Selling Microsoft

Nice Guys Can Finish First

The temptation to strike fear into the hearts of your salespeople can become overpowering at this time of the year, but there are better ways to get results.

Alec Baldwin's character, Blake, from the 1992 movie "Glengarry Glen Ross" isn't the sales manager most of us would like to work for or want to be.

But with the fourth quarter of a brutal recession year bearing down, the temptation to strike fear into the hearts of your salespeople can become overpowering. In my experience, however, when it comes time to re-wire a sales team for the balance of the year and prepare them for the next 12 months, there are better ways than creating the poisonously competitive atmosphere fomented by Blake's "motivational" speech. Here are a few positive pointers:

1. As a manager you need to show how much you care.
I once had a sales manager sit down with me to discuss what I wanted to get out of the job in the next two to three years. It was very helpful, and I felt that he cared about me as a person, not just an employee. Understand the person, and, as a manager, you can align that person's motivations to your company goals.

Long term, the most important motivations are always self-generated. When you help someone learn to be more successful at sales, they'll be more motivated. Success and motivation are a psychological feedback system.

Nothing can motivate a salesperson more than knowing their manager has their back and is interested in their feedback on important issues like goals, incentives and understanding how the company is working.

2. Sales motivation is closely related to sales confidence.
In challenging times, leaders focus on building the self-confidence of their representatives. Many salespeople aren't used to not selling, so they begin to question themselves.

Sales management can increase stress levels, especially when layoffs occur, and increased levels of stress impair a salesperson's ability to create trust and confidence with a prospective client. Sales leadership must provide increased levels of training, role-playing and in-the-field coaching -- all with a positive approach and honest praise.

3. Fun is still an important motivator even when the business situation is serious.
Any series of contests must be carefully laid out. The best annual sales achievement contests involve an incentive trip. This isn't an expense but is paid in incremental sales dollars. I'd always have a quarterly sales game in place to drive activity, sales or other corporate objectives. The key is for everyone to have the opportunity to win and to keep things fun.

4. Public recognition is another great practice for motivating your sales staff.
Giving recognition to salespeople in front of their peers -- and management -- is a huge motivator. Your monthly company meeting can be used to recognize all orders, top-producing salespeople and other special wins. Find something so that you can praise everyone. You might also mail a letter to the home of the salesperson congratulating them on their performance.

5. Team incentives are another option.
If everyone on the team hits 100 percent of your goal, everyone wins. This is effective if you like peer pressure and ascribe to self-managing teams. In tough times you want everyone working together to achieve your goals. A team that works together develops dependence and camaraderie.

Motivation is critical these days. Investing in your people is important, and making sure you're personally charged will make the difference. When you make a positive impact on a team member's life, both your personal and professional life will be enhanced and you'll reach even higher levels of achievement.

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at ken@acumenmgmt.com.

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