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Ken Keller: Your sales team does not have to be bionic, just better

Posted: May 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The opening phrase of the 1970s hit television show “The Six Million Man” was “We can rebuild him ... we have the technology.”

In the great game of revenue growth, it is not necessary to rebuild the sales team. It might take retooling and retrofitting to achieve the desired results, however. Technology may or may not be involved. 

Attitude is everything. Is every revenue-impacting employee committed to doing quality work? Someone either is or is not; it is not a question of maybe or most of the time. Keep those committed, and advise the rest what individual expectations are in order for them to stay on the team.

Business thinking follows attitude. Are sales people thinking as if they were managing and leading their own company?

Ideally, every sales person would have an annual business plan with sales, volume and other goals along with a lead generation program and a plan for following up on prospects created.

Coaching, both team and individual, follow business thinking. All too often sales meetings are “rah-rah” sessions with the goal of pumping up the downhearted and the disillusioned. Individual evaluations become chewing-out sessions that everyone involved dreads.

Team coaching, also known as the sales meeting, is all about contributing, educating, learning, sharing, growing, brainstorming, sharing best practices and helping for the benefit of all. It is not a meeting to reward the high achievers and belittle the underperformers. The sales meeting should be a well thought out, rehearsed session that people look forward to participating in.

The sales manager has to lead by example, setting the tone and the agenda objectives. There is too much at stake to have such a critical gathering put off planning for until the thirty minutes before the meeting starts.

What should be included in team coaching sessions is formal sales education. The role of the sales manager is to impart knowledge to those on the team. It makes no difference how it is done as long as it done consistently.

The sales manager has to lead by example through conducting classes, recommending books, CDs and outside workshops for the sales team to attend. The sales manager must walk the walk not just talk the talk.

Individual coaching is also essential for success. It is the role of the sales manager to skillfully evaluate the assets and liabilities of each team member and coach them to greater success. In this activity, the sales manager should take on the role of teacher.

Tying company growth and goals to desired individual results is essential for ongoing buy-in and success. Sales people probably more than anyone else ask, “What’s in it for me?” when given objectives by the company.

The sales manager must link what the company wants with what the individuals in sales want. When linkage takes place, alignment exists, activity becomes focused and desired results become targets.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter said that, “Leaders must wake people out of inertia.” That is the reason for having exciting, educational and interesting team coaching sessions and meaningful one-on-ones.

The goal of all of this is to change the mindset and activity patterns of those capable of performing at a higher level. Alexander Paterson wrote: “The secret of discipline is motivation. When a man is sufficiently motivated, discipline will take care of itself.”

Nothing written here calls for bionic implants such as Steve Austin’s 20:2:1 left eye with a zoom lens and night vision, or legs that allow him to run at 60 mph or a right arm with the strength of a bulldozer.

What it does take is an enlightened sales leader who is willing to raise the bar in management and elevate the sales team, and each individual in it, to a higher level of performance.

Ken Keller is chief executive officer of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with companies interested in growing top line revenue. He can be reached at (661) 645-7086 or at Mr. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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