Better by Choice – Not by Accident

When it comes to accelerating sales and motivating people to deliver peak performance, nobody gets better on their own.

Success—the measurable and lasting kind—only happens when you make deliberate choices about structuring your teams, communicating expectations and holding them accountable for their work and their results.

I tell you this because it remains an incredibly frustrating fact that many organizations today simply don’t do this. Instead, they adopt an avoidance mindset: they don’t do the hard—and highly rewarding—work that’s inherent in making detailed choices about who they are, where they are going and how they are going to get there.

As a result, any amount of success they have only happens by accident or sheer luck. Without a plan with measurable goals, without having a complete chart of the bench strength on your team and without having a clear understanding of roles and expectations, luck runs out.

You, your team and your business deserve better than that. Here are six ways that you can make your sales team work better by choice.

1. Adopt a single-task mindset for every member of your team

I work with high-performing businesses of all sizes. One thing they all have in common is a clear delineation of roles on both the sales and management side of the team roster. Each side knows that fundamentally they have a single task they’re expected to deliver on. When that task is different for sales versus management, things work well. When there’s a confusing amount of cross-over, things don’t work well.

Let sellers sell. That’s what they’re trained to do. They’re skilled at finding new leads, mining prospects, converting them into customers, and turning a single sale into a business relationship. In other words, they land the paying customers and make it profitable to do what you do.

The same rings true for managers. Let management manage. Their strengths include quality assurance, comptrollership, coaching, defining standards for great customer service, and defining the values by which everyone governs themselves in the organization. In other words, they create the winning conditions for everyone to do great work. To use an ice hockey analogy, coaches don’t put their stick on the ice or take shots on net, just as goalies don’t decide which players gets picked for the face-off.   

2. Get the ratio right

Sellers should always outnumber your managers. On the most successful sales teams I see in the marketplace today, that ratio is 10:1 for sellers versus managers.

This creates breathing room on both sides. Sellers don’t feel over managed or overworked with management-related tasks that shouldn’t be within their wheelhouse in the first place. And managers at that ratio can begin to make full use of their abundance of talent—that team depth chart—from which they can choose specific sellers to achieve specific goals. Even if your organization is very small and you only have one seller, someone needs to manage them full time.

3. Avoid conflicting roles

The individual(s) you choose to manage your sellers can almost always have other responsibilities or roles. For example, they could also look after customer service or marketing. There’s just one big exception. What that manager cannot be is another seller competing with your field sales person. Competition between sellers and managers creates dysfunction and slows growth. I’ve seen this mistake happen. And in my experience, 100 percent of the time, that dysfunction happens because the manager works as an individual contributor rather than as a leader of a team, holding performers to the highest level that they are capable of.  

4. Personal goals are better than company-wide ones

Don’t settle for having one sales goal for your entire sales team. People excel best when their goals are personal, designed to meet what they’re capable of achieving and even exceeding. Your top seller could have a sales target that’s $1 million higher than others. There’s nothing wrong with that, provided it’s achievable. What this approach also does is give managers the opportunity to work directly with each seller—just like a coach works with each player on a sports team—and helps to give them the tools they need to meet their goals.

5. Smaller pieces, better results

Big goals are achieved more consistently when you make the choice to break it down into smaller pieces. Not only does this help motivate people by giving them the opportunity to enjoy the habit forming pattern of achieving small wins, it also gives managers the opportunity to identify trouble spots early on and do some quick course correction where needed.

Here’s an example: with my own clients, I recommend that managers check-in with sellers on their sales call activities on a weekly basis rather than monthly. When someone falls behind by 10% on their weekly calls, that’s much easier to recover from than one who falls behind for an entire month.

One client I work with in the commodities sector couldn’t figure out why his team kept missing their quotas. I asked: “Well, what are your weekly sales goals for each team member?”
“We don’t have any weekly goals,” he said.
I paused. And then he said: “I guess I just figured out the problem, right?”

6. Choose compensation that rewards behavior and solidifies teamwork

A client of mine in the security services sector learned this lesson the hard way. Their compensation system was structured such that sales targets were consistently unattainable. So no one earned a bonus. Meanwhile, managers were given lower quotas and regularly enjoyed big bonuses. Understandably the salespeople were disgruntled. Changes were needed.

Therefore, create a compensation plan that rewards the kinds of behaviors you want to reinforce and the goal achievement you want to see repeated. Make it easy for sellers to understand the specific behaviors you’re looking to reward. Provide monthly updates that show how well they are performing to meet those rewards. Align compensation for your managers with that of your sales team so that they’re working together to get that reward.

In any organization, achieving peak performance and accelerated sales only happens if you want it to happen. Success starts by making these deliberate choices for yourself, for your team and for your future!