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Sales Team Psychology
Goal setting is powerful way of keeping sales psychology on the up-and-up. We all know that goals dictate future performance by giving team members a sense of purpose and direction. I can think of nothing less motivating than not knowing why I’ve been asked to do something. Instill in your team members what the end objective is and explain to them the necessary steps to get there. It is much easier to put forth the effort when we can answer who, what, where, when, why and how. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable, but lofty enough that they are inspiring.
It is a general rule of thumb that greater or more difficult goals actually increase performance. The reason for this tendency is that loftier goals or objectives set higher expectations, and expectations in turn strongly influence behavior. The power of effective goal setting or setting a target can be seen in the following example: In a particular production plant, workers with little experience were divided into two groups. One group was told to simply observe the experienced workers and try to be able to perform at a skilled level themselves within twelve weeks.
The second group received specific weekly goals that were progressively more and more demanding. Needless to say, the second group fared much better. Similarly, Yale University once conducted a striking twenty-year study that found that the 3 percent of students who put their goals in writing had significantly higher incomes than those who did not—in fact, higher incomes than the other 97 percent of students combined. From these examples, it is obvious that proper goal setting goes a long way toward promoting sound sales psychology amongst your team members.
Years of observation and study have produced personality profiles of what are considered to be outstanding salespeople. Perhaps the most recognized of these profiles is the model that was developed by Gallup Management Consulting Group. Gallup has spent more than two decades interviewing hundreds of thousands of top salespeople to help corporate clients form and develop their own sales teams. Its findings suggest that the top four qualities of top-tier producers are: 1) solid persuasion and closing skills; 2) self-motivation; 3) strong work ethic and 4) excellent people and relationship skills.
Why do I highlight these findings? It is likely that as a sales manager, you already look for these skills when you hire someone anyway. But how do you enhance these essential sales characteristics after your recruits are on board so that your team can become even better? My hope is that by giving you four key concentration areas, you can streamline your efforts into getting the greatest results with the most focused effort. When you are trying to draw out any one of these characteristics, or any characteristic for that matter, it is helpful to assess the kind of personalities you’re dealing with. For some, a strong drive to close a sale exists just because they possess a need to “win.” Whether that “win” translates into financial rewards, recognition, the glory of being at the top or whatever, some individuals just have an almost instinctive need to win. This need is compelling enough that they are not deterred by long hours, rejection or time away from their family.
For others, it is not just about winning in and of itself. Beyond that, some individuals have a competitive edge that relishes the defeat of others—even their own colleagues. Half of the victory for these types of people is seeing others left in the dust. I believe that some competition can be a good thing, but you’ve got to be on your toes to buffer this type of personality. If you think pitting your team members against each other might actually create unhealthy rivalries and negative feelings, then you’ve got to have a way to counteract those negative effects.
Next, there are those personalities who are very ego-driven. They aren’t motivated by a need to conquer others. Rather, they want success solely for their own personal satisfaction. This is the type of person who is constantly out to beat her/his own previous records. In other words, these types of individuals compete with themselves. Moreover, they are very focused on being experts. While this competitive orientation has significant strong points, its main downside is that it is too self-focused—even in a well-intended way—and not conscious enough of the team element. The self-motivated person is the one you want to be sure you can draw into the team so you have the best that both approaches have to offer.
Then you have those individuals who seem to get the most satisfaction out of seeing their customers happy. They don’t really have the burning desire to win or compete, but they are very much into relationship building. These people are naturally gifted at being empathetic, caring and good listeners. They are the ones who are much more inclined to stay in touch with clients after the sale has come and gone.
As you step back and evaluate what kind of team member mix you have, realize that no one is purely one temperament or another. We tend to be a combination of at least two of these different types of producers. However, we are usually dominated much more by one area than the others. Your job is to get a grip on what you have to work with and figure out how to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together so your team solidly represents all of the best qualities of top sales producers.
In closing this section, I wanted to touch on the topic of working with a rep who has hit a plateau. Why? Because it’s a very real obstacle that sometimes happens even to the very best. The most typical cause for a plateau is simply feeling burned out. In this case, a very obvious solution would be to lighten the stalled rep’s responsibilities or even give her/him some time off. On the other hand, it may be that the rep is burned out with doing the “same old thing.” If that’s the case, simply changing her/his responsibilities would provide the necessary stimulation to get her/him moving again. New responsibilities could be things like training, forecasting or recruiting. Even performing the same tasks with new prospects or in a different community may alleviate boredom and present exciting, new challenges.
Sometimes it works to have reps come up with their own solutions. They may be more apt to pursue something they feel they’ve come up with on their own than something that is imposed. Furthermore, this way they really know what’s at the heart of the issue and would, therefore, likely know the best remedy better than anyone else. Lastly, review the possibility of how bonuses and other forms of recognition might spur renewed motivation. This approach is especially effective when your team members’ financial needs are already being met and they’re looking for reward and acknowledgment in other forms. In the next section, we’ll discuss what kinds of rewards and incentives work the best.
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