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Six Ways to Lead Your Sales Team Through Tough Times
|Sales Leadership - Sales Leadership|
|Written by Colleen Stanley|
The recession is technically over, however, sales teams are still facing more competitors going after the same projects, price pressures or the new competitor, prospects doing nothing. There is an old saying, “character not tested is no character at all.” Well, character and resiliency are certainly being tested in this post recession economy. Even good salespeople are being tested on their persistence and ability to sell.
The recession is also testing sales managers to see if they can provide sales environments that keep their sales team’s head up and hearts engaged. Leadership has never been more important. How are you, Mr. or Ms. Sales Leader, showing up in your role as head coach, trainer and leader? Here are six tips for leading your sales team in this post recession economy.
#1 – Seek out good news. Bad news sells and unfortunately the media seems to be having a fire sale! There are companies that are doing well, spending money and investing in products and services. A colleague of mine recently connected with her first boss. His sales team has opened over 100 new accounts, in a very competitive industry, since January. This good news is often not printed in the newspaper so it’s up to you and your sales team to seek out the positive. At your next sales meeting, assign each salesperson with finding good news and sharing it with the rest of the team. It’s time to start publishing your own newspaper!
#2 – Step up your coaching efforts. Have you conducted role plays with your sales team to see if they know how to quantify the cost of the problem or the gain of an opportunity? This selling skill is KEY in a buying environment where cost justification is king. If your sales team can’t establish the short term and long term ROI, there is a good chance your team will lose to the new competitor doing nothing or staying with an existing vendor.
#3 – Decrease desperation. Good economic times often create bad selling habits. Many salespeople forget to keep their referral networks alive and nurtured during the good times. When tough times hit, there is a dash to make NBF’s – new best friends. In their desperation, salespeople don’t take the time to build trust, make deposits in the relationship account and practice the law of reciprocity. Instead, they immediately ask potential partners who they know and if they could set up an introduction. The potential partner is hesitant because your salesperson did not take the time to build a relationship. Remember, processes are efficient, relationships are not.
#4 – Balance something old and something new. The world is full of Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook, just to name a few. Social media is the new mode of prospecting. Teach your sales team to integrate new social media with old principles of influence and selling skills. Your team still needs to pick up the phone or send an email to set up a first meeting with a prospect. Your sales team still needs to have a strong value proposition, in writing or verbal, that converts a contact to a meeting. Remember, social medial marketing tools create the opportunity, selling skills close the opportunity.
#5 – Revisit negotiation skills and strategies. Prospects are asking for more discounts than ever before. The first skill taught in negotiation skills training is, “If you can’t walk, you can’t talk.” Discuss with your sales team the mindset they need to possess during tough economic times. If your sales team is not convicted on the value they or your service can bring, why would the prospect invest with your company? Work with the sales team on strategy and tactics. Develop a concession strategy. Many salespeople drop price without any concession from the prospect. For example, “Mr. Prospect, I think we could offer you a lower price if you were able to commit to three years and this volume.” Dropping price without a concession from the prospect is a win-lose strategy and leads to a transactional sale versus a value sale. Caving in on too quickly on price also creates distrust. The prospect is thinking, “If you lowered your price that quickly, why didn’t you do it in the first place?”
#6 – Inspire and motivate. We all love movies with happy endings. Follow this example as a sales manager and share tough times stories with happy endings. These stories don’t have to be from the business world. They can be stories of early founders, such as George Washington, fighting the battle of Valley Forge. Rent a movie and wrap up the week with popcorn, coke and inspiration. Never underestimate the power of motivation. Presidents are elected because they can move an audience. Leaders are made famous by their inspirational rhetoric. There is a time to train and coach. There is also a time to inspire and motivate.
Put your leadership hat on. Help your sales team keep their heads up and hearts engaged. Good sales leaders are needed more than ever. Now, that’s good news.
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