It’s not always easy, selling for a living. Meeting weekly goals, keeping valuable clients happy, and fighting for purchase in a market that’s increasingly moving at the speed of data … for sales leaders the danger of watching great reps burn out under all this pressure is an ever-present danger.

Consider the consequences of dis-engagement in business today.

  • According to a recent Access report, companies lose some $11 billion annually thanks to employee turnover. Disengagement helps drive that phenomenon.
  • Gallup tells us companies that double the rate of engaged employees, among other factors, win an average 147% higher earnings per share.

Your sales force is your most precious commodity, but their hearts and minds are also on the line every day. To engage them and keep them fresh is a huge part of your mission. 

On the floor, on the phone, online, and on the trail of the next great close — you can help drive conversions and retain the best talent on your team by initiating an ongoing plan to foster sales-force engagement. 

Read on for seven steps that will bring your best players to their best game, forge tighter bonds among the seasoned and incoming members of your department, and serve as tools for giving everyone a lift when the pressure gets heavy.

  1. Build up your sales team (instill confidence). We know that insecurity kills conversions. Great sales reps emerge from a combination of confidence and skill. You can help that happen. When your team believes that you’ve a high opinion of them, they not only hit the field with a boost, but they work extra hard to maintain your respect. Everybody wins.
  2. Reinforce when the iron is hot. If you’re looking for a way to build up your team’s sense of purpose and acumen, do the following. Offer them a verbal reinforcement right after every successful close. “Our research shows that effective sales people tend to crave social recognition as a primary drive,” said Dr. Dave Popple, president of Psynet Group. “Take advantage of this need by publicizing wins as soon as they occur. This could happen in a group e-mail or on a board in the office.” Commissions come at month’s end. Reinforcements keep engagement high in the interim.
  3. Change the scale of your team’s focus. A sales grind based solely on the big picture can leave even the most talented closers feeling like their work is never done. “Remember that with good sales people, sometimes it’s just as important to beat the person in the next cube as it is to reach or exceed a big goal,” said Steven Baumgartner, founding partner of Blossom Growth Partners. “Have spot contests when people are in a funk. But as sales people have short attention spans, keep it light and short … you can motivate them with something different tomorrow.”
  4. Shift the conversation to new measures of success. Everyone on your team understands key underlying metrics: closing deals and hitting monetary goals. But you can engage your people in ways that go beyond the weekly marks that everyone expects to face. “Awards and recognition for specific milestones and performance KPI's are a great way to drive awareness on organizational priorities and reward individuals for delivering results,” said Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of CloserIQ. “Try non-traditional KPI's like ‘Most Opportunities Created’ or ‘Highest Grossing in December’ awards.”
  5. Lean in to your individual sellers’ styles (don’t always dictate). Engagement isn’t just about external reinforcement and confidence-boosting games. Don’t neglect to foster and allow for the methods and best practices that come with individual members of your team. If a strong performer simply does better work with a later start to the day, then acknowledge it, discuss and agree upon expectations, and then set them loose to do their thing. Strong leaders needn’t try to fix what already works. 
  6. Get everyone out of the shark tank. If you want an engaged sales force, let them be a team in environments other than the cube and the conference room. Arrange sales off sites, set up a happy hour (but not too happy, please), and build bonds that allow everyone to hit the ground feeling personally invested in the goals and visions that you’ve now talked about in a less stressful milieu.
  7. Deal with elephants. There are “giants” that crop up in any high-pressure sales team, and if you don’t deal with them right away they can stomp out engagement before you can stop the problem. “Deal with unpleasant situations fast,” Baumgartner said. “Anything from someone who’s become disgruntled, an administrative duty that needs to be fixed, a challenge with the marketing function. Those are all distractions and addressing them quickly will keep [your people] focused. If someone’s heart is out the door, let them go instead of buying three more months with a raise.”

Engagement. So much of it is about embracing the very human part of your sales force. Every member of your team is an individual, and their goals and aspirations should be aligned with your business’ mission as well. 

Point is, they’ve opted in. Build engagement with the seven approaches we’ve just addressed, and keep them on the productive and positive part of your performance list.

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