Sales managers all worry about retaining their salespeople. This concern is well-founded given that the members of sales teams are leaving their jobs in droves. In 2021, a shocking 60% of employees – including sales staff – reported they were considering quitting to work somewhere else. Team leadership expert Helen Fanucci says that the way to cut down on turnover is to love your salespeople: Show that you respect them, demonstrate that you value their accomplishments and let them know you understand their challenges. Fanucci explains how to go about the crucial tasks that lead to employee retention, why that effort matters and why it will work.
- Effective sales managers treat their salespeople with respect and love.
- Sales managers’ conversations with salespeople help determine their sales success.
- The right conversations promote selling and help clear roadblocks.
- Conversations are the bedrock of the Love Your Team sales philosophy.
- Sales managers create the lens through which salespeople view, experience and rate their corporate culture.
- Sales managers must work to retain their salespeople, especially their top producers.
- Potential salespeople who interview well may not work out.
- Sales organizations need great salespeople and great sales managers.
- The combination of top sales managers and top salespeople can turn even a listless firm into a robust money-maker.
Effective sales managers treat their salespeople with respect and love.
Sales managers should never tell their salespeople how to perform their jobs. Professional salespeople will feel resentful about that advice and the sales manager who offers it. Instead, sales managers must engage in two-way conversations that nourish salespeople’s positive thinking.
“Would you work for you? ”
Switch your focus from providing advice – input – to promoting positive outcomes – output. Help your sales team members clarify their goals and challenges and empower them to take action for themselves. Listen closely to what they say about the kinds of support they need.
Sales managers’ conversations with salespeople help determine their sales success.
Quality conversations fuel your salespeople’s progress and yours. You can use such conversations to set sales objectives, boost your salespeople’s spirits, and hold them accountable for carrying out their plans and meeting expectations.
Meaningful, relevant conversations will enable you to retain your most productive salespeople. The most essential conversations are those salespeople believe they need. To achieve the best results, conduct sales discussions on their terms.
“Talent is the key to competitiveness and innovation. It’s the key to revenue and growth.”
These conversations demonstrate that you care, and they provide an opportunity to supply information that can help your sales team members manage today’s ever-evolving business environment. The right conversations also give sales managers an accessible one-on-one opportunity to address performance issues promptly.Salespeople’s selling problems can fester and grow if you don’t address them quickly and forthrightly. Untended, these problems can undermine, poison and even kill a sales organization.
The right conversations promote selling and help clear roadblocks.
“Actionable conversations” between salespeople and their sales manager generate trust. They help eliminate roadblocks that can slow sales or shut down closings. Love-Your-Team conversations promote new sales ideas and other innovations. These discussions often can extend productively beyond the sales manager and salespeople to include sales managers’ conversations with their corporate colleagues or other inside stakeholders.
“Every company must be an innovation company or risk going out of business.”
However, if you’re clumsy in talking with your salespeople, you may produce worse consequences than if you have no conversations. Sales managers can use several management strategies to make sure their discussions with their salespeople foster good relationships and lead to successful selling:
- “Assume positive intent” – Sales managers should convey that they’re on the same side as the salesperson, allies in the same endeavor.
- Use the correct “cadence” – In sales, as in most professions, time is at a premium. Sales managers must be direct and succinct. Don’t waste salespeople’s time with wordy or rambling conversations.
- Don’t shy away from “cheerleading” – Sales conversations must be positive.
- Emphasize “clarification” – Spell things out. Never confuse your salespeople.
- Offer professional “coaching” – The best sales coaches don’t tell salespeople how to perform. They ask questions that prompt salespeople to figure things out for themselves.
A sales manager’s curiosity is the secret to great sales conversations. When you’re curious, you want to understand other people and see their work from their perspective. This desire enables you to engage with them and, in the process, to come up with open-ended questions and topics that spur their interest and provide you with valuable information you can use to help your team succeed.
Sales managers’ conversations with their salespeople may focus on numerous subjects, issues and concerns, including:
- Connection – Connect with your team members by being personal, not transactional. Show your desire to support their needs and to help them achieve their goals.
- Performance – Successful selling involves multiple kinds of performance objectives, such as forecasting sales, meeting revenue goals and developing strong client relationships. Each topic can serve as a fruitful focal point of helpful, sometimes instructive, sales conversations.
- Strategy – Sales deals don’t just happen. To achieve them, salespeople must strategize and carry out their strategies. Holding strategizing conversations with a savvy sales manager can be immensely helpful.
- Customer engagement – Most sales managers have strong B2B sales experience, which means they are likely to have great ideas about working with prospects to meet their needs with the company’s products or services. Discussions with their sales manager can help salespeople determine how to approach a prospect or resolve a customer’s problems.
Conversations between sales managers and salespeople are the bedrock of the Love Your Team sales philosophy.
The regular conversations that provide the structure of the Love Your Team sales system work as intended only when sales managers lovingly support their salespeople.
“Traditional management, accustomed to a factory-style bullpen floor filled with homogenous workers, struggles to adapt. If you fail to adapt, you can quickly find yourself with an exodus of top sellers.”
This conversation-based approach acknowledges and makes the best use of the hybrid nature of modern-day work, particularly sales work, in which a salesperson sometimes works from a corporate office and sometimes works remotely. Hybridization, a primary dynamic in modern business, has been developing for a long time, but COVID-19 pushed it to the fore.
Because the hybrid business world is relatively new, companies are working overtime to develop policies and strategies to meet staff demands and to cope with other pressures that hybridization brings. The “corporate one-size-fits-all approach” that worked for decades has expired.
Sales managers create the lens through which salespeople view, experience and rate their corporate culture.
In addition to using well-planned sales conversations to inspire and motivate salespeople, sales managers also can use these discussions to develop and maintain a positive organizational culture. The ideal culture for a sales organization promotes “trust, empathy, relationships and high performance” – the essential building blocks of effective sales management.
“Sales managers may not always have control over a company’s culture, but they do have control over the sales environment they create within that culture.”
Sales managers play a huge role in creating the right culture for their sales organizations. They serve as the basic filters through which salespeople experience and evaluate their organization’s culture. A strong sales culture is open-minded and authentic. It encourages people to learn from their mistakes and to develop a growth mind-set.
Sales managers set the tone for everything that touches salespeople. As role models within their organizations, great sales managers enable salespeople to build their skills, become as great as they can be and, in the process, achieve top results.
Sales managers must work to retain their salespeople, especially their top producers.
Today, retaining salespeople is a central goal of sales management. This dynamic should inform each facet of your managerial approach. Nothing could be more important; if you can’t hold your top salespeople, your business will dry up and blow away.
Sales managers determine whether their best salespeople stay or go. Staff retention is a challenging facet of sales management, but sales team managers must pursue it with dedication, propelled by the knowledge that replacing experienced salespeople is extremely expensive.
“How do you know the support your team needs if you don’t ask, listen and understand?”
Companies constantly war with each other over talent in today’s business environment. To illustrate why, consider what happens financially when a productive B2B seller with a $1 million quota resigns on the first day of the fiscal year. Figure at least $750,000 in “lost quota attainment.” Additionally, subtract all the potential extra revenue you could earn if you didn’t have to focus on replacing a productive seller.
Other salespeople often follow a top talent out the door, thus costing the company additional revenue. The sellers you hire to replace departing veterans won’t be as good as your lost top performer – not immediately, anyway – and may not work out at all. They’re unlikely to start their first day with top skills.
So, how do you hold onto your top salespeople? The same rules apply that you follow when working to ensure outstanding sales performance: fully support them and promote a positive culture.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella summed up this approach: “Instead of thinking about how each employee works for the company, think about how the company works for each employee.” Your work as a sales manager is the primary factor in this company-employee equation. The way you handle yourself will be your sales team’s “biggest help or hindrance.”
Potential salespeople who interview well may not work out.
How do you find the super-productive “mythical” sellers you want on your team? When you interview prospective sales staff members, how can you distinguish potential top performers from lesser contenders who are unlikely to earn significant sales? One sales manager says he hires only closers. He assigns a test specialist to administer a profile indicating each applicant’s character and hires only those who check all the right boxes.
“A company is a collection of people working together toward a common goal – and as a manager, you are the pivot point for your team achieving their goals.”
Of course, passing such tests guarantees nothing. An applicant for a sales position may look great on paper but be a total dud in the field. Or someone with prior superlative sales experience may be unable to meet the latest market demands and sales challenges. Selling is a dynamic profession. What worked well yesterday may not work at all tomorrow. Thus, as with all recruiting results, finding and hiring the ideal salesperson depends on an element of luck.
Sales organizations need great salespeople and great sales managers.
Companies need superior sales managers as well as superior salespeople. They must recruit, hire, develop and promote only the best sales professionals. Look for empathetic people who can build trust among your company’s salespeople and coach and motivate them to sell successfully.
Avoid out-of-step sales managers with outdated attitudes and a tendency to micromanage. Do not promote stuck-in-their-ways salespeople into sales management, even if they have impressive sales records
“Top talent is always scarce, and top performers can always write their own ticket in any job market.”
In the past, traditional firms did not emphasize the sales-management function despite its obvious importance. Fortunately, this shortsighted attitude is changing. Many in the sales media described 2022, post-COVID, as “the year of the sales manager.”
Combining top sales managers and salespeople can turn even a listless firm into a robust money-maker.
Today, sales managers must adapt to their sellers instead of expecting salespeople to adjust to them. This is not how things used to be in sales, but it is today’s path to selling success.
“Sales managers are the linchpins that retain talent and provide a multiplier effect leading to outsized results.”
Modern sales managers must treat their top salespeople as they treat their customers. They must care about them as they do about their customers. After all, sales managers love sales – and that requires loving your salespeople.
About the Author
Helen Fanucci, who hosts the Love Your Team podcast, had a 25-year career leading and building successful sales teams at Apple, Sun Microsystems, IBM and Microsoft.
“Love Your Team: A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World” by Helen Fanucci is a comprehensive and insightful guidebook designed specifically for sales managers navigating the challenges of leading teams in a hybrid work environment. Fanucci’s book provides valuable advice, practical strategies, and actionable tips to help sales managers foster a positive team culture, enhance productivity, and drive success in the modern workplace.
The book begins by acknowledging the significant shift in work dynamics brought about by the rise of remote and hybrid work models. Fanucci emphasizes the importance of adapting to these changes and building strong relationships with team members, even when physical proximity is limited. She emphasizes that effective leadership in a hybrid world requires a deeper understanding of individual team members’ needs, preferences, and work styles.
One of the book’s key strengths lies in its focus on the power of empathy and emotional intelligence in sales management. Fanucci highlights the significance of recognizing and validating the emotions and experiences of team members, particularly during times of uncertainty and change. By fostering a culture of empathy, sales managers can create an environment where team members feel supported, motivated, and valued.
“Love Your Team” also delves into the challenges of communication and collaboration in a hybrid work setting. Fanucci provides practical advice on leveraging various communication tools and techniques to ensure effective and seamless interaction among team members, regardless of their physical location. She emphasizes the importance of clear and transparent communication, setting expectations, and maintaining regular check-ins to keep everyone aligned and engaged.
The book further explores strategies for building and maintaining team cohesion in a hybrid world. Fanucci addresses the challenges of trust-building in remote or partially remote teams and suggests practical approaches for fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. She highlights the significance of team-building activities, virtual social events, and recognizing individual and collective achievements to strengthen team bonds.
In addition to team dynamics, “Love Your Team” also covers performance management and goal setting in a hybrid work environment. Fanucci provides valuable insights into setting realistic goals, measuring performance, and providing effective feedback to team members. She emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and growth mindset, encouraging sales managers to foster a culture of learning and development within their teams.
Fanucci’s writing style is clear, concise, and accessible. She presents her ideas in a structured manner, making it easy for readers to follow along and implement the suggested strategies. The book is filled with real-life examples, case studies, and practical exercises, which further enhance the reader’s understanding and application of the concepts discussed.
Overall, “Love Your Team: A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World” is an invaluable resource for sales managers seeking to navigate the challenges of leading remote or partially remote teams. Helen Fanucci’s expertise shines through as she provides actionable advice, practical strategies, and a wealth of insights to help sales managers create a positive team culture, drive productivity, and achieve success in the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace. Whether you are a seasoned sales manager or new to the role, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to thrive in a hybrid work environment.