article | February 3, 2015
How to Keep Your Sales Team Engaged
Keeping your sales team plugged in with the organization is critical to your business. Low employee engagement is a leading indicator of sales turnover, a very expensive problem. Also, customers are directly influenced by the attitudes of their sales reps. A poor experience with a sales rep will taint the customer’s overall buying experience.
How do you make sure your sales team is more than just hired guns?
Employee Engagement Identifiers
First you must understand what “employee engagement” is in the context of sales. Within a sales organization, you can identify an engaged employee by these two characteristics:
Good internal relationships – Engaged sales reps have a healthy rapport and relationship with the Sales Manager. The Sales Manager is the coach, actively leading the sales rep and communicating clearly.
Healthy external relationships – Engaged sales employees have strong, healthy relationships with their current accounts and clients. These relationships are not one-sided, and encourage customers to become advocates of the company.
Both of these characteristics are linked, and work together to create true employee engagement.
You can identify unengaged teams and individuals by some common warning signs. There are three red flags.
First, the Sales Manager is focusing on the top 25% who are top producers. The rest of the sales reps are ignored or given little attention
Second, the Sales Manager has stopped sharing best practices and coaching the team. Instead, the Sales Manager is “cracking the whip.”
Third, sales teams that have become unengaged are often isolated. They are isolated from other parts of the organization and from each other.
Sometimes it is just one or two members of a team who have disconnected. Indications that a sales rep might be unengaged include:
Hoarding clients and withholding information about the client
A change in the key metrics and a drop in activity-based metrics (e.g. number of sales calls, number of updates to sales system)
Changes to their LinkedIn profile, including connections with competitors or clients of the competitors. (Note: Compare the changes to historical behavior. Some LinkedIn profile changes may actually be a positive thing)
Pushing on internal processes so they can bank more commission. For example, inaccurately reporting time spent or sales results
Treating people poorly within the organization
Pumping other departments for company/product information (this could indicate they are interviewing elsewhere)
Frequently canceling internal meetings or opportunities to connect with teams
3 Things That Hinder Sales Team Engagement
Sales Managers directly impact sales team engagement. The following three mistakes can dramatically lower employee engagement. Try the recommended solutions to help Sales Managers re-engage those sales reps.
1. Measuring the wrong set of metrics
Problem: Siloed metrics that don’t relate to the rest of the organization. Sales Managers must incentivize employees to engage with the metrics they are measured against. Sales reps need to understand how their work directly impacts the organization’s success. And how the organization’s success directly impacts their career success.
Solution: Use a balanced scorecard approach and integrate objectives from across the organization. Make sure the metrics reinforce the company’s overall strategy and execute intentionally.
Problem: A top-down culture that artificially separates sales from the rest of the organization. For example, a program that provides incentives to sales reps only. If the rest of the organization can’t participate, isolation results.
Solution: Give sales reps the opportunity to have a tour of duty with other teams. Set the sales strategy to align with organizational strategies. If isolation continues, get visibility to and awareness of the problem.
3. Poor coaching
Problem: Often the biggest mistake that sales leaders make is not actively coaching their sales reps. A bigger problem, however, is that often Sales Managers are not empowered to coach. In this case, they will default to managing instead of coaching.
Solution: Assess Sales Managers to understand where there are gaps in skills and knowledge. Draw up a plan to address these gaps and prioritize key competencies. Implement “coach the coaches” training and empower Sales Managers to lead. Our Top Sales Competency Guide can help you improve your Sales Managers’ success.
Also, consider subscribing to the SBI Podcast for more insights from top sales and marketing leaders. You’ll hear how other sales leaders are successfully solving the challenges you’ll face in the year ahead. Each podcast is published weekly on iTunes. Click here to subscribe.
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