According to data gathered by SalesTalk, sales teams have a big problem. As few as 46 percent of inside sales reps are meeting their quotas, yet quotas are going up by an average of 7.5 per year – with no signs of stopping.
How exactly you define bottom sales performers in your organization will vary from company to company, but every team has them. Even if your company is bucking the trends described above with 100 percent quota achievement, there’s still at least one team member who isn’t performing at the same high level as their colleagues.
So how do you turn these ships around? Check out the strategies below, and apply the options that make the most sense, given the individual characteristics of your company and its salespeople.
Get to the Root of the Problem
This should be a no-brainer place to start, but you can’t fix an underperformance problem until you know what’s driving it. Does your team member lack the resources they need to be successful? Are they stuck calling on poor quality leads?
Maybe it’s not an internal thing at all. Is your employee facing challenges at home or elsewhere in their personal life?
As an example, “Four out of five employers report that their employees’ personal financial issues are impacting their job performance somewhat, very much or to an extreme degree,” per a report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). The results of financial stress (the kind you might expect when salespeople aren’t making quotas) include absenteeism, tardiness and a lack of focus.
Invest in Training
You may not be able to solve employees’ personal sources of stress. But if you discover that your bottom performers’ skills are at the root of their lackluster results, you’re in luck. As long as they’re motivated, there’s likely a training out there that’ll meet their specific needs.
There’s good reason to extend training benefits to all salespeople – not just underperformers. Salesforce’s “State of Sales” report found that “80% of high-performing sales teams rate their sales training process as outstanding or very good.”
Budget for organization-wide training, and your sales performance as a whole will benefit.
Break Down Your Silos
If you’ve ever worked in a strictly-siloed office, you know how frustrating it can be to feel disconnected from others in your organization. That goes double for salespeople, who need to be able to field questions from prospects and leads regarding the company’s future growth plans or objectives.
The solution is to improve communications across departments. In my personal experience managing teams of salespeople, I’ve found that growth can’t really take off until you have all the arms of a company – including sales, marketing, customer support and engineering – working together cohesively.
Inc.com contributor Brent Gleeson explains why cross-departmental collaboration has a positive impact on productivity (sales or otherwise):
“More meaningful relationship building outside of the silos people exist in will gradually dilute the strength of those barriers. This also improves trust and willingness to regularly share important information. Everyone is working towards a common goal and all understand their roles in moving the ship in that direction.”
Breaking down existing silos isn’t easy, and it won’t happen overnight. Start taking small steps to improve communications today. The cumulative impact over time will be worth it.
Experiment with Incentives
A lot has been written about using different quotas, commission structures and incentives to stimulate performance. Gamification via leaderboards is another big one lately, with proponents arguing that the increased visibility of sales reps’ real-time performance leads to healthy internal competition.
I’m not going to dismiss the importance of these strategies, but I’ve never seen them make much of a difference. Salespeople expect them, which is why they’re never going to be motivating enough to turn around a bottom performer.
Test them, for sure. But don’t forget how important a simple thank you can be. One of my favorite tricks is to take the whole sales team out whenever one member hits or exceeds their goals. Nothing makes those who aren’t hitting their quotas want to work harder than wanting to be the one who’s getting recognized among their peers as a success.
The strategies I’ve described above are incredibly effective, but they can require major structural or procedural changes to implement. That means time and effort to demonstrate results – which your company may or may not have, depending on how sales are going.
So what if, instead, you need something quick to light a fire under your bottom performers?
The motivational tactics below require a thorough understanding of their appropriateness for your unique team and of their inherent limitations. Use them in conjunction with longer-term changes for best results:
- Let your top performers choose the best offices, cubicles or desks
- Offer a home makeover, extreme adventure or shopping spree to top performers
- Set aside good parking places for top salespeople
- Let your top salespeople be the boss for a day or win a favor from the boss
- Send a gift to the families of top salespeople to recognize their support
- Have funny trophies created for “Top Salesperson” or “Most Improved Salesperson”
Sales doesn’t have to be all work and no play. The suggestions above can help keep morale up while you undertake the kind of institutional change that’ll enable all sales team members to thrive in the long-run.
What other strategies would you add to this list?
About the author: Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. As the co-founder Single Grain, a digital marketing agency, he managed and grew an outbound sales team in addition to scaling leading client marketing strategies. He is currently the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake, VoilaNorbert, Quuu, and Linktexting.com. Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.