Put Down the Pom-Poms: Moving Past the Cheerleader Approach to Sales Management
Operating a franchise is no different from running other types of companies where sales growth is the lifeblood of business success. If the sales team can’t close deals consistently, ultimately the doors will close. From a sales management perspective, the foundation for sales success requires 1) hiring self-motivated people, and 2) eliminating hype and becoming business partners with the sales team.
Hiring self-motivated salespeople
Self-motivated salespeople have an internal drive to succeed. They want to know what’s expected, what the company’s goals are, what tools they have, how the compensation plan works, and then they will strive to make meaningful contributions. These individuals are creative and innovative in their problem solving and have a sincere interest in manifesting win-win situations for customers and the company they represent.
Individuals who are not self-motivated rely on external incentives or ongoing direction. Unfortunately, for some businesses, this can become a financial burden. That’s why it is more pragmatic for managers to identify candidates who have that innate drive to succeed and appear to be “born to sell.” To do this, a good business proposition is needed, not just a job to attract them, where they will lose interest quickly. This is where the sales partnership begins.
Why cheerleading falls on deaf ears
Regardless of how self-motivated a team is, exhorting the charges from a soapbox with canned “go get ‘em” speeches might make franchise owners or sales managers believe they set the stage for achieving growth. While the energy level in the room seems high at the time a meeting or training takes place, the commitment tends to drop the moment the gathering is over. That’s because cheerleading is an externally motivated approach and does not last long-term. It does not tap into a person’s internal drive for success.
So why would a franchise owner or the individual responsible for sales opt for a cheerleading management model that is doomed from the start? In many cases, they simply don’t have the knowledge of how to lead a sales team. They forget that the internal and external processes for running a business are different. The internal systems might be well-conceived, tested and proven effective. That’s what the franchisee purchased from the franchisor. On the other hand, it’s different for salespeople. They spend the bulk of their time in their prospects’ or customers’ environments. As a result, they don’t experience the same predictability and take rejection hits all day. What they don’t need when they return to the office is a cheerleader. They need a partner who will help them regroup, problem-solve and work collaboratively so they can win more business.
When sales managers have or build a team of self-motivated individuals, there is no need for puff, propaganda, hype or raised voices. By minimizing the cheerleader role, sales managers can invest their time and energy into providing the tools and support the salespeople need to eliminate obstacles and concentrate on closing more sales.
This approach is very similar to what the franchisor provides to a franchisee: sound business advice, systems and processes, a product that sells, and a partnership. In this atmosphere, sales managers can spend more time addressing legitimate concerns about product quality, alternative pricing proposals and feedback on market conditions from the front-line sales team. Learning to recognize these valid concerns versus run of the mill excuses for not achieving the sales results desired is a valuable skill for any sales manager to develop and practice daily.
Becoming business partners with the sales team
At the root of sales success is a two-way commitment: 1) the dedication of the sales force to achieving the company’s goals, and 2) the devotion and perseverance of the sales manager to help the team achieve the desired level of success. In this context, salespeople need to be accountable for their results. Accountability comes from within but is reinforced by the sales manager. At the same time, sales managers who are committed to collaboration and are in it for the long-haul are just as important in the sales success formula. Once commitment and dedication have been established and demonstrated, sales managers need to have faith in the feedback received from the sales team. Remember, building a team of salespeople who are loyal doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, workforce turnover is typical in many franchise environments. Yet when trust, respect and responsibility are demonstrated over and over again, they become like a mantra for salespeople and their managers who are evolving as true business partners.
Rene Zamora is founder of Sales Manager Now, a sales management consultancy that's been developing small business sales teams, including franchise sales teams, since 2006. During that time, he’s facilitated over 2500 sales meetings, while managing between 20-30 salespeople monthly. In addition, he is the author of Part-Time Sales Management.