An effective sales force can make or break a business, says Bob Bradley. Image courtesy of sxc.hu
Any successful business leader will testify to the fact that sales are the lifeblood of any organisation. Why, therefore, is the role of sales frequently overlooked and under-appreciated in its importance to the success of an enterprise? Without the income and revenue generated by consistent sales, a company will fail to achieve the growth and expansion required to survive in the harsh conditions of today’s economy; a good reason if ever there was one to invest some time and effort into developing an efficient and competent sales team. Bob Bradley, Chairman, MD2MD, discusses.
Whether outsourced, or in-house, a solid sales force
can put a company on the map. By working together to increase brand awareness and drive sales forward, the sales team can exponentially grow revenue and play a crucial role in ensuring a business’ success. Fully understanding the business-critical functionality of the sales team allows for greater appreciation of the importance of providing motivation and support to those individuals who are ensuring the continued success of your business, without which can lead to staff feeling that their efforts are going unrecognised and ultimately resulting in an unmotivated team and a decrease in sales.
The key to optimising the efficiency of the sales team is to provide incentives that are appealing and that offer the salesperson a good return on effort. To do that, it is key to understand what motivates them, and why.
Understanding the sales team
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to employee motivation
; what works for one team will not necessarily work for another. When it comes to sales the simplest way of choosing the most appropriate method of motivation is to identify the type of sales team you are working with.
There are typically two categories of sales that are suited to two different types of people:
- Product sales – often the selling of products or standard services with little to differentiate them from other similar products. A product salesperson will usually require a range of sales skills; they will be highly driven, focused, a strong negotiator and very resilient to negativity. Product salespeople are largely motivated by money and ego – the promise of financial rewards and recognition for what they have achieved.
- Solution sales – the sale of a service that may also incorporate a product, but that will typically be designed to suit the requirements of the individual customer. A solution salesperson will be inclined to focus on customer satisfaction rather than making the biggest sale, and is generally motivated by feeling valued and appreciated for solving a clients’ problems efficiently and effectively.
It is unusual for an organisation to employ both of these sales techniques in one business unit; indeed, they conflict so greatly in their approach to sales and customer care that a union between the two will rarely be harmonious. However, they may be applied at different stages of the marketing process; for example, a company might outsource telemarketing services to identify leads in the first instance, then the leads would be referred to the internal sales team who would begin liaising with the customers to understand their requirements. In the end, both will bring positive results when motivated the right way.
Product sales – ‘laziness’ is the key to success
Laziness – in addition to ego and monetary desires – is a characteristic seen often in the most successful product sales people. And by ‘laziness’ we are referring to the ability to effectively gauge the return they will see from their investment, in short, they focus their efforts solely on leads that will bring them the biggest rewards for the least effort.
When it comes to motivating a product sales team, the method is clear and unsubtle – simply appeal to the three, prominent traits found in virtually every product salesperson; the desire for financial gain, the ego from closing a lucrative deal, and encouraging the simple sale.
This might take the form of commission schemes that increase in generosity as sales targets are reached and exceeded, rewards for the employee who has brought in the most revenue, or achieved the highest number of sales, a visible leader-board highlighting which members of the sales team are high achievers, or a commission-based salary that allows for flexible working hours
. The options for incentives are many once you understand what motivates your sales team and how to unlock their maximum selling potential.
Solution sales – a personal service
The solution salesperson takes an entirely different approach to sales than those who sell products, and therefore respond to a different set of motivations. While no employee is likely turn their nose up at the offer of a financial incentive, for solutions salespeople the true rewards come in the form of satisfied customers and recognition of their hard work.
When selling a solution or service, the customer is likely to already be interested, so the emphasis is no longer on simply selling a standardised product, but instead on ensuring the customer receives a solution that suits their needs.
The best solution salesperson will take the time to get to know the customer, understand what it is they need, and look to provide a service or solution that completely meets those requirements. They will have a genuine interest in ensuring the customer receives the best return on investment, knowing that taking the time to find the right solution at the right cost is what will gain a customer’s trust and bring long-term results and success.
It is unlikely that a solutions salesperson will sell a £10k contract, despite the rewards they might get for it, knowing that the customer will find the cost unsustainable and need to cancel their contract after three months. They will find gratification in problem solving and finding a solution, by helping their customers and in feeling valued for their hard work. Measuring and recognising customer satisfaction via customer surveys, and promotions based on an individual’s success, are examples of the emotional rewards that will motivate a solution salesperson. These people are, by nature, usually quite sensitive and introvert, and will typically prefer a form of ‘quiet recognition’ that allows them to avoid the spotlight.
Strategy for success
A focused, productive and passionate sales team is an achievable goal for any business that takes the time to understand where their offering sits in the market, and recognises the type of person that they will need in order to sell it successfully. Once business owners have this knowledge it is simply a case of taking the right approach to motivating the team; applying the methods that are most appropriate and that will generate the greatest results.