Today's blog is by Kevin F. Davis. He is the author of The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top, which describes methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinFDavis. For more information visit TopLine Leadership, Inc.
Salespeople with a positive attitude sell more. Customers also buy more from positive salespeople – and this, in turn, leads to even greater sales success. That’s why one of the most important things a sales manager can do is improve the attitude of the sales team.
Over the past two years, I’ve administered a poll to nearly 500 sales managers through my workshops and webinars. One of the questions I always ask is what percentage of the performance problems the sales managers see on their teams are due to poor attitude (as opposed to a lack of skill). Well over half of respondents have attributed the majority of the problems on their sales team to a rep’s lousy attitude.
With that in mind, here are four actions you can take to improve the attitude of your sales team and keep productivity high.
1. Talk to your “troubled talent.”
Many sales managers struggle with an experienced rep who is a good producer, but who exhibits a negative attitude among others. The challenge for you is that other salespeople may see your troubled talent as their role model. Other reps may then emulate the bad attitude – making the bad attitude of one salesperson grow like a cancer throughout the team.
Have a one-on-one with your troubled talent. Do not be blunt and to the point. Salespeople with bad attitudes, in most cases, don’t recognize them.They are often blind to their own negativity. A simple opening statement like, “I get the feeling there’s something that’s bothering you and I want to try and understand.” And then probe for the cause of the issue.
2. Be a proactive coach.
A sales rep who has a great month will often attribute his or her success to a strong work ethic and top-notch skills. But when that same rep has a bad month, he or she blames external factors, such as lousy leads from marketing. Sound familiar?
This phenomenon is common because all of us, as human beings, tend to look at ourselves in the most favorable light possible. The consequence is that sales reps often won’t ask for coaching because they think they’re doing better than they are!
You have to take sales coaching to your team. Be an impartial observer who is able to point out flaws and bolster the strengths of all your reps – whether or not they think they need your help. Your proactive work to help them identify flaws in their approach will increase their skill level, which, in turn, will improve results and attitudes.
3. Challenge sales reps to constantly learn and grow.
As you work with your team, focus on helping all your salespeople see new opportunities, develop a plan to crack into a new account, etc. Ask questions that provoke their thought, to help them identify new options and strategies. Start with questions such as, “What strategy will the competitor use to try and beat you? What problems does the customer have that we can solve better than anybody else?”
When you take time to help your sales reps think better, you help them sell better. Everybody can benefit when you take just a few minutes to check in with them, ask questions about new opportunities, etc.
This regular attention will demonstrate to your reps that you care about how they are doing and want them to succeed. That’s one of the most powerful tools you have for creating a positive attitude on your team.
4. Build confidence.
Sometimes a lack of confidence (because of low skill levels) can be confused for a lack of will. If salespeople have failed at a task in the past – such as making cold calls or delivering a presentation to a roomful of decision makers – they may anticipate that negative consequences will occur if they try it again.
If you observe that a sales rep fails to perform certain tasks or is very reluctant to do something, don’t jump to the conclusion that he or she has a poor attitude. Probe first to see if the rep simply lacks the confidence to do those tasks well. If yes, then the solution is to develop skills (not adjust the attitude). You can use training, role-playing, mentoring, and coaching to address those skill issues.
If you have a sales team with a bad attitude you may also need to consider the possibility that your management style may be part of the problem. Salespeople don’t quit companies; they quit managers. Your salespeople will be more receptive to your sales coaching if you have previously asked them for advice on things you can do better.
If you create a team culture where everybody is open and receptive to feedback from others, including you, your salespeople will be more open to implementing your constructive sales coaching.