We all love the highly motivated all-star seller who beats his/her goal every year. But for most companies, that’s maybe 10% of your selling population. These sellers find ways to engage their customers with your company, so that the selling part comes easy. You want to nurture these engaged and loyal customers so that they not only buy more from you, but they also evangelize on your behalf. It really becomes pyramid selling for these all-star sellers. I would argue that this 10% of the population were born to be all-star sellers. These are the folks you want to keep happy and collectively reap the benefits.
But, what about the other 90%? If they’re not born this way, how do you develop them? I’d argue that the technical side of the development is the easier side. It’s the motivation and drive that must be nurtured with strategic and hard work by sales leaders, and even executive leadership. It’s not as easy as giving a seller a goal and a good compensation plan. Yes, those are important foundational sales management and rewards strategies. But they are not enough!
In my B2B world of Grainger, Lennox, and now Building Controls & Solutions, I have seen all-star sellers develop because of strategic communications by their leaders. It definitely helps to have a vision and goals laid out as early in the year as possible. It helps to have a clear and simple incentive program. Of course, the seller needs tools and resources to be successful. It is ongoing strategic communications that are so valuable and cannot be ignored. Communications really need to be customized based on the personality of each seller. To some, a well worded email may motivate them. To others, a personal phone call that offers mentorship may drive them. And then there are those who love the recognition in front of their peers.
Digital Peer Pressure
Recently, I egged on my sellers to share their best practices with each other. Once the first few started (and I made sure they did), it steam-rolled from there. By the tenth “reply all” message, I felt we had an engaged and motivated sales force (for at least a few days). The challenge to sales and company leaders is to continually figure out how to keep nurturing their 90% to strive towards the top. What is the next communication after the last one?
Strategic communication content: what is it? It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Sometimes it is goal oriented, sometimes it’s about tools and resources, sometimes it’s sharing what other sellers are finding successful and sometimes it just is some humor or empathy. Content can be so many different things. Just don’t wait for the seller to ask. Feed them every day, every week, throughout the year.
What does “motivated seller” really mean? The easy part of the definition is that these sellers work hard to make customer sales. But, peel back the onion a bit to see that you really want to have engaged sales employees. Engagement with their own company means that they breathe, sleep and run hard for the company 24/7/365. Engagement shows to their customers that they love their company. Would a customer prefer to buy from someone who loves or likes or hates their company? Sounds easy, right?
Sellers are delicate, though. Remember that they all have different styles and personalities. This is important as leaders need to figure out how to deliver the same content multiple ways. I’ve seen too many companies fall into the trap of “one size fits all” or take one “best practice” and try to peanut butter spread to everyone. Big Mistake.
One more thing to think about if you are a chief executive or top sales leader: What is the culture you are creating in your company? I do believe culture can be strategically created, but then must be fed every day. Without someone (or a few leaders) constantly thinking about culture, your company can wander aimlessly and will have no chance at employee or seller engagement, and certainly not customer engagement.
Go build a sales team that pyramids its way into a 90% all-star selling machine.
Eric Chernik is CEO of Building Controls & Solutions and has lead P&Ls between $25M and $400M. His passion is to grow companies through market expansion and employee engagement. His teams have delivered double-digit revenue and EBITDA growth.
Eric has also served as a consultant to manufacturing and service organizations by delivering strategy, people/compensation, and process improvements. He enjoys international involvement with youth in Rwanda (RwandanRelief.org) and Haiti (Help2Haiti.org).