Once you've identified the signs of dysfunction on your sales team, and determined that it's inhibiting your ability to generate revenue, here are six steps you can take to turn the situation around:
1. Focus on the pipeline. Highly functional teams focus on the pipeline, build camaraderie and surge forward at the month and quarter's end. They're extremely results-oriented, they concentrate their office work and activities on obtaining those results. If your team isn't getting results, the first step you should take is to manage by walking around the floor. Make sure the room isn't quiet and listen to the conversations going on to help you determine why your representatives are not hitting their targets.
2. Examine individuals' behavior. It may be a cliché, but it's true: one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. In many cases, this issue can be one you inherit from a previous sales leader, but a problem employee still needs to be dealt with.
3. Assess how individuals behave in professional situations. Are the reps taking their jobs seriously, or are they playing games or enjoying themselves, possibly at the expense of the company's reputation or relationship with the client?
4. Hiring can make a difference to your team's environment. Hire the right people for the type of sales your company makes. A rep who's excellent at closing multi-million dollar deals with long sales cycle may fail on a team that needs monthly results with smaller revenues. Fit and skills are important, so keep your sales process in mind when hiring and don't get sidetracked by impressive numbers that aren't relevant to your specific business.
5. Pay attention to the signs. If a team member is resistant to forecasting to measurement – claiming that they don't have time to measure because they're "too busy selling" – you may have a problem. Also look out for a heavy reliance on a small number of accounts or complaints about changes to marketing, product or process. In some cases, these issues may be inherent to someone's personality (as opposed to something you can solve by training and mentoring) and that may mean they're not going to be a good fit for your team.
6. Look at the environment you've shaped. In large part, you can create your own dysfunction by putting the wrong compensation plan in place, fostering extreme competition, or leading by punishment, without ever rewarding. When it's time to assess the health of your team, don't forget to look inward to see what you could do better.
Remember too that in sales, compensation can either motivate employees, or create a hostile environment. Changing your compensation plan partway through the year, or changing rules or territories unexpectedly, can create a negative environment. It encourages your reps to fight, hoard deals, hide deals or game the system. In the end, your sales team will most likely behave the way you pay them to behave, so make sure you're paying your employees for the habits and achievements you want to see.
Special to The Globe and Mail
As the founder and president of Engage Selling Solutions, Colleen Francis helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.