Let’s Expand the Definition of ‘Great Salesperson’

By Norm Brodsky – Inc.

Entrepreneurs gripe that great salespeople are scarce. But the real problem is that most companies’ concept of a great salesperson is too narrow. SJ Daily Blog Pix

At the Inc. 500|5000 Conference in October, I had breakfast with some entrepreneurs who were talking about their problems recruiting salespeople. “There are plenty of salespeople out there, but really good closers are hard to find,” one of them said. “I mean, you have to be able to ask for the sale. If you can’t handle that, you’ll never be a good salesperson.”

I couldn’t disagree more. There’s a lot more to selling than closing, and all good salespeople aren’t closers. Some of the best I’ve known have been great at everything but closing–weeding out prospects, romancing them, making them feel warm and fuzzy. When I was CEO of CitiStorage, we created a system to help out salespeople who had trouble asking for the sale. When they thought it was time to close, they would bring the prospect to me, and I would finish for them. Salespeople in our industry brought in, on average, 15,000 units of new business per year. At CitiStorage, the number was 100,000.

Of course, this kind of system won’t work unless your salespeople think of themselves as a team, rather than as individuals out for themselves–which brings us back to the shortage of closers. The problem is not that there are too few closers. The problem is that most companies need to hire closers and only closers, because of their compensation systems–because they pay salespeople on commission, and there’s no room for nonclosers in such a system. After all, if they can’t close, they won’t get paid.

I believe that a well-managed team of people with complementary talents will always outperform a collection of hotshots out for themselves. You see it in sports, and you see it in business. That’s why I instituted a salary-plus-bonus system. Not only did it allow us to harness the different talents of our salespeople, but it also removed the greatest obstacle to teamwork. Because bonuses were based half on the company’s success and half on each individual’s contributions in various areas–not just closing–salespeople worked closely together, covering for one another when necessary and helping one another out in difficult situations.

So here’s a thought for those of you who are having trouble finding closers: Maybe you’re better off without them.

 Street Smarts columnist and senior contributing editor Norm Brodsky is a veteran entrepreneur who has founded and grown six businesses. @NormBrodsky

 

Praising for Performance

By Kelley Robertson

Most managers have heard that providing positive reinforcement will improve team performance and motivation. During my career I’ve been surprised how few managers actually praise to their team members. Here are four steps that can help you provide effective praise to your team:

1. Praise the performance that deserves the praise.
All too often people praise someone on their team by saying something like, “Bob, you did a good job today.”
What exactly does this mean? How will the employee interpret it? What was the specific performance that deserved the recognition?
It is important that you are specific when providing positive reinforcement. For example, an employee has just dealt with a customer who was irate upon entering the store but left smiling and satisfied. You could say something like, “Excellent work, Mark. You did an excellent job calming down that customer.”

2. Communicate it clearly and sincerely.
A challenge that is faced by many managers is that they are uncomfortable proving praise to their team. The result? They aren’t clear when discussing positive performance with an individual. They ramble on too long or hide the praise in filler words such as “um” and “ah”. The employee then hears a message that is confusing and difficult to understand. This means that the positive reinforcement will not have as much impact as you intend. Learn to be direct when praising an individual or group of individuals. “Jill, I wanted to thank-you for coming in on your day off to cover for John.”
3. Acknowledge the commitment and effort.
When you praise an employee’s performance acknowledge their effort and commitment; that is, how hard they worked and how involved they were with it. For example, if an individual worked later because it was busy you could say, “Karen, thanks for sticking around tonight. I appreciate the extra effort you made to ensure that our customers were well taken care of.”
4. Ensure it is timely
When you praise an employee, ensure that it is timely. Praise the performance as soon as you are aware that it deserves recognition. If too much time elapses the individual may perceive the praise as an afterthought and it will have little, if any, positive impact. Managers frequently see an opportunity to provide positive reinforcement and, because they are busy at the moment, chose to tell the employee later. Unfortunately, what happens is that they get caught up in the day-to-day challenges and pressures of running a retail organization and they inadvertently forget to talk to the individual. The The consequence is an employee who performed well but didn’t receive recognition. This, in
turn, can cause their future performance to deteriorate or decline.
One of the challenges many managers face when it comes time to praise employees is that they are uncomfortable providing this recognition. If this describes you, try this approach:
On paper, write down what you want to say to your employee. It shouldn’t be any more than two or three lines. In other words, keep it brief. Once you have completed this practice verbally stating the praise. This will increase your comfort level and help you deliver the compliment more effectively. Then, provide the recognition to your team member.

Most management or leadership books will tell you to praise in public. My belief is that you should praise someone in an environment that will be most comfortable for the individual. Some people are very uncomfortable with public recognition and praise that is delivered in front of their peers can end up becoming a de-motivator. This means that you need to know your employees.

Recognition is something that every employee craves. If you are truly committed to improving your team’s performance invest a few minutes every day recognizing their efforts. When you notice great performance don’t wait to praise the employee, tell them immediately and follow these points:
1. Be specific
2. Be clear & concise
3. Acknowledge their effort
4. Make it timely

Copyright 2004 Kelley Robertson. All rights reserved

Kelley Robertson, President of the Robertson Training Group, works with businesses to help them increase their sales and motivate their employees. He is also the author of “Stop, Ask & Listen – Proven sales techniques to turn browsers into buyers.” Visit his website at www.RobertsonTrainingGroup.com and receive a FREE copy of “100 Ways to Increase Your Sales” by subscribing to his 59-Second Tip, a free weekly e-zine.

Recharge Your Sales Team for the Second Half

Recharge your Sales TeamBy Kathleen Steffey

At the mid-point of the year, now is the time to start thinking about where you stand against your plan, how your team is performing, and what you need to do in the second half of the year.  But before you get fully into your planning, take a little time to think about how to engage your most important asset – your team.

The second half of the year is critical to achieving your goals so you need your team fully engaged and motivated the the tasks ahead.  I thought I would share a few items to think about as you engage your team after the 4th of July holiday week.

  1. Recognize and reward the team for the first-half of the year.  Make it fun. Engage as many as you can in identifying the awards and the winners.  Give some awards for sales results, best team mate, most improved.  Seek out the positives to celebrate.  A great site for getting ideas for daily recognition is http://bvblog.baudville.com/.
  2. Invest in some training.  One suggestion would be to focus on some interpersonal skills training.  Often this training is fun and creates some great team dynamics.
  3. Get out of the office for some team building activities. Make sure the activity is something that will engage the entire team.  A great site to find some ideas or get assistance is http://www.corporateteams.com/.
  4. Review the current work environment and identify opportunities to remove dissatisfiers.  Often there are steps in your sales process or activities you require that create frustration or complaints from your team.  Revisit the reasons for including these tasks in the first place and engage the team to identify better ways to achieve your goals.

These are just a few suggestions for how to engage and motivate your team.

Please chime in with some of your own ideas or suggested websites to use as resources.  We would love to hear from you.