Getting Past No

When it come to maximizing your team’s performance, one of the most valuable lessons you can teach them is how to manage objections.

You’ll note that I said manage – not overcome – objections. “Overcome” implies a battle from which only one winner will emerge. And that kind of power struggle has no business in the sales process.

With that in mind, there are a few basic lessons you can teach your sales team about objections, the first of which is that they aren’t bad things. Quite the contrary; objections indicate that the prospect is interested. At least they’re interested enough to seek out more information. If they didn’t care, they would simply say “no thanks” and be done with it.

Most objections center around one of four no’s – no money, no need, no rush or no trust. Top sales people see all of these objections as opportunities to delve deeper into the prospect’s needs and uncover the real issues that are keeping them from the sale.

They do that by listening to the prospect without interrupting or, even worse, arguing, then asking questions that help prioritize the concerns. They then address those “highest value” objections first, as they tend to be the real reasons the prospect is stalling.

Once the prospect’s concerns have been fully addressed, any remaining details can be worked out so the sale can be closed.

And if the concerns cannot be addressed, the second most valuable lesson you can teach your team is that there is nothing personal about “no.”

Managing the Meeting

Regular sales meeting are a necessary evil.

On the one hand, good sales leaders know that regular gatherings with their team are vital to achieving objectives, meeting goals and nipping problems before they blow out of proportion and threaten productivity.

On the other hand, they can devolve into mind-numbing time-wasters that do nothing more than keep the sales team from actually selling.

The trick is to go into every sales meeting with a plan of action that keeps the discussion on track, interesting and informative. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Set hard start and end times and insist on punctuality. Not only are late arrivers disruptive, but permitting tardiness sends the wrong message about the importance you, as the leader, place on sales meetings.
  • Set an agenda and distribute it in advance. Avoid allowing the introduction of items that are not on the agenda. If something is worth discussing, it’s also worth preparing for, so include it on the next meeting’s agenda.
  • Keep the number of topics manageable. Trying to blow through 15 things in 30 minutes is unrealistic and counter-productive.
  • Include a balanced mix of sales and non-sales oriented subjects. If you spend 30 minutes reviewing changes in company policies or procedures, 30 minutes should also be spent on topics related to sales.
  • Particularly when touchy subjects such as team performance are on the agenda, handle criticisms constructively and balance them out with positive messages. Also, never single any one person out for criticism; the staff meeting is not the place to deal with individual employee problems.
  • Don’t turn meetings into lectures. Interactive meetings are far more interesting and productive than those dominated by one person, even if that person is you. Asking questions and soliciting input keeps the team engaged.

Last but never least, set the right example. Your own punctuality, enthusiasm and attitude about the sales meeting will set the tone for the entire team.�

Actions Speak Louder than Words

If every motivational strategy in the book fails to turn your team around, it’s time to look in the mirror. The problem may be you.

As a sales leader, you may honestly believe that you’ve created an environment that fosters success and encourages innovative approaches to achieving sales goals. But if the numbers aren’t backing that up, or if your team members are rapidly deserting you for greener pastures, it’s time for a reality check.

When it comes to leadership, behavior carries far more weight than words. It doesn’t matter how often you encourage your team to find creative new approaches to the sales process if you dismiss their ideas with little or no consideration.

You can tell them that your door is always open until you’re blue in the face, they aren’t going to believe it if you put them off every time they come to you for advice.

If you preach the importance of everyone pulling their weight, but let under-performers slide because you don’t have time to deal with them, your top performers will become frustrated and resentful.

Whether you mean to or not, your behaviors are probably creating a performance-sapping environment of fear and uncertainty if:

  • You’ve become so preoccupied with what is going wrong that you fail to see or acknowledge what is going right
  • Stress has made you short-tempered or prone to abrupt responses when approached for help
  • You avoid unscheduled interactions with your team by cloistering yourself in your office

Effective sales leadership means leading by example and following through on promises made. If you can’t put your team ahead of yourself, it may be time to find a new career.

Complacent Sales Leaders Need to Throw in the Towel

An unmotivated team is an under-performing team. That creates a domino effect leading to loss of top sales professionals, difficulty recruiting their replacements and, eventually, the poor financial performance of the company itself.

The stakes are too high for you to put off finding ways to keep your sales team motivated until the problems are obvious.

No two teams – or sales pros – are alike when it comes to what really revs them up. But the following motivational techniques are good starting points:

  1. Provide positive feedback daily: Top sales pros are motivated by recognition for their accomplishment. Feed that by providing positive reinforcement on a daily basis. It could be a congratulatory call or email, monthly team lunches, or even a formal awards program. The point is to recognize at least one member of your team every single day.
  2. Give them what they need to succeed:  Success is a powerful motivator, but it requires the right tools. Whether it’s providing laptop computers with wireless cards or regular sales training, make sure your team is armed for success.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open:  Make it a point to communicate regularly through meetings, phone calls, emails. Schedule regular one-on-one and group time with your team. Talk with them about their performance and tell them how the business is doing. Encourage them to air concerns, ask questions and share their ideas for filling the pipeline and improving operations.
  4. Set the right goals:  If your team isn’t challenged by the goals you’ve set, raise your expectations and you’ll raise their results. Conversely, if the goals are unrealistically high, it leads to frustration. Strike the right balance and your team will rise to the challenge.
  5. Be a role model: Lead your team by example. Treat them as you expect them to treat each other. Behave as you expect them to behave.

Beyond these basics, take the time to talk with your team about what really motivates them to succeed. Use that information to tailor a motivational strategy that will get and keep your team performing at its peak.