Since this is a relatively new issue, most sales managers have not been trained how to help their team regain their focus to drive productivity (a.k.a. sales). Industry experts have weighed in on this issue. If they were talking to a sales manager about how to focus their sales team and drive productivity, they suggest…
"In tough times, sellers must be at the top of their game. As a sales manager, your job is to infuse your team with fresh thinking - to make sure they have the knowledge and skills to deal with today's challenges. Start a "book of the month" club. Register for webinars or teleseminars put on by sales experts. Encourage sign up for sales e-newsletters. Lead weekly "how we won" sessions. For maximum impact, start now!"
— Jill Konrath, Sales Strategist … author, "Selling to Big Companies"
"Sales managers must help salespeople to maintain clarity, calm their nerves, help them function, keep them positive, get them motivated, challenge them to perform, urge them to fill their pipelines and hold them accountable to all of that. And talking the talk isn’t quite enough. When conducting pre-call strategizing, coaching must include how the account or call plan will be executed—with role play—so that sales managers are certain their salespeople truly have the ability to get it done. Your pipelines may have been thrown into a holding pattern. Orders haven't canceled or been lost to competitors; they are simply delayed. The sooner that everyone gets over their initial reaction to the recession and gets back to just doing business, the sooner that money will loosen up and start changing hands again."
— Dave Kurlan, Sales Development Expert, and author of "Baseline Selling"
"To get the malaise out of your sales team give them permission to press the "off button" and shut out the negative media. Protect sellers' natural optimism—have contests for the best joke of the day, buy coffee for the winner. Equip them with the winning words—role-play the very words decision-makers long/need/want to hear: which are how your product increases revenues; decreases expenses; mitigates risk."
— Leslie Buterin, founder ColdCallingNetNews.com
"We read and hear the doom and gloom every day about this economy. Well, I believe we need to start managing our attitudes and mindsets, as well as our sales efforts. It is time to look at all the challenges, issues and problems as OPPORTUNITIES wearing disguises. Strip off the disguises, identify the opportunity and deliver a solution. Be positive, persistent, proactive and patient in this time of change."
— J. Glenn Ebersole, "Your Strategic Thinking Business Coach"
"Here's my best piece of advice to those leading sales teams today: Do all you can to continually boost your staff’s confidence—confidence in themselves, confidence in their product, and confidence in the problems your product solves for your customers. Suggestions on how to do that: Remind them of successful case studies often. Feed them creative ways to confidently answer your top objections. Work with them one-on-one to develop their own individual style, so they sound and act naturally confident. Today's customers have NO margin for error in choosing their suppliers; do all you can to help your staff be the ones that others can trust to make them look good!"
— Bill Guertin, CEO, The 800-Pound Gorilla and author of "Reality Sells: How To Keep Customers Coming Back Again and Again by Marketing Your Genuine Story"
"Many sales teams are not only going through a big wake up call on the economic front, but are going through an earth moving generational shift…from Baby Boomers and Generation X running the show to men and women under the age of 30 making critical business decisions for our organizations. At the end of the day, they want to know "How are my ideas being incorporated and actually applied to our sales processes to make us better at what we do?"
— Bea Fields, Leadership and Generation Y Consultant and co-author of the book "Millennial Leaders: Success Stories From Today's Most Brilliant Generation Y Leaders"
"To create momentum, keep your sales team focused on what they need to do today, or this week, by implementing a 20 point system. On this system, they earn points for doing the right types of sales activities: conversations, appointments booked, face-to-face meetings, referrals, closed files and closed business. The focus on the right kind of activities with targeted prospects will result in creating the desired energy."
— Danita Bye, President of Sales Growth Specialists
"Sales managers should hold a meeting with their sales teams with a focus on creating two lists: one containing the things the salespeople CAN'T control, and one containing the things they CAN control. Managers should then encourage their salespeople to focus 100% of their attention on the things they CAN control. Nothing blows away feelings of helplessness like having an action plan and TAKING DAILY ACTION against that plan."
— Alan Rigg, Sales Performance Expert, and author of "How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Sales Team Performance"
"Downturn leadership requires laser-like focus. Focus to reinforce customer service, existing customer relationships, and presence in the marketplaces. This results in improved perception of market position and stronger, more profitable customer relationships (again, what every sales leader wants more of). Focus on the "vital few"—the 20% of customers, product lines, industries that has the greatest impact. Do not only rely on your instincts to identify your vital few—use data to determine the truth about your sales and customers."
— Lee J. Colan, Ph.D., author of "Sticking to It: The Art of Adherence"
"During this time of stress, management needs to attend to the emotional needs of their sales professionals. Part of that attention is to help them understand what they can change and what is beyond their abilities to change. For example they can change their attitude in how they approach each day, keeping a positive focus and working to produce results. What they can't change is how the market will fluctuate on an hour by hour basis."
— Gregory Stebbins, Ed.D., internationally recognized Sales Psychologist
"Sales managers need to roll up their sleeves and join the team. The worst thing to do in this situation is to add pressure from above with no active participation in the solution. The sales teams I’ve coached tell me that because I'm in the trenches with them, they are more motivated—even in tough times. Your sales team needs to know you are in it with them. Together you will conquer!"
— Shannon Kavanaugh, president of Go-To-Market Strategies
"There has never been a more critical time for sales leaders to work overtime to ensure that their teams remain focused and fully motivated: Attitude is, after all, that small thing that makes such a big difference. Strong leadership from the front, and by example, is the only way to reverse the downward spiral that comes with self-limiting beliefs and fears."
— Jonathan Farrington, Chairman of The Sales Corporation
"In order to re-energize your team you need to help them become more successful. The fastest way you can do that is by establishing a killer sales strategy that focuses on a moderate amount of ideal clients. An effective strategy positions you as the industry expert, educates the client/prospect on how to run their business better, sets the buying criteria and establishes doing business with you as a forgone conclusion. Your sales people will be fired up because they are closing lots of business, making good money and loving life!"
— Andy Miller, sales strategist
"Although the current economic situation presents problems for you and your sales team, it also presents unprecedented opportunities. There are still prospects buying and customers purchasing additional products and services, and your competitors are facing the same daunting and depressing news. Salespeople who overcome their lethargy and seek new business can turn this economic downturn into a record-breaking year. Empathize with their issues, but emphasize the tremendous opportunities your team has while their competition is sitting on the sidelines."
— Paul McCord, management consultant and author of the "Sales and Sales Management Blog"
"The key to making the sale in this economy is to help your team stay focused on solving real customer problems and enabling them to add immediate value to their business. We have been in this economic situation before and we will be here again—the strong will survive and 20% of sales people will exceed their quota in spite of the economy. Our job as sales managers is to not let the economy become the excuse for non performance and lack of productivity."
— Julie Thomas, President and CEO of Value Selling Associates and author of "ValueSelling: Driving up Sales One Conversation at a Time"
"The sales manager needs to communicate the company’s vision, mission, values, goals, and expectations to the sales team weekly and then reward their accountability. The senior management team must define and communicate the criteria for a profitable customer and all sales efforts need to be focused on securing and managing those accounts. The sales professionals, who learn how to thrive in this economy, will develop skills and talents that will guide them to long-term success."
— Janet Boulter, Profitability Consultant, Center Consulting Group
"Salespeople will be excited to come to work when they adopt a referral-selling strategy. They'll meet with decision makers, shorten their sales process, and convert prospects to clients more than 50% of the time—while acing out the competition and landing new, profitable clients. They'll meet only with the people they want to meet and who want to meet them. What an irresistible proposition! Money in their pockets. What a great motivator!"
— Joanne Black, founder of No More Cold Calling and author of "No More Cold Calling™: the Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust"
"The issue has become one of finding and sustaining mental energy. Not just the energy you and your team need to achieve sales. Even more important is your ability to sustain the enthusiasm, calm and inspiration needed to get your team through these torrid times. Instead of work life balance, it's about getting the right flow of personal energy input and business energy output. Having an enjoyable personal interest that enables you to switch off is a good start."
Peter Nicholls, Director, Work Leisure International
"My recommendation is simple. Identify specifically two things that your sales professionals have done well to adjust to the new marketplace. Once you determine them, discuss two to three areas that you both agree are in need of development. Reach out to all your sales professionals and repeat this process. Compile the responses and put together a measurable action plan for your team. And don't forget to follow through."
— Charles Brennan Jr., President of Brennan Sales Institute and author of "Sales Questions That Close the Sale"
"Employ equal doses of inspiration, motivation, and oversight to simultaneously raise morale and maintain production levels. Use anecdotes from well-known figures in history who've met and overcome challenges. Set specific short-term goals, and monitor progress against them. Project an air of optimism, and lead by example. Direct the team to focus with laser-like discipline on only those opportunities that have real legs. Provide oversight to ensure they are maintaining that focus."
— Craig James, sales consultant and trainer, president of Sales Solutions
Click here to discover why your reps are unfocused, and to read more expert advice in Lee B. Salz's "Sales Architects" column at SalesandMarketingManagement.com.
Lee B. Salz is a sales management guru who helps companies hire the right sales people, on-board them, and focus their sales activity using his sales architecture® methodology. He is the President of Sales Architects, the C.E.O. of Business Expert Webinars and author of the award-winning book, "Soar Despite Your Dodo Sales Manager." Lee is an online columnist for Sales and Marketing Management Magazineand the host of the Internet radio show, "Secrets of Business Gurus." Look for Lee's new book in February 2009 titled, "The Sales Marriage" where he shares the secrets to hiring the right sales people. He is a passionate, dynamic speaker and a business consultant. Lee can be reached at lsalz@SalesArchitecture.com or 763.416.4321.