Managing a global sales team can be as fraught with difficulty as being the parent of a newborn baby – and I should know. I have lots of experience of the former and am currently working through the latter…The crying, the sleepless nights, the panic when you don’t understand the issue – and that’s just the sales teams!
OK, it’s a tongue-in-cheek analogy that you can only take so far, but both certainly come with unexpected challenges. Just as getting my little one through the day warm, dry, fed and happy is nothing to be sniffed at neither is increasing a client’s revenue 150% within my first year of consultancy.
You need to nurture the individual
In looking after children as well as nurturing sales teams, we now show much more understanding of and devotion to individuals than in days gone by.
I learned my trade in a dog-eat-dog environment. I lost deals because my company directors were going behind my back to close deals with better leasing terms than I could offer. When I found out I left but stepped from one unhealthy workplace culture straight into another. This time it was time to sink or swim in a commission only role where I had no choice but to work hard to keep a roof over my head.
I couldn’t afford to be the weakest link. If I hadn’t pushed through my personal boundaries – self-confidence, quick-thinking, negotiation – and done the necessary I would have been left on the scrapheap with the photocopiers I was failing to shift. I developed the gift of the gab and sweated through countless shirts to get past gatekeepers in high-looming London offices and in front of decision makers to close those deals and get the cash in the bank.
These uncompromising attitudes that once saturated sales cultures are now largely a thing of the past. While they might still motivate a few, the majority don’t respond well to such pressures. And their performance takes a nosedive.
The objective of the senior in today’s global sales team is to build a strategy for success. This is typically based on revenue and profit targets. And they must put their faith – and trust – in their people to succeed.
Just as you need to get to know the characteristics of your baby (because, let’s face it, no two are the same) and meet their wants beyond the basic demands, you need to understand each individual in your sales team and their personal and cultural differences.
You need to ask them (and get to grips with their responses to) questions like: ‘What drives you?’; ‘What frustrates you?’; ‘ What’s holding you back?’; and ‘What do you want out of your role?’. The more you keep these conversations going, the more you’ll build and maintain lasting relationships with your team and clients.
It’s not what they say – it’s what they don’t say
I’ve been successfully managing and training remote global sales teams for some time now. And have developed the ability to read people well over the course of my career. But you can’t go purely on instinct. The key thing I’ve learnt is that when you ask sales team members questions like those mentioned above, it’s what they DON’T say that speaks volumes.
The standard response to ‘What drives you?’ is likely to be something along the lines of, ‘To make lots of sales, so I can buy a bigger house and a nice car’. This might be the case for particularly driven individuals but is it for everyone? It’s unlikely, some just want security or a bit more money in their pockets. When you probe deeper – ask the right questions – you’ll discover the TRUTH of the matter.
Because a baby can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong, as a parent you often have to get to the truth behind the tears by doing a bit of exploration – whether it’s driving them around in the car at night to help them nod off or changing the type of formula they’re drinking – to really crack it. TRUTH is your path to SUCCESS!
The path to success is full of twists and turns
My wife and I struggled for years to have a baby, resorting to various surgeries and even IVF treatment to help make our dream of having a family come true. It was a very trying and, at times, traumatic experience that undoubtedly affected me at work.
Ironically, now we’ve been blessed with a baby, that dream is – in all truth – a bit of a nightmare at times! We love her beyond everything else and feel so lucky to have her in our lives but nobody can prepare you for how hard looking after a newborn baby is. It affects your sleep, your mood and your performance.
Trying for a baby and seeing it through to having that little person bouncing on your knee can be as trying as growing a business or a sales team. There’s highs and lows at every turn, there are some deals you win and some you lose. There are times when you’re pushed to your limits (emotionally and physically) and consider giving up but you keep going because you can see the end at the end of the tunnel.
The day comes when you get the deal of a lifetime and the satisfaction outweighs all the doubts and hardship. Then, you must face how your business operations or team dynamics have changed as a result and you have a whole new load of crinkles to iron out. Sound familiar?
IN MY NEXT BLOG, I’ll reveal how I’ve used academically backed agile methodology to help my sales team achieve consistently high results.