By Barry Maher
I once took a position as a sales manager with a Fortune 100 company, having been told was that my unit had been first in the division the year before. However when I got there, I found that the six person unit had three new, foundering rookies and one opening—where the top salesperson in the region had recently transferred out. This year, the unit was dead last in the region, so far in the hole that no matter how much they sold, some of them wouldn’t see commission checks for at least two months. And because of the way the previous manager had manipulated the current canvas to insure his promotion, each rep was stuck with a desk full of problem accounts—all of which had to be dealt with in the next three weeks. Morale would have had to improve greatly to reach abominable.
My boss—the brand new division manager—almost immediately announced his retirement. His replacement was immediately disliked, and everything she tried seemed to make the problem worse. She scattered candy dishes around an office where most of the employees were trying to diet. She had Muzak pumped in, and everyone hated the music she selected. Her “motivational” talks left veterans snickering and rookies confused.
In my first meeting with my new unit, I’d told them that within one year they were going to be the number one unit in the region. Within less than a year they were. So how did I build their morale and turn the unit around?
I didn’t. They did. I just made it possible for them to do it.
3) I worked for them. I explained my belief that the company was a selling organization and that made those who did the selling the most important people in the company. I told them that all the rest of us, the administrators, the managers, the VPs, the CEO, were sales support. Then I acted on that belief and supported them in every way I could.
4) I praised and rewarded them for their accomplishments and made sure the company did the same.
5) Together, we created a team mentality. We were going to be number one, and we were going to help each other and mentor each other to make sure that we all made it together. We set up a mentoring program that went beyond the constant training that I was doing. No one who wanted or needed help was ever left alone with a problem.
6) I made it OK to make a mistake, to fail. I did all I could to overcome their fear of failure, their fear of giving their best and proving to themselves, to me, and to those around them that they did not have the potential they all wanted to believe they had. I also realized that I could never help them overcome their fear of failure unless I could first overcome my own: if I were afraid of failure, they would be also afraid.They learned to review every call, every day, every week and every month, always asking themselves what they could have done better. But after absorbing the lesson, they learned to absolve themselves—leaving the mistakes behind—and move on to the next call.
7) Whenever possible, we turned negatives into positives. For example, we discussed how the top salesperson in any company is always the one who hears the most Noes: the most Noes in total and the most within any given call. Then we started collecting those Noes. We worked on building the kind of rapport with our customers and our prospects that would create the kind of tolerance in them to allow us to get more Noes in each of our calls. Eventually of course we ended up, also collecting the most Yeses.
8) We had fun. And we made having fun on the job and in the accounts a priority. We tried to create an atmosphere where everyone would look forward to going to work, and look forward to making the calls. A salesperson who enjoys what he is doing will sell more. One who can make the call fun for the prospect is half way to a sale. In fact, any employees who enjoy their job are far more likely to do a better job.