I have been a teacher, an observer, and a practitioner of fine art selling throughout my life.
While trying to make great sales numbers for my companies, I’ve been frustrated, successful, unsuccessful, frustrated, and elated. I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned some lessons along the journey that I can share with you.
Before starting my consulting business, the last company I worked for was an international insurance company with many offices across North America. I was Vice President of Operations for my region and was partnered by a Vice President in sales. Together, we were responsible for 160 employees across a dozen offices. Because we both knew that we shared the responsibility for the success and failure of our region, we worked well together.
Number one lesson: Accountability
We learned the first lesson: Success requires hard work by everyone.
If we lose focus, let down, or reduce our drive to sell more, our numbers would slide, and our profitability would decrease. As leaders, we had to drive the bus. If we lose energy, the whole vehicle loses momentum.
Our salespeople respond best to our interest in them. We reminded them every day that they had to meet a certain number of sales targets. It was essential to emphasize that we were also accountable to the shareholders and executives, but they also had to be responsible for driving the company forward with their coworkers.
We asked them for their buy-in, and they were willing to help us. However, when we focused on other aspects of sales, they saw our inability to acknowledge them as an indication that they felt under pressure. Sales dropped, not surprising. A successful sales team must hold salespeople personally accountable for their sales efforts.
Lesson number two: Support
Lack of personal support is one of the most common reasons people have trouble making sales budgets.
We learned that each client requires a different approach to contacting clients. There is no one-size-fits-all method to sell. Each salesperson was the other, and each person had their own motivations.
We used specific assessment tools to determine how each salesperson thought. Then, we encouraged them to use their natural talents and skills to make their own success stories.
We learned to accept the fact that not everyone can be a star. Even though we set minimum goals, it was impossible to expect everyone to achieve the same level of success. Everyone was necessary, regardless of their skill or success. We were there to support and coach our employees when they were struggling.
Three lesson: Teamwork
A group of people can only succeed if they work together.
This is also true for sales. Leaders are essential for teams, and loyal, dedicated followers are required for them. Each player must understand his or her role and a shared vision for the team.
As leaders, it was essential to recognize the importance of every member of the team, from the receptionists to the accountants to the administrative staff. Without them, the salespeople would die. The fact that the sales boat wouldn’t move forward without each member of its team would be reinforced. We asked them to show respect and hold each other responsible for their performance.
We showed them how damaging bad words and negative thoughts could be among team members and that intolerance would not be accepted. We made it clear to them that each team member’s success is shared equally. All team members were asked to support each other when needed and to lift their own weights. We helped them understand that success was a team effort that required each player to put in a lot of effort.
Fourth lesson: Be an example
To maintain their success, leaders in top sales organizations push themselves harder than everyone else.
It is impossible to have a team with lazy, unmotivated, or disengaged sales leaders and managers. Their commitment to the process should be tangible and quantifiable. Their time spent supporting their sales team must be equal to, or better than, the time that each salesperson and support staff member put into making sales happen.
Great leaders are selfless and tireless in their efforts to improve the lives of their teams. Great leaders realize that they are constantly under scrutiny and that their team is waiting for them. They will help the best, while their team members will support them when they fall. The worst of them will be kicked out or left behind. It is lonely up there. While there are some truths to this statement, it can be gratifying and incredibly energizing. You will quickly find that your second family will support and guide you to success when you put aside your personal needs and wants.
Leaders must not give up, must stay the course, and must work as if their professional lives depend on it.
Fifth lesson: Create your culture
You can have sales success that lasts, or you can lose it quickly.
A weak sales culture is likely to lead to short-term or intermittent success. You must make sales activity a priority if you have products and services to sell. If your products or services don’t reach buyers, you won’t need an accountant, a receptionist, or a human resources specialist.
Stop complaining about your sales rate and get back to work. Leaders often believe that if they do more of the things they are doing now, great things will follow. Depending on the situation, this may or may not hold true. If your sales machine doesn’t print money, it could be broken or in dire need of repair.
To find out the reasons you aren’t as successful as your company would like, you can do a culture assessment of your company to see how employees and customers feel about it. After you have spoken with enough people to identify your strengths and weaknesses, it is time to start rebuilding your culture.
Be honest with yourself during the rebuilding process and be open to accepting your mistakes. If you are going to be successful, you must be available for significant changes. Everyone should know that you are aiming to create a robust and sustainable culture in which all stakeholders share the benefits and everyone is valued and recognized. After the foundation has been laid, you can begin to build the walls using solid business practices and employee engagement strategies. Get help from professionals if you don’t know the best practices or aren’t familiar with them. You must also be patient. It takes perseverance and a lot of time to build a great corporate structure that produces impressive sales results.