution.
2. Focus: goal orientation
A focused person is internally driven to achieve goals and remains focused on doing so. Focused individuals demand more from themselves than from other people and are self-motivated. They are able to organise themselves and recognise what needs to be done to achieve the goals.
A seller will achieve the best results if this attitude is balanced with empathy. A salesman who is able to listen and identify with the customer, remaining focused on pre-established objectives at the same time, will be able to make customers think that the companies objectives are solutions for the customers themselves.
3. Sense of Responsibility
A person with a strong sense of responsibility does not blame other people when he/she is in a difficult situation. This type of salesperson tends to reach goals more easily and, above all, helps to identify the real causes and problems of possible failures. They represent a valuable source of information for Sales Managers when they need to take action to correct problematic situations.
A salesman with a good dose of optimism will never give up or feel down because of a few failures. These people have persistence, a characteristic that is fundamental for success in the world of sales, due to the frequency of negative experiences. When they experience a failure, some people just resign and feel disappointed because they think they have no power to change the situation.
Other people, however, are more resistant and don’t take a customer’s rejection personally; rather they see it as an opportunity. They always feel that the game is not yet over, and they can reverse the result. They believe they can improve things by using a different approach or by trying something new.
This term refers to people with a strong faith in their skills. This characteristic means persistence in achieving success and winning one’s own challenges. Sellers with this characteristics want to achieve their goals at all costs, in part for their own satisfaction. They have clear ideas about what they want to achieve.
At this point, it should be clear that selecting the right people while building your sales team is preparatory and essential before thinking of any incentives or motivational activities.
Provide continuous training and coaching for your sales team
If you have been lucky enough to acquire talented people in your sales team, you must make sure you don’t lose them. The best way to do this is by providing continuous training and coaching for your sales team.
According to Goplayday, 58% of employees that receive an onboard programme and subsequent structured training will still be working in the same organisation three years later.
Training is also important to ensure that your sales team knows exactly what they are selling and, above all, how to do it in compliance with the corporate value proposition.
The more your sales team knows the characteristics of the product, together with the tangible and intangible benefits it can bring to the consumer, the more they will be able to answer questions, solve problems and overcome barriers.
Recent technological innovations allow companies to organise business training through e-learning or micro-learning strategies. Salespeople will be able to access corporate training virtually anywhere and from any device connected to the Internet.
Learning through videos and small training modules is less heavy than having full days of intensive training. Rewards can be designed for employees who complete singular training steps autonomously.
Thanks to gamification, company training can even include typical gameplay mechanics to motivate your sales team.
According to the research carried out by LMS Solutions in 2018, 87% of the employees interviewed stated that they are more motivated to use software and company training initiatives which involve playful aspects or gamification strategies.
But why is it so important to make training for your sales force more accessible and involving?
By making the most of modern corporate e-learning applications and Enterprise Gamification strategies, your sales team will increasingly train independently.
Progress will be continuously rewarded with tangible and intangible awards, prizes and badges. Training itself can end up being a strong intrinsic motivation – creating a real thirst for knowledge.
People in your sales team will become eager to learn about their work and will become more enthusiastic about attending conferences, evening classes and other events because they will perceive them as an excellent opportunity for increasing their skills. They will feel fulfilled as people, rather than just employees.
Your role will be to make sure your team has everything they need to work successfully.
Some sellers often believe that their company barely provides the training and tools necessary to do their job. These can include software and CRM to organise sales or even applications for training initiatives.
A final piece of advice is to consistently ask your team if they think they have everything they need for achieving expected goals.
Set goals that can motivate and enhance your sales force
As said before, one of the most challenging areas for a Sales Manager is managing sales teams. It is difficult because making sure they do their job well is not enough. In fact, it is necessary to ensure that all activities are perfectly aligned and aimed towards improving the company’s performance.
This can be achieved through the provision of the correct definition of objectives for your sales team.
When defining and planning the objectives, it can be helpful to follow this process:
- Define what your company has to achieve over the short to medium term.
- Give priority to the activities you intend to carry out.
- Turn priority activities into clear business objectives.
- Create subsets of secondary objectives and assign them to your Sales Managers.
- Create an additional subset of your goals (as a sales manager), and give it to your sales team, keeping in mind their different roles and responsibilities.
- Define a model for monitoring and measuring the different sets of objectives.
- Define a reward programme for staff who meet their objectives.
This process may need effort, and can take time to be implemented, but it will make a difference in motivating your entire sales network. By having everyone move in the same direction, you will create a common purpose and increase their performance.
There is nothing worse for a sales team than feeling lost and without goals to achieve.
However, this process becomes ineffective if some decisive errors are made. Let’s have a look at the main ones.
Completely excluding the sales force from the definition of the objectives
Many Sales Managers tend to define goals with the company board and then simply communicate them to the sales force. The sales force may immediately understand that they will not be able reach some objectives in the way they have been drawn up.
This can have a large negative effect on the motivation of your sales team, everyone will know that, regardless of their actual commitment, and the expected results will not be achieved.
A good practice for sales and marketing managers is to involve part of the sales team in defining the objectives. This is important for two reasons:
- As claimed by Bhavin Parikh, CEO of Fast Company, people love to feel responsible and to have control over their personal and work projects. By defining the goals together, your sales force will feel that they have helped to create them, and they will not be perceived as an imposition from above.
- The sales force may highlight some problems and obstacles that may not have been considered by the board, but could actually prevent the achievement of the expected results. This bottom-up feedback mechanism helps to significantly improve the definition of the objectives, making it possible to redefine the priority areas for intervention. By involving the sales force, the company’s performance will improve.
- People in your sales team will be different from each other, therefore you need to motivate and involve them in different ways. Some sellers are motivated by being part of a team, others by personal success, and finally, others are encouraged by improving the quality of their own work. Involving different representatives from the sales force in the goal setting process will allow you to match the secondary goals to the right people within your sales team.
Focusing only on long-term goals
A very frequent mistake committed by many Sales Managers while defining the objectives is to focus on the long term, explaining only the expected result (for example increase half-year, in-store sales by 20%).
Having a clear long-term goal is essential for the top management, but it may not always be enough to keep your sales force motivated and involved.
Achieving long-term goals requires a continuous alignment of processes, activities and work methods that your team must follow day on day, but how can they do so if there are no secondary objectives that keep them on the right track?
In order to motivate your sales force, it is necessary to design short to medium term objectives called SPIF (Sales Performance Incentive Fund), which have the dual purpose of keeping your team motivated and, at the same time, focused on achieving long-term goals.
In general, these types of secondary objectives are classified into daily, weekly and monthly objectives.
Daily SPIF goals
The main purpose of these goals is to break the daily, often monotonous, routine of the sales team. These kinds of goals should be easily accessible and, above all, fun for your sales team. Clearly, the effort required for achieving them will not be high, and the rewards should be set accordingly.
Weekly SPIF goals
These objectives have tangible effects on the company’s business. In order to identify and measure them correctly, it is essential to establish a monitoring model a priori. In the retail sector, for example, a weekly SPIF objective could be the amount of positive feedback or reviews left by customers in the store or a number of sales of products on offer.
In the case of weekly SPIF objectives, your sales team must be fully aware of the model used to define and monitor the objectives, as well as the reward incentives. In this way, the transparency of the process and, the not excessive difficulty of achieving the objectives will motivate your sales team.
Monthly SPIF goals
They can be considered as excellent KPIs for assessing the achievement of long-term goals (for example quarterly or half yearly), so their strategic importance is high.
To make the entire system work, they must have a higher level of difficulty than the daily or weekly objectives. Given the strategic importance and the difficulty in achieving them, it is crucial to establish reward initiatives that are meaningful for your sales team and that the process is as transparent as possible.
Not adopting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals
Regardless of their type, objectives (both corporate and SPIF) should never be vague and generic, but specific. The SMART objectives model offers a framework for setting goals; they should be:
- Specific: they should be explicitly stated so that there are no doubts as to what has to be achieved.
- Measurable: the progress towards the achievement of goals must be open to monitoring, over a exact time period.
- Attainable: setting unreachable goals will automatically result in failure. This is why it is important that they are defined by employees and managers together.
- Realistic: the focus must always be on the expected results rather than the tools you use.
- Time Based: goals must include a date or a deadline for their completion.
Not only will SMART goals help you to avoid the construction of vague, irrelevant and generic goals, but they will also enable you to motivate your sales force.
You will always be able to know with certainty what has been done well and why. At the same time, if objectives are not achieved, it will be much easier to identify areas for improvement and, to share with your sales force a clear and transparent report, detailing what hasn’t worked and how to fix it.
Measure and reward behaviour in addition to results
KPIs linked to objectives and sales metrics are indispensable for any Sales Manager, as they provide objective and quantitative data that prove which strategies and objectives are truly capable of improving the company’s performance.
Often, the data originates from the activity of every component of the sales team; therefore they can help you understand who are the most talented sales staff, which products and services are being sold and in what way.
For example, many sales managers can easily determine which method of contact is the most effective for generating leads or for increasing the chances of closing a sale.
In these cases, sales managers tend to reward the sales team that achieve an expected result. But is it really enough?
Not always. If you want to effectively motivate a sales force it is not enough to reward the results: method and behaviour are even more important.
The reason for this is that the achievement of a specific result can also be influenced by external variables which are not directly attributable to the actions of your sales team.
Would it be right not to reward a sales team that has given the maximum effort?
To reward behaviour, it is necessary to set up accurate SPIF goals (daily and weekly) that allow you to monitor and assess the degree of achievement for each member of your sales team.
You could reward your team not only on the basis of the number of contracts closed or the number of sales, but also because they:
- Update your company CRM correctly and systematically.
- Perform an excellent Customer Care service.
- Actively participate in corporate training initiatives.
- Show proactivity in proposing solutions to daily problems.
- Follow a greater number of leads.
As you will understand, these are activities that do not directly lead to the achievement of long-term objectives, but they increase the possibility that they will be reached in the way which you have planned.
It is not even too expensive to reward these types of behaviour. In fact, in these cases, prizes and monetary rewards are not always the best solution.
In the US and Northern European countries, employers, through the expenses of the Sales Team Manager, often buy their employees lunch or dinner, or services like car washing, golf matches and much more.
It is interesting to observe how rewards linked to behaviour and daily objectives may appear to have little value. Actually, they are extremely important within the team.
Let’s look at an “extreme” example.
Don Bulens said that, when he used to work at Lotus, the most coveted award of the staff was a plastic doll nicknamed Tiny Little Baby. The doll was placed every month on the desk of the best sales manager.
Clearly the doll had no intrinsic value, but it was a highly effective way of recognising people’s results and making them visible. Everyone was more result-oriented (placing the doll on his desk) than simply focused on getting it.
If you prefer to offer team-level rewards, you can offer your employees fun team activities such as bowling, hiking, team games or even games of skill like an Escape Room.
In addition to strengthening team building, these activities increase the motivation of your sales force and limits the chances of losing your best talent.
In short, the goal is to find the right rewards for the different types of results you wish to attain, rewards which will satisfy your team for the additional effort they have made.
People who are not motivated are not likely to become very talented if they are offered only monetary rewards.
How to motivate your sales team through Enterprise Gamification
Admit it, when you hear the word Gamification you think the only goal is to transform work into a fun game for your sales team.
Actually, it is very different from that. Work will never be a game and you have to make a distinction between Enterprise Gamification and the addition of fun elements within a work contexts.
On the one hand, playful and entertaining elements can be added to work activities, such as organising competitions not linked to sales targets or simple personal challenges. This can improve the work environment and strengthen team building, but these cases are not related to Enterprise Gamification.
When you apply Enterprise Gamification to the sales force, you integrate the typical game mechanics in non-play business scenarios (lead management or sales closure, for example, have nothing to do with a corporate football match).
It is human behaviour and our reactions when we are stimulated and encouraged which are the most important concepts of Enterprise Gamification. As a matter of fact, games excite us because they make us feel capable of accomplishing something important, resulting from our own abilities (for example, think of adventure video games where we have to make our virtual avatar grow).
Psychologists argue that any person who feels fulfilled has an unconscious and positive influence on their environment; therefore your sales team may be happier while doing their job. On a practical level, this can result in greater responsibility and increased productivity, helping in the achievement corporate goals.
Enterprise Gamification also has another important impact on businesses which is often underestimated.
Enterprise Gamification strategies can help you create an ideal business ecosystem for defining business objectives and -above all- SPIFs, to monitor behaviour and to recognise and celebrate the most talented people.
In addition, you can monitor success stories in a spontaneous and natural way because the game participants themselves will make their results visible (do you remember the example of the doll?). All Sales Manager would like to have the ability to continuously monitor their team without appearing too pressing.
Performance can easily be monitored by adding game mechanisms such as points, badges and rankings. This transparent system can also be accessed by employees, who will feel stimulated to demonstrate their value to themselves and for the others.
Enterprise Gamification revolutionises the entire sales process, in such a way that your team will want to achieve business goals not only to earn prizes and rewards, but also as a means of fulfilling themselves.
By applying Enterprise Gamification to manage your sales force, you can:
- Identify cases of efficiency or inefficiency within your sales team.
- Discover the weaknesses of your sales team.
- Identify bottlenecks in your sales process.
- Intervene promptly to resolve problems and critical issues.
It is also important to note that Enterprise Gamification solutions or strategies should be integrated into your CRM system, where most of the information related to your sales process and the actions carried out by your team are stored.
Proper implementation of Enterprise Gamification strategies can motivate your sales force through:
Given their nature, sales managers are highly competitive and Enterprise Gamification can help you to stimulate and control their ambitions.
When prizes are awarded according to a transparent shared model and are visible to all, they stimulate your sales team to increase productivity and to succeed in every activity, opportunity or project. Furthermore, this sense of growth and shared recognition facilitates the process of self-development and possibilities for improvement.
A close collaboration, even remotely
Working environments and traditional work processes are constantly updated, therefore more and more sales people now work remotely. They seem modern, advanced and more efficient solutions, but they can also deprive your sales team of the right collaborative spirit and alignment with the corporate culture.
Enterprise Gamification initiatives can also be focused on rewarding initiatives to foster collaboration and/or communication among different departments, where different teams are operating in different stages of the sales process, and this is especially important in the sequential sales model.
Sharing of tacit knowledge
Because of the perfect synergy between competitive and collaborative components, Enterprise Gamification spreads tacit and implicit knowledge among all the members of your sales team.
Being given a position in a well-regulated and well-defined rankin system can inspire managers and employees to objectively consider their strengths and weaknesses. This can naturally encourage them to seek advice from the best-performing team members.
Always an engaging workplace
Being part of a sales team is much more difficult than it seems at first sight. On the one hand, it is a career which is always challenging and can be very rewarding, with respect to financial and emotional factors.
On the other hand, bankruptcy can be much more discouraging and crippling than in other work contexts and for other professions. In these cases, Enterprise Gamification stimulates personal and professional fulfilment, and can thus make your sales team better prepared to face problems and disappointments, in a more way efficient. The motivation of a sales team is particularly evident in difficult situations.
Build respect and a trusting relationship with your sales team
Why does Enterprise Gamification succeed in motivating a sales team? Because it is based on a fundamental principle underpinning any human relationship: trust.
Enterprise Gamification creates a workplace where:
- Employees are increasingly confident in their skills and abilities.
- Everyone hopes that the efforts made in the workplace make them feel professionally and personally fulfilled.
- Employees trust the reward system of prizes and awards because they are transparent and shared.
- Employees trust the entire organisation because they share the same values.
Trust is at the basis of motivation.
You can apply the most elaborate and refined Enterprise Gamification strategy to your sales force, but if your team does not trust you and does not believe you have their interests at heart, it will be difficult for them to feel motivated and guided by your work.
When motivation is missing for this reason, the only thing you can try is to establish an open and honest conversation in order to understand the goals, challenges and problems of your sales force.
Sales Managers must create trust and then maintain it by engaging their team in a consistent and constant manner.
The best way to build trust is to be completely transparent, just like the system of incentives, prizes and rewards provided by Enterprise Gamification.
Even talking about trust with your sales team can be a great way to start.
Another effective strategy to create a relationship of trust with your sales force is to show sincere respect for the whole team.
Always admit when you make mistakes, even if the causes were beyond your control or you are sure you have done everything accurately, based on the available data, and in a strategically correct way.
We all want to show ourselves to be the perfect leader, but sometimes admitting that we were wrong makes us appear more human, and offers us concrete possibilities for improvement.
Analyse your mistakes, try to learn from them and share the lessons with your sales team. Admitting to your mistakes also helps you to deal more effectively with other people’s mistakes .
When you encounter new problems, be open to new ideas and suggestions from your sales team.
Anyone could have a feasible idea that could improve the situation or solve a problem, don’t be afraid to encourage your employees to share it.
Communication and trust are the key factors in motivating your sales force and Enterprise Gamification can provide you with all the necessary tools to pass them on to your sales team, and for ensuring that you are surrounded by people who want to work for you.