Motivating Sales Professionals, seeing Sasquatch and Other Great Myths Part 2

Last month we began an article on Motivating Sales Professionals.  The article covered two types of motivations: Intrinsic and extrinsic, and whether it is actually possible to motivate another individual.  While it is possible to debate the fact of motivating someone else, few will disagree that it is possible to provide a motivating culture for employees.  We’ll spend this month talking about what makes a motivating culture.  

There are 6 key elements to providing an environment for motivated employees.  Last month I mentioned the need to hire intrinsically motivated professionals to begin your process.  However, even if we have intrinsically motivated individuals working for us there is still a need to provide a motivating environment.  Even the most motivated employees will find it difficult to continue working in a de-motivating environment.  The opposite is true as well, if we have unmotivated individuals and we provide a motivating environment we may actually encourage them to move from their current state.  However, it can’t be over emphasized that hiring intrinsically motivated professionals is the bedrock to having motivated employees.  

With this being said there are 6 keys to producing a motivating environment.   

  1. Vision (Goals)

  2. Information (Strategy)

  3. Challenge & Accountability (Metrics)

  4. Feedback (Coaching)

  5. Development (Training)

  6. Allowing Control (Leadership Development)

Vision (Goals)

While very basic, this is the destination for our trip.  If we were to take a trip the number one item a passenger would like to know is where are we going?  At a high level in your company, there is little doubt of your vision or the goal.  This goal is usually a number and time combination, “We want to be $ 1 billion by 2012!”  Or perhaps it is a design of the company, “we want to be the best provider of X in our marketplace.”  

Either way it is usually understood with great clarity and detail at a high level.  However as we go down the company to managers, sales professionals and other employees it may only be words and not resonate with individuals.  Individuals in our companies need to know what the vision is and why it is the vision and what it means.  Our goal should be something that is visible and meaningful to our employees.  

At the base level individuals want to be part of something that is meaningful and larger than them personally.  A vision that is clear provides the opportunity to be part of something larger than any one individual. 

Information (Strategy)

Knowing the goal is only the first part of the deal.  Communicating HOW we are going to achieve the goal is as critical if not more so to achieving the goal.  I am always shocked to learn how many companies might share their goal with employees but how few share their strategy with even the highest level of management.  Think about it in sports terms – how many individual coaches would not share their overall game strategy with at least their key offensive, defensive, and special team players.  

Having your players know the overall strategy helps the individual players react to a dynamic situation and still keep the battle plan in the forefront.  One reason that companies don’t share their strategies is that they themselves don’t know their own strategy.  Sometimes strategies are left to naturally happen at several levels of the company.  The goal with strategies is for everyone to be on the same page.

Consider allowing managers to be involved with the development of business strategies and you will find that implementation will go much easier.  Allowing input into the strategy additionally begins the process of Leadership Development which we will discuss in the last point of developing a motivating environment.  

Challenge & Accountability (Metrics)

Sales professionals need to know exactly what is expected from them and how they are to be measured.  Lots of industrial companies measure only one area of sales professionals, typically that is sales or gross profit.  

Measurements and accountability should focus on the process as much as the result.  If we hire individuals for the long-term, our measurements should reflect this long-term commitment.  What is taking place in the process and how is the best way to increase efficiency?

While very basic, with every challenge or measurement there needs to be rewards and consequences.  Allowing sales professionals to live in a world where their actions are not met with consequences is very tough on your other employees and greatly adds to the stigma of sales professionals as golden children. 

  Once key metrics are in place it leads to Coaching.  

Feedback (Coaching)

This step in essence is helping individuals become better at their individual skills and increase the team performance as well.  Top sales performers want to work with sales coaches that help make their individual performance better.  Coaching involves helping individuals achieve more than is overtly obvious.  In sports the best coaches are ones that can take another coach’s players and do more with them than the previous coach. 

A good coach doesn’t just hire talent.  A good coach can take what skills he has on this team and make them better — or, better yet, get them to work together in such a way that their performance as a team is far better than any individual stars.  

When we have a superstar on our team it is important to surround them with individuals that will help the whole team gain better results.  For a number of years, Michael Jordan was known as the best player in the NBA to never win a World Championship.  Individually he won scoring titles and had accolades poured onto him.  But one thing remained — Michael Jordan did not have a NBA title.  Coaching was solid and the other players were solid, but the team as a whole did not function as it was intended.  Not until there was alignment between the coaches’s vision, players and strategy was there a championship.  And the amazing thing was that once this was achieved, several more titles followed.  In fact, the Chicago Bulls won six NBA World Championships between 1991 and 1998.

Development (Training)

Development and training are much different than coaching.  Training is much like taking a shower.  For it to have its intended affect, it must be performed regularly! 
Additionally, training and development shouldn’t always be about addressing a deficiency.  If the culture of your organization is you get trained when you screw up, no one will ultimately want to be involved with training.  

Consider making your development something that is proactive and continuing to refine your sales professional skill set versus reactive in nature.  Professional musicians practice their craft over and over and over again in order to get it correct for a performance.  While a sale is not a performance, it does need to be practiced and more importantly the fine details of the process need to be practiced.

Development doesn’t always have to be performed by an outside entity.  Consider coaching sessions and development times during meetings with your sales group.  These can be performed by a sales manager or by an outside individual.  

 Allowing Control (Leadership Development)

Finally and possibly most importantly is the ability to let go within reason.  To truly create a motivating sales environment, individuals need to have some control over their work and outcomes.    

For example if you are considering working a new compensation program, allow several key sales professionals to be involved in the process.  By being involved allow them to create from their own set of ideas and experiences.  Don’t go into the meeting with a pre-determined idea and look to “sale” the professionals.  Allow them to work to develop an idea and trouble shoot it merits and pitfalls.  This is also a great way to begin training the next generation of managers.

Another example would be to give some control over the team sales goals or their individual goals.  When allowing control look for sound judgment, and quality reasoning.  Additionally look for the ability to communicate clearly their ideas.

Hopefully you found these two articles helpful in building a motivating workplace.  If I can be of help please call or email.  Remember, business isn’t for the faint of heart – it is hard but rewarding work!  Hard work pays off! 

Mitchell Harper