Managing salespeople is quite different from managing other employees, and sales managers who transition from outside sales might find that their usual motivational techniques simply don't work as well. For one thing, many of the tricks managers use are similar enough to sales techniques that salespeople will see through them. For another, salespeople tend to be very confident and independent-minded, and they don't always take well to being managed. If you haven't had much luck with managing your sales team, try using some of these strategies.
Focus on Training
Sales is one field where there's always something new to learn. Selling approaches that worked perfectly twenty or even ten years ago will flop today because buyers are constantly changing their preferences and knowledge levels. So it's important for even the most experienced of salespeople to keep learning and developing their sales skills. Company-specific training is equally important: salespeople can't succeed if they don't understand their own products and how they work.
Meeting with each salesperson on a regular basis helps you to track what's going on in their heads, which is just as important as knowing how they're doing at their sales activities. Giving an unhappy salesperson a chance to vent to you can keep him from doing something drastic, be it starting a feud with a co-worker or simply leaving the company. You can also gain a deeper understanding of why a salesperson's numbers are soaring or slipping, and will better know how to handle the situation. Ideally, you should meet with every member of your sales team at least once a week. If you have a large team, that may mean scheduling several brief meetings with different salespeople each day.
Most salespeople are best motivated by two things: money and recognition. You're probably limited as to the amount of money you can provide, but there's no limit to your ability to praise strong performances. Contests and competitions can improve both performance and morale within your sales team. And if you can't afford to pay out fabulous prizes, you can hand out rewards that emphasize recognition and give winners their fifteen minutes of fame, at least within the team. A well thought-out recognition award can be more motivating than if you simply handed the winner a check.
Have a Plan
Your salespeople know how much they need to produce, but they may not know how to get there. And as the sales manager, your job is to get everyone on the team to reach their goals. Early in the sales period, meet with each salesperson and draw up a sales plan together that includes mini-goals at different points within the sales period. For example, if your sales commissions are based on quarterly performance, you'd meet with your team members at the beginning of each quarter and set benchmark goals for each month or perhaps every other week. You can also offer guidance at this point as to which activities are most likely to lead to success. Then, when you meet with your salespeople later in the period, you can compare their current sales numbers to the benchmarks you set and you'll know right away if they're on track to meet their ultimate goals. When a salesperson starts to lose traction, you'll know it well before the end of the period and you'll have a much better chance to help correct him before it's too late.