December 07, 2018
You are probably more than a bit familiar with the Millennial stereotypes: they are lazy, pampered, and addicted to technology; they constantly job-hop; and they require validation before starting on any project. Even if this is only partially true for some players on your sales team, you have a major problem on your hands when it comes to closing deals fast and making targets. How can you fire up sales professionals who have a completely different modus operandi from past generations?
I’m sure you can relate to this scenario: The quarter is closing. Senior management is breathing down your neck. Your job is on the line, unless you and your team come through with numbers. You look at your back bench to determine who can come through for you. Max is slouched in his chair, texting on his phone. Skyler has her headphones on and is bouncing in her seat to music while scrolling through blog posts. Matthew’s chair is empty; between his flex schedule and volunteer work, you can’t remember where he is.
Who is going to deliver sales for you in a pinch? Ugh.
Not that long ago, a salesperson was motivated by a paycheck, a bonus check, and a pat on the back. They basked in the limelight when they won “salesman of the year” awards. I don’t see nearly as much of this going on in the workplace anymore, probably because it’s become passé.
This is the new formula to jumpstart the team:
Appointments give you Prospects which give you Sales
Millennials love conducting research, so this is right up their alley. Now is when you dive deep into the data and determine the ratios:
Each of your reps should be assigned customers based the above four criteria. For now, they should place their other prospects—i.e., the smaller fish and the ones straddling the fence—to the side. Have them assign the minor customer problems to sales assistants and the major ones to you. Grease the wheels to alleviate any bureaucracy standing in their way. By doing so, you are enabling them to play to their strengths—data research—and remove the things that bore and/or distract them.
Now give them each specific targets to make by whenever they’re needed (i.e., month or quarter). If they don’t know their numbers to reach the goal, it’s unlikely they will ever get there.
GETTING THE QUICK ORDER FROM A FREQUENT CUSTOMER
If you have a good, reliable customer who buys from you regularly and pays bills on time, there are techniques to teasing out more sales in a hurry.
When your reps call upon these accounts, have them start by asking these favored customers what they like about your products and what they don’t. Also have them ask the customers what they aren’t getting from you and would like to receive. No matter how the customers answer, your reps have gained trust of the buyers and haven’t come across as desperate and pushy for rushed orders. Instead, they should listen, take note, and repeat back the positives and negatives. Toward the end of the conversation, your reps can promise to fix any problems that day as a top priority. They next present a mutual understanding with a sense of urgency on both sides: “I’ll tell you what: even though it costs us a bit more, I’ll change our carton sizes for you when I hang up the phone. If you send me a purchase order for 1,000 units of the new widgets today, I’ll give you our preferred customer pricing right and we’ll ship them first thing Monday. You’ll have them in your warehouse by Wednesday.”
The Millennials on your team will likely appreciate the reciprocal approach, preferring it to charging out of the gate with a hard sell that would probably put off the buyers anyway. Give them a specific marching instruction: “Go!”
The sales leader has now devised a great plan and armed the team.
It’s all smooth sailing, right? Well . . . not necessarily. The team seemed fired up at first, but then Friday comes and the sales leader looks around the office and—whoa! Max is texting, Skyler is catching up on her blogs, and Matthew is once again AWOL. Your team has reverted right back to where they started.
This is the point where the sales leader must hold the team accountable before it’s too late. That Friday—when everyone is suffering from the malaise—call an impromptu meeting to have everyone provide progress updates. Send out an S.O.S. to Matthew via e-mail, text, phone, or even a smoke signal: he is required to join this critical team discussion, no matter where he might be.
Ask each team member to prepare as follows for the meeting:
What do you think happens before the meeting? A whirlwind of activity slams through your office. Matthew miraculously flies through the front door and barrels into his seat. Phones are dialed, e-mails are sent, appointments are made, purchase orders are processed, calculators are whipped out. . . .
The meeting happens, and everyone is on his or her game, ready for you with the requested information. The numbers are less than target, but at least better than what you initially expected.
What do you think made the difference? You—as mommy, daddy,
or both—checked up on the children and held them accountable. They may have moaned or groaned at first but, deep down they needed your reassurance to continue to Go! Some of them might have experienced some customer declines out of the gate and felt discouraged. But by hearing the success stories and challenges of others at the meeting, they feel encouraged and/or supported and happily pressed on.
This meeting allows you to add up the team’s math and do a gap analysis to determine how far they have to go. If you are falling well short in your percentages, then you need to go back to the formula with them: if necessary, widen the number of cold calls and e-mails to improve the amount of appointments and conversions.
It’s never fun or easy when the heat is on and the sales need to happen on a dime. The one thing you can’t do as sales leader is letup on driving your team out of fear that you are applying “too much pressure” to them and they might bolt at the next job opportunity. Always be attuned to how team members are progressing, and keep them focused on their targets before the gap widens too far beyond anyone’s reach and there is no time left to close it.
STEPHAN SCHIFFMAN and GARY KREBS are co-authors of Creating Sales Stars: A Guide to Managing the Millennials on Your Team. Schiffman has trained more than half a million salespeople at wide range of corporations including IBM, AT&T, Motorola, Sprint, and Cigna. A popular speaker, he is the author of numerous bestselling books with eight million in print, including Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!) and The 25 Habits of Highly Successful Salespeople.
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