Coaching and Motivating Sales Teams

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Being a manager isn’t easy. 

Being a sales manager is even harder. 

You have to be able to encourage people to go out and do something that is widely looked down upon and disregarded as a real job. A belief that is wrong and needs to change, but it’s out there. 

Coaching and motivating, those two skills alone will take you so far as a sales manager. Of course, they are also the hardest parts of the job to do well. If you have kids, you already know how hard it is to teach or coach in a nurturing but effective way. Most of us struggle with that line.

So being able to coach a sales team to go do this job well and with company values in mind, and also being able to motivate them to work hard, communicate effectively with prospects and each other, and rise above rejection after rejection… it’s a difficult skill, to say the least.

Understanding someone’s motivation is a little bit easier, but it’s still harder than people think. For decades, maybe centuries, managers have assumed that just dangling money in front of someone’s face will get them to work harder. 

Unfortunately, most managers treat them as two sides of the same coin; money and fear.

“If I give you more money, you will work harder. If you don’t, you’re fired.” 

This idea is just as antiquated as the need for hunters. 

Believe it or not, money is not the number one motivator for a lot of salespeople. That kind of pressure creates an unhealthy work environment for everybody. A well-functioning workplace doesn’t work on the principles of Battle Royale, every person for themselves. 

Finding the true motivations of your team and not constantly holding their livelihood over their heads is how you make sure they sell with your processes and values in mind and bring in the best clients possible. 

As the workforce becomes more and more dominated by millennials and Gen Zers, the culture of sales and business will continue to change. Knowing your employees on a personal level is becoming more and more important. Especially since fewer companies offer pensions, these younger generations will never have the loyalty to a company that their forebearers had without the right motivation. 

So how do we do this?

Step One:

One of the most effective options to help you find the best ways to coach and motivate each member of your sales team is to give them a personality assessment. For sales, the most successful assessment we have used is the DISC personality assessment. It doesn’t just show what kind of personality they have, it highlights their motivational levers, strengths, challenges, communication style, and selling style. 

We’ve already talked about how important it is to give assessments during the hiring process. But if you’re trying to help the team you already have, you can’t turn back time to rehire them. However, it’s never too late for assessments!

Schedule time to sit with each team member individually after their assessment to go over their results. If you’re not well-versed in how these assessments work and what to expect with the results, it may be beneficial to hire a professional to go over the results with you and each employee. 

Whether with a professional or alone, be careful to keep any judgment or negativity out of the conversation when discussing results. Every single person is going to have struggles and challenges. And even strengths can be a detriment if they are relied on too heavily or come on too strongly at work.

The point of walking your employees through the results is so that you can develop an individualized plan with them to overcome challenges and work within their strengths. 

This first step will be the foundation for how you coach and motivate your team moving forward. But it’s only the first step. 

Step Two:

When possible, have an open-door policy for your team. Let them know that you are there to encourage them and push them to be their best, not just a boss who gets on to them when they’ve done something wrong.

Also, consider group activities. You don’t necessarily have to take them to one of those leadership or trust camps, but you can host dinners, bring them to conferences, or take them on weekend trips. Spending time with them outside of work can be enormously beneficial for everybody. They’ll get to know you better while you’re learning more about them. It makes coaching a lot easier when they trust you as a person and a boss. 

The more time you can spend with them, both individually and as a group, the more you’ll get to learn the really important things about how they sell and react to situations, like when they:

  • close a big deal – Do they move to the next thing quietly, or are they fist-pumping with each new sale?
  • lose a customer – Do they lose it and burn that bridge? Do they try to hide it or put the blame somewhere else? Or do they dig in to find out what happened?
  • get cussed out by an angry client – Do they shrug it off and move on, or do they need some emotional support or need a break?
  • have a personal crisis or issue – Are they able to “keep it at home,” or will it affect their work until they’ve had the chance to deal with it?

Knowing these things makes them so much easier to coach. And you’ll be able to guide them towards the motivation they need to keep going or stay focused. They might not care about the extra $1000 on their commission check, but they might work extra hard if they can earn more vacation days, win employee of the week, or know they are working towards a promotion.

Step Three:

This step isn’t really the third thing you should do. If anything, it’s the first. And it should begin during the hiring process.

For your team to be coachable, they have to trust you. And they have to believe in the values of their company. 

You’ve probably heard this before, but it’s important and frustratingly easy to forget. You need to communicate the “why” about policies, decisions, values, everything. The more transparent you can be, the more they will trust your decisions and management.  

Most businesses start out with a very clear “why” or at least a solid mission and value statement. But management doesn’t always do a great job of upholding and reinforcing those values. And that’s where they fall apart. 

For the employees to be completely bought into those values, they should be consistent from the top of the chain to the bottom. Everyone should know them inside and out and understand how they can bring impact from their role.

Step Four:

While it’s easy to fall into the role of “I’m the boss and you’re not,” that doesn’t make for the best leadership. 

That’s why you should lead, coach, and motivate with the “we” in mind. 

If you want to have a coachable, value-driven, and motivated team, you have to be a part of the team. 

You’re going to have to have hard discussions with them. Whether it’s discussing a failure to hit quota or mediating a dispute, the more you can make “we” statements, the easier it will be for everybody. 

Additionally, let meetings or coaching sessions be largely question-driven. Not only will you get more insight into any issues going on, but they will also feel like they are playing a part in the solution. 

Though this could probably also be helpful in the parent/child dynamic, you don’t want to make your employees feel like children. It makes them understandably resentful and angry. Treat them like the equals they are, and work together to find solutions to any problems they may be having. 

Not only will they feel more comfortable and fairly represented in these solutions, but it also helps to prepare them for future leadership roles. 

This is far from the most in-depth guide into how to lead a sales team. There are countless books, podcasts, and articles talking about it. But as the culture of sales (thankfully!) changes, continuing this discussion becomes increasingly important. 

Your sales team brings in the money to keep your business going. You owe it to yourself, your business, and your team to find the best way possible to help them be their best.

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