If you sense a growing rift between your salespeople and the rest of the company, then it’s time to step in and throw your weight around before the problem grows any worse. Here are 8 things you can do to improve the internal perception of your sales team and ensure a harmonious working environment.
After management, sales is the second most critical department of any organization. Revenue is what keeps the business running, and your sales team is the primary driving factor that keeps that cash inflow coming.
While sales is the most fundamental aspect of all businesses, salesmen are usually the most hated … second only to the brass. From the snake oil vendor to today’s used car salesman, those working in the sales industry are often looked on as greedy, sneaky and manipulative. This notion exists not just in the mind of consumers, but often within other departments in the same company.
When profits are down, the sales team is usually the first to feel the heat. When profits are up, they are the target of envy for reaping commissions or bonuses which they rightfully earned. While most veterans are used to such notions, a hostile working environment can pull down sales performance. Internal strife and low team morale can lead to missed quotas, and top performers might start looking for better opportunities elsewhere.
8 Ways to improve the internal perception of your sales team
1. Keep the team up to standard
Remember that all teams are only as good as the weakest member. In sales, the problem usually takes care of itself, as the lowest performer gets eliminated.
However, sales figures should not be your sole standard. An average performer who meets his quota but who has a bad attitude can be just as detrimental as the worst seller. This can lead to inter-departmental friction, as other people despise him while the team protects one of its own. In worse cases, it could even lead to discontent within the group itself as other team members try to avoid working with him or her.
Pull out the rotten apple before it starts to affect the others, or causes them to jump out of the basket on their own.
2. Weed out manipulators
It’s no secret that the best sales rep is the best at manipulating others. While this is good when used on clients, it can also be directed at other team members. A slick rep can easily talk others into doing his job or covering up for him.
Never tolerate manipulation. Lay down the roles and responsibilities of each team member, and make sure they abide by them. Also make it clear to managers and supervisors that you are regularly observing them. After all, even the watchers need to be watched to make sure they are pulling their weight along with everybody else.
3. Implement rigorous training from top to bottom
The sales team is the face of your company. As such, they need to have concrete knowledge of your products or services before they can face any client.
Make sure each member knows everything about your niche. If a sales rep has to rely on others when talking to a prospect, the process gets sidetracked and your whole company appears to be unprofessional or untrustworthy.
It’s not just the field agents you have to train in every aspect of your product. The managers must be kept up to date before anyone else, since they are the ones who train new recruits and enforce the standards that you set.
4. Have a strict code of behavior
No matter how good your sales team is, they are still just one part of the organization. Sometimes they will have to rely on other departments in the course of their work, such as accounts, product management and customer service.
If a team member has trouble asking for assistance outside the department, don’t leave them on their own. Step in and make sure the job gets done. Smooth out the process by pinpointing weak areas of collaboration, and fix them before your business gets mired in bureaucratic inefficiency.
5. Publish metrics for each department
If you want departments to work in sync with each other, the best way to do that is by showing them the bigger picture.
Get each team to submit their performance metrics for the months, and have HR tie them all in together as one process. For instance, the marketing department accomplished X number of cold calls, of which Y were successfully translated into customers by the sales team.
A bird’s eye view of the whole business operation helps departments and individual team members see their place in the organization. It also lets them appreciate the importance and contribution of co-workers outside their team, since without their help the whole business process would grind to a halt.
6. Give credit where it’s due
Once all members are familiar with the bigger picture, focus on the metrics and reward top performers for that period. By seeing who contributed what and how much, everyone can see their work ethic in black and white. The reward thus becomes a concrete manifestation of that effort, and everyone can say that “This guy definitely deserves it”.
7. Recruit from within
Not all salespeople have to come from outside. When a slot opens up, look for potential people within the company. Sometimes a talent for sales can be cultivated among support groups, such as account executives or customer service.
This dispels the prevailing belief that sales is an outside position. It also lubricates the collaborative process and brings the company together, since team members who used to work for another department find it easier to interact with their old colleagues.
8. Always listen to complaints
The role of upper management is not just to determine corporate strategy, but act as the court for internal squabbles.
In most cases, Human Resources will do a good job of resolving complaints regarding individual members. But when the matter involves one department pitting itself against another, it becomes the concern of the top brass.
If you find yourself having to arbitrate between two factions, always do it with a clear and open mind. Don’t be affected by bias for one team leader. Second, treat each complaint as a kink in the organization that needs to be smoothed. Never treat them with contempt or as a waste of your time, but as a chance for improvement. By doing so, you project the image of concerned leadership and a positive outlook, instead of a vibe that says “Let’s get this over with.”