How can a sales team lead make his team more productive?

I’ll be a bit bold and pragmatic. Will probably deviate from political correct approach but it’s an open and honest answer coming directly from the arena, not from offices, consulting firms.

This is a sales folk voice.

First of all I’ll take for granted that you have in place the right people in the right roles. So it’s not only about good and right people, but as well in the right positions. Therefore all know what to do, know their sales process, strategy, reporting and so on.

But hey, this is not an ideal world and right people in the right positions might also have lower periods or low performance. How do you motivate them?

  • Keep them happy. You can see the statistics in the below picture.

But how do you do that?

  • Let them make their work, don’t flood them with systems, tools and processes to which they don’t see nor is explained its purpose and benefit for the company.

I’ve worked for a major oil/chemical company where frustration was killing motivation and performance, due to the bureaucracy and limitations to one’s real potential.

An astonishing 70% of the time was used for purely internal purposes (meetings of all kinds and lengths, systems and processes to fill in everyday, databases to update regularly, conf-calls, sales meetings, development programs, monthly discussions with management, weekly team meetings, projects, updates of all sorts and the list would go on. Can you imagine a Sales team where only 30% of their time is dedicated to their portfolio and to manage the business? Crazy, right? You wouldn’t call it sales people but bureaucrats.

How is this model sustainable? Well guess big part due to the brand and world class reputation, but we have good examples that a good reputation didn’t solve companies as Ericsson or Kodak when they weren’t able to make the shift on their business model.

When I decided to leave to another chemical company, I found back my purpose and joy. Most of my time was allocated to the main task: handle and manage my portfolio. Since then I became probably the second happiest man on Earth, after Matthieu Ricard.

The difference? I’m doing what I love and where my skills, knowledge and experience can make the most positive impact to my company and its relation with our customers.

I would say more than 85% of the time is allocated (or available) to manage my portfolio and my region. To develop, optimize and explore it.

That’s my take away. Do you want to motivate your sales people?

Empower them: That’s the best thing you can do with sales people.

Make them accountable/responsible: People who feel responsible give back much more than you had asked.

Take away their frustrations or ease them as much as possible.

Lead, don’t manage. If they’re the right people in the right job they love what they do, don’t need any pill of motivation.

Of course they will always have to fill in forms and update databases, but please ensure they understand and see the benefits (for them, team or organization), don’t force them to do any tasks or routines they don’t see the benefit. Sales people hate “tick the box” exercises.

What will make them more productive isn’t a higher bonus but the smoothness and efficiency of their work.

Align your company and departments on the vision and targets.

Very often sales people have to “negotiate” or face more challenges internally than with their own customers. Crazy? No, reality. Functions like Credit, logistics, customer service, Quality, production and so on are often perceived as blockers in the sales manager life. It’s not true, as they exist to support each other. But the gap is the message and the alignment in terms of KPI’s and objectives (sometimes in conflict). Each department needs to understand each other roles and hurdles in order to better understand the business from an end to end perspective, instead of working in silos

Get the optimal balance and cooperation between functions and departments and you’ll get a more productive sales team.

Remember, whilst physical work is often expected to be rewarded with money, intellectual work is often expected to be rewarded with praise and recognition.

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