In the highly competitive world of sales, a company’s sales team members can feel disposable, as though all they do is identify leads and close deals. The best sales departments collaborate to create long-term job security and value. When salespeople work together, they more easily identify and share best practices for making a sale. In a system of mutual teaching and learning, every salesperson is an active, integral part of the department.

Managers face a challenge: How do they effectively lead and inspire their sales teams? Here are several strategies to surprise, delight, and motivate your salespeople. These unusual management methods help build an environment of respect, energize your team, and close better deals.

Ask them to abandon sales…temporarily

Advise your salespeople to take a step back. Team members should scrutinize each sales opportunity to ensure your product or service is the perfect fit for the client’s needs. Poor alignment between your offerings and a customer’s goals creates headaches and overhead for your colleagues in other departments.

High-quality customers generally cost less to service and retain than the revenue they generate for a business. The entire company will thank your department for pursuing only the best leads.

Build cross-functional teams

In many companies, employees from different departments rarely communicate. To foster an environment that promotes empathy and mutual understanding, build cross-functional teams. This allows everyone to learn all aspects of the business, including what different departments do on a day-to-day basis and their long-term objectives.

One of the best methods to accomplish this goal is to have members of different departments walk in each others’ shoes. Marketing should sit in on sales calls. Allow salespeople to attend marketing meetings where strategies, goals, and planning take place.

As colleagues collaborate and talk, they are more likely to understand one another and work toward the same goals. Your salespeople will team up to find solutions for what they formerly considered problems with the product, its pricing, or marketing collateral.

Celebrate rejections

Reward salespeople who meet their quota, but receive a lot of rejections, too. No one can achieve a 100 per cent close rate. When you acknowledge the hard work and risks taken to pursue leads, even those leads that said no, you create an environment that allows failure and embraces imperfection.

Use rejections as a learning tool. In your department’s meetings, regularly review why clients say no to your team’s proposals, identify opportunities for improvement and growth, and execute new sales strategies. This reinforces a culture that demands constant improvement and rejects mediocrity.

Challenge yourself to beat their quota

Once a quarter, spend a week in your salespeople’s shoes to create a sense of camaraderie with your team and become a more empathetic leader. Managers need to understand the issues their representatives face. Do this a few times a year as the competitive landscape and purchasing habits change.

If you beat your sales quota during this exercise, teach your team what you know and try to inspire them to work smarter. If you fall short, adjust revenue targets as necessary and seek solutions to help everyone close more deals.

Encourage fewer sales but bigger and better contracts

A commitment to work exclusively with high-value clients enables businesses to grow carefully and sustainably. Customer churn is expensive, but can be curbed during the sales process. A sales approach that champions volume without considering long-term costs is a losing strategy.

Empower sales reps to chase prospects that fit perfectly into your client roster, even at the expense of short-term revenue. Over time, average billings and contract sizes may increase as your sales team focuses on sourcing and closing deals with customers who can afford, extract value from, and evangelize your products and services.

Have them create content

Many salespeople are strong communicators and brilliant at what they do. Harness that talent. Routinely task your team to compile their experiences and thoughts into blog posts, how-to articles, or other content. Ask them what they’ve recently accomplished and learned.

Different items salespeople can produce include:

  • An outline of optimized processes and workflows
  • Keywords and special language to develop rapport and close more deals
  • Questions that tease out the best information from prospects
  • Suggested protocols and solutions to interact with different decision makers in a firm

The content your reps create should be shared, either with the public or internally. Everyone in the company can learn from your team’s content; knowledge sharing builds better, smarter teams and a more collaborative workplace.

Let them own the sales funnel

Encourage your team to identify ways to optimize the sales funnel: The more they own the process, the better it becomes. This also holds everyone accountable. As often as possible, have one or two salespeople focus exclusively on improving the sales process and present their most innovative ideas to the team. Your team can test those ideas to see how they perform and then adopt the tactics that work most effectively.

Empower them to lead

To inspire your coworkers, give them the authority to lead. Consult your sales team on the direction and vision of the department and let them review numbers to develop predictable sales models and identify unique trends. Ask them to attend meetings and represent the department. Listen to and discuss their recommendations, questions, and concerns. When you allow open communication and encourage leadership, your team benefits. They will have a deeper understanding of the company and respect the work you do as well as your leadership.

Work with competitors

While you may have a few contentious rivalries, there are plenty of companies who play fair and may work with you. Competing firms can team up on initiatives in which participants pool resources to help each other achieve long-term goals. For example, Dharmesh Shah and Rand Fishkin, founders of competing marketing software companies, came together to launch Inbound.org, a hub for inbound marketing professionals. In just three years the community grew to more than 30,000 members who share marketing news and strategies.

In an article for Harvard Business Review, Martin Zwilling writes, “Your goal is ‘coopetition:’ to find a way to partner with your competitor in such a way that both parties can substantially benefit from the other’s resources without stealing customers or damaging anyone’s credibility. It’s a great survival strategy for small companies or entrepreneurs and a good expansion strategy for even the largest companies.”

Strategic alliances can be a real boon for business. Here are ways to partner with competitors to your advantage:

Collaborative marketing
Increase industry awareness and make it easier to sell your products and services to a larger audience

Co-sponsorship of events, research, and special projects
Cost sharing allows participating firms to limit risk and reap the same rewards.

Knowledge exchange
Businesses can learn from each other and should be open to sharing productive tips and tricks.

Referrals
Cross-promote other companies’ complementary products and services for a commission.

Think tanks and industry watchdogs
Rogue players can give your industry a bad reputation, but formal definitions, guidelines, and regulations improve credibility and direct negative sentiment toward individual companies instead of the industry as a whole.

Closing Thoughts

Your team deserves a leader who thinks outside the box. The more you challenge your salespeople, support their personal and professional growth, and break conventions to try new leadership techniques, the more everyone learns and discovers better business methods. These efforts can dramatically improve sales and increase your team’s morale.

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