How to get more from your sales team

Entrepreneurs like you tell us how to ensure sales staff are always on top form


Salespeople: love them or hate them, they can make or break your business. So how do you make sure they’re fired up, ready to go and eager to make you a mint? We asked entrepreneurs like you to tell us what works
Recruit well

Hiring the right people in the first place is paramount. Asking questions about your business at an interview will gauge a candidate’s attitude towards research, a vital aspect of a sales role. But the ideal person largely depends on your business, product and customer base.

Stephen Clarke, managing director of Truancy Call, which sells communications systems to schools, says: “We look for someone who’s very soft-sell. Headteachers wouldn’t listen to a brash wideboy.” Clarke found his customers were more susceptible to those who could reassure them the system was easy to use and didn’t come across as a technical whiz kid.

Give them a head start

“If they feel they have to do all the leg work, because the processes and information aren’t available, they will quickly become demotivated,” says Steven Shove, vice president of sales at business information provider OneSource Information Services. Giving salespeople responsibility for their targets and the tools they need to achieve them is also important, as is establishing links with marketing to ensure campaigns are targeted.

Provide practical training

“Theory is all very well, but nothing beats practical training,” says Shove. In other words, it’s putting the theory into practice that will make you sales. “It’s important our salespeople understand our customers,” he adds. “We focus on customers’ problems. Why do they need us and why now? These are key questions we seek to answer when engaging prospects.”

Incentivise

Keeping staff motivated is one of the keys to success and growth, and offering incentives on top of commission can keep things ticking over. Jonathan Fitchew, joint managing director of sales recruitment and training specialist Pareto Law, says: “Some of the areas that work best for us include company holidays for top performers, monthly and annual awards and shopping vouchers or weekend breaks with a partner.”

Money is not the only motivator. The gift of time from extra annual leave, or being able to leave early when targets are hit, is often the most cherished.

Reveal the big picture

Allowing salespeople to see how their hard work is boosting profits can work wonders. Satnam Brar, director of recruitment firm Maximus IT, says: “We regularly share ideas and hold social events. This helps everyone lock into the same vision and become a stronger team.”

Build team spirit

Fitchew believes building a strong team spirit is vital to getting the best results from sales staff. “Taking the team out for a night, organising lunches and regular team meetings will all help build a cohesive spirit that is focused on getting results for themselves and each other,” he says. Being approachable can also help your staff feel supported.

Encourage healthy competition

Inter-competition, so long as it’s not cut-throat, can be a great motivator. An inter-team set-up can be less brutal than an individual race, but you may find you need to mix it up a little every now and then. A team structure also allows scope to promote people to team leader roles rather than lose them because the top job isn’t available. Furthermore, giving everyone access to sales figures will generally encourage people to raise their game.

Set the right commission

Unlimited commission will maximise impact. Ben Heald, chief executive at online publisher Sift Media, believes your best salespeople should be earning more than you. “My group sales manager’s bonus is divided into 20 equal portions – one is available every month, one each quarter and four for achieving the annual target,” he says. Or you could pay per product sold, weekly, or monthly, as well as working towards a bigger quarterly or yearly target.

Meanwhile, Paul Winchester, head of sales at IT recruitment firm GCS, goes for accelerated commission, where the more money a salesperson makes, the more commission they are paid. For instance, if a salesperson does £10,000, they get 10%, £20,000 they get 20%, and so on.

Set targets wisely

It’s vital to ensure that commission and bonuses are achievable. Pareto Law’s Fitchew says: “Look at the targets that other employees have hit and then consider whether you want your commission/bonus structure to reward people for doing their jobs, or to incentivise employees to achieve more.”

And when you’re setting targets, keep asking yourself if they have everything they need to achieve it. Have they been trained sufficiently? Do they have the right information and knowledge? If not, don’t be surprised if they don’t make it.

 

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