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One of the most important aspects of becoming a top-producing sales manager is getting your priorities straight. Evaluate your company’s present situation; is sales working up to its potential? If not, you may need to re-organize. Knowing how to establish good working relationship with your sales force and clients may mean the difference between accomplishment and failure.

Here are 16 tips to help you get started on the path to success:

  1. Increase accountability

Review performance against goals more often. Managers need one-on-one meetings with the salespeople, so they know that they are accountable for their goals. Also, have a goal-setting meeting once a month, and have your salespeople set their individual goals. You might be surprised when you add them all up; they will often be higher than the corporate goals.

Let’s say your corporate goal is N50m per month. You add up all the individual goals of your salespeople and it comes to N75m. At this point, you can create a new group goal and help create the team spirit to achieve it. Say, “This Company has never done N60” and ask them if they would like to hit it. Create the desire within them. You only need N15m more in sales, and if you have a staff of six, each salesperson’s portion is an amount that is attainable. If each one offers to do from N3m to N5m more, you will hit that N15m. You have broken a comfort barrier. Next month it will be easier to attain N80m or higher. People strive harder when the goal is their own.

  1. Take a hands-on approach

Reduce memo writing and increase communication. Managers must be in frequent touch with the sales force. Talk to them about problems, and directly help with solving them. Managers should also periodically make sales calls with salespeople. Managers should attend sales meetings that are conducted by others. This is leading by example and gives the staff the message that you consider the meeting important. As one expert said, “There is no magic; only people who find and nurture champions, dramatize company goals and direction, build skills and teams, and spread irresistible enthusiasm. They are the cheerleaders, coaches, story-tellers and wanderers. They encourage, excite, teach, listen, and facilitate. They say people are special and they treat them clearly and visibly: they walk the talk.”

  1. Get back to basics

It may sound great in theory, but will it work on the streets? Fancy theory sounds good, but asking proper questions, listening to the client’s needs, selling benefits and knowing when to ask for the order is what adds to your bottom line. All the “fad” sales techniques will fall flat if the salesperson isn’t asking for the order.

  1. Get your salespeople to broaden their customer base

If an industry goes to a slump, a salesperson is in trouble if that same industry comprises most of his or her list. No one client should account for more than 20% of any salesperson’s list. The salesperson should constantly be prospecting and selling new clients. Management should make this a priority effort.

  1. Develop a team spirit

Management, operations, programming, and sales people all working together create a greater bottom line. Let the Operations Manager lead one sales meeting each month. It should contain no negativity or criticism. He should explain why certain rules have to be enforced. When the salespeople know the reason behind the rules, they will be more understanding and will follow them. This will help foster the feeling of team spirit. “If you want to succeed in business you have to operate on a team with everyone playing on the same side,” says Lee Lococca. And Vince Lombardi noted, “There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game.” Then he described what’s different on winning teams. “Most people call it team spirit.”

  1. Increase customer service

Businesses must spend extra time to keep the clients they now have. No one should be taken for granted. In order to reduce their expenses, your clients may “cut” you first if you have been neglecting them.

  1. Have morning meetings daily to boost morale

These meetings may be only 15 minutes long, but they are invaluable to your sales staff. Don’t discuss sales that were lost. When salespeople focus on failure, they lose confidence and cannot sell. The staff cheers all the salespeople who sold an order the day before and each salesperson tells briefly how they sold the account. The sales staff may grumble at first about attending these meetings; however, they will gladly attend once they get used to them. Remember, it takes 21 days of doing something new for it to become a habit.

  1. Invest in your salespeople

Get sales training for your salespeople immediately-both new and experienced. It is more expensive to lose people who could be performing but aren’t because of lack of skills. Money spent on training comes back to your company 10 times over in the form of more sales.

  1. Get rid of non-performing people

It’s been said that one bad apple spoils the lot. Nowhere is this more evident than in your sales department. Negative feelings and comments seem to act like a virus and infect everyone. Non-performers and/or negative salespeople should not be kept around because they will bring down the quality of work of all the other staff members.

  1. Invest in motivational and sales training tapes for your salespeople

All of your salespeople should be listening to tapes. Rejection is inherent in sales; salespeople need a lot of positive input to keep them going. Audio tapes provide this for them,

  1. Add sales contests

Make selling fun! Salespeople often get more of a “kick” from winning N5000 in a sales contest than from their commission payments. One thousand naira given in a contest can result in thousands of naira in combined billing.

  1. Show recognition

Recognize performance in non-financial ways, as well. Use write-ups in a company newsletter, plaques for the wall, desk mementos, etc. People who work hard want others to know about it. Recognition from the company management does two things: it lets the salesperson know that the company is aware of his effort and it gives him something that shows others how well he has done. Due to the competitive nature of salespeople, recognition is often more important to them than money.

  1. Use role playing in your sales meetings

People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they hear and see, and 95% of what they participate in. Salespeople may think they know techniques but may be unable to apply them effectively. Managers are often shocked at how poorly their staffs perform in role playing. The cure? More role playing.

  1. Shoot for zero turnover of your best salespeople

The way to keep your best salespeople is to create an environment they don’t want to leave. This means you have to treat them differently than your average salesperson. If you maintain a set of inflexible personnel guidelines, your best people will find another company where their unique talents will be recognized and rewarded. You may worry about the morale of the rest of your staff, but people generally recognize that a major difference in performance justifies different rewards. A side benefit is the average performer will usually increase productivity in striving for the increased rewards.

  1. Stress positive attitudes at all times

Dale Carnegie said, “Act enthusiastic and you will feel enthusiastic.” If you maintain a positive attitude and don’t let things get you down, your actions will be positive and you will have positive results. Dr. David Burns, in his book, Feeling Good, states, “Error is your belief that motivation comes first, and then leads activation and success. It is usually the other way around; action must come first, motivation comes later on.”

  1. Hire “go-getters” with energy

Hire people who are not afraid to close the sale. This sounds obvious, but too many times managers hire for other reasons. A sales person comes from another company with an impressive list (which may have been inherited and not the result of that person’s efforts) or is personable and easy to get along with (which may mean that they are too empathetic to be good closers). When hiring, look for salespeople with energy who are persistent in asking you for the job. If they can’t sell themselves, they won’t be able to sell your product or service.

Bernard Taiwo

I am Management strategist, Editor and Publisher.

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