You’re not sure when exactly it happened, but at some point, your team of enthusiastic, self-motivated salespeople turned into a group of dead-eyed, lumbering sales zombies. The signs are obvious. They move slower, almost as if they’re just going through the motions. They look at potential deals through pessimistic lens. They spend more time scanning Facebook and Twitter than they do sending emails or making calls.
Perhaps no job demands enthusiasm more than a sales position. There are plenty of jobs in any business where you can fake it. Sales isn’t one of them. A salesperson who isn’t driven to succeed will fail to generate a high level of activity, which will lead to a dearth of qualified prospects. When they do get in front of prospects, their lack of energy could sour the entire interaction.
If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, a lack of enthusiasm could turn into active disengagement. Then you have a real problem on your hands, because disengagement is usually a precursor to turnover.
What do you do? If it’s just one or two team members, you can focus on them on an individual basis. When it’s the entire team, though, that’s a sign that you have an organizational problem. There is some common issue that is making their job more difficult or is limiting their ability to meet their goals.
Here are few action steps you may want to try to bring your sales zombies back to the side of the living:
Listen to them.
You can’t fix anything until you know what the core issue is. This isn’t the time to lecture them about activity, make them work late, or put them on some kind of probationary or watch status. Those are short-sighted strategies that usually only make the problem worse and accelerate an employee’s disengagement.
Instead, listen to them. Either individually or as a group, have a two-way conversation where you do more listening than talking. You may learn a lot about your company and your sales process.
Maybe your product has a fundamental problem that makes it difficult to sell in the current market. Perhaps the compensation structure does not sufficiently reward your best performers. Maybe your sales territories are set up in a way that is burdensome and the travel is negatively impacting your team members’ personal lives. Maybe the definition of the role of the inside sales team and customer service isn’t clearly defined and the sales team is caught in the crossfire by their customers.
It could be anything, really. The point is that you can’t identify the problem unless you listen to your sales people. Schedule one or several listening sessions so you can figure out what’s going on, how they’re being impacted, and what they need..
Narrow their scope.
Salespeople enjoy selling. They like talking to prospects, making presentations, and closing the deal. In my 30 years of coaching and training salespeople, I’ve found that anything that gets in the way of selling is usually viewed as a burden or inconvenience. Some call it ‘sales prevention’ processes or policies.
Management, however, often finds ways to distract salespeople with non-selling activities. You want them to follow strict guidelines with inputting information into the CRM. You have a cumbersome process for reporting expenses. You have a process in place that requires them to pull double duty on customer service and sales.
I see these things all the time. Organizations assume that one little administrative task isn’t a big deal. However, after you layer one task after another, your salespeople are soon spending more time working on reports than talking to prospects.
Take a look at their responsibilities and look for opportunities to narrow their focus. What can you take off their plate? How can you get them back to what they do best – prospecting and selling?
Loosen the reigns.
Most sales organizations want their salespeople to follow a consistent process. That process is usually rooted in the buyer’s journey and the company’s marketing messaging, so it makes sense to look for consistency from your sales team.
Many salespeople, though, enjoy being creative and looking for new ways to engage and communicate with prospects. They want to be innovative and mentally stimulated. If they’re working off a series of scripts and templates created by the marketing department, they’re not going to get the level of satisfaction they want from the role.
You should have a sales process in place, but it shouldn’t be so micromanaged and fine-tuned that it puts words in the mouths of your salespeople. Give them room to be themselves and be creative. Let them problem solve on their own and try out new approaches. If they’re unhappy, it may be that you’re not allowing them to do what they do best.
Look at yourself.
Every parent knows that children often pattern their attitude and behavior off of the parent. If your child is constantly screaming and losing their temper, it’s often because that’s what they see from mom or dad. If you want to change their attitude, the fastest way to do so is to change your own.
Sales management is no different. Granted, your team members aren’t your children. However, they do look to you for direction. If you shuffle into the office everyday with slumped shoulders and a lifeless stare, why should you expect them to bounce to their desks with enthusiasm?
If you want more energy out of your team, raise your own energy level. Make random check-in calls to your outside salespeople to pump them up. Walk around your inside sales floor and dole out some motivation. Possibly implement random challenges and contests to raise the energy level.
You are the team leader. That means everyone is looking at you at all times. You need to convey the kind of energy and enthusiasm you want to see from your team. Model the behavior you want to see and you’ll begin to see a change in their behavior.
I know, I know. The dreaded sales meeting/workshop/team-building exercise is never a highlight for anyone. That’s because there are so many bad ones out there. We’ve all been to the group meeting that seems to suck the life out of everyone in the room.
However, when you hold the right type of event, a group meeting can provide a powerful boost of energy and enthusiasm. Great sales meetings and workshops are the ones where your team members walk out armed with new knowledge, skills, and confidence. It’s like an instant shot of positivity.
For example, in my Vortexology workshops, we take a hands-on, interactive approach to tackling your team’s biggest problems. Whether it’s developing new strategy, tackling a stubborn obstacle, or working on tactical skills like prospecting, we actually get things accomplished and make your team more effective and enthusiastic. We connect and involve them in the process.
If you want to improve your team’s energy, invest in them. Give them some training to help them stretch their strengths and improve their areas of weakness. Help them be more confident in their prospecting, closing, presenting, or other skills. A group workshop could be just what they need to get their enthusiasm back and come together as a team.
I consult with and implement workshops for dozens of sales organizations of all sizes and in all industries. Often times, having someone on the outside look at what’s happening on the inside gives you a different perspective that is the key that unlocks the potential of your team. It has happened time and time again. Sometimes it’s the small stuff that makes the big difference.
If your sales team is facing a structural issue, an enthusiasm gap, or simply a complex challenge that is tough to solve, let’s discuss it. I’ll analyze your challenges and resources, and then develop an action plan to help you reach your objectives.
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