Making the best sellers even better

What are you doing to develop your best sales people? Does this sound like a paradox to you? It might do. When they’re doing a good job, it’s very tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and leave them to get on with it, fight a fire elsewhere.

But what if, as well as lighting up the week, or month or the quarter with their results, you were able to harness their talents to take your business where you want it to go and develop them in the process? By taking the opportunity to work more closely with your best people, you learn about them and encourage them to reset their horizons by supporting them to stretch and learn and perform even better.

It starts with how you think about your people right now and what motivates them. I’m going to draw on Daniel Pink’s excellent book Drive, where he talks about the 3 factors that he believes motivate people.

These are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, defined as follows:

Autonomy: the level of freedom, responsibility and control that you have over how you accomplish a task. You may not have control over the problem you’ve been asked to solve, but you are given the scope to create the path to solving that problem.

Mastery: you feel that you are improving as a practitioner of what you do all the time. That you are frequently operating at the edge of your comfort zone and by doing so, expanding that zone. You’re learning, growing and getting better and better at what you do.

Purpose: knowing how what you do fits into a bigger goal. For sellers, this is all about why you are trying to start a relationship with this particular client. What’s important about this in the bigger picture and what does it mean to the business? How does my contribution matter?

By looking at your relationship with your sales people through the above framework you can find the ways to develop them, both for themselves and for your business.

If your sales people are motivated, then you’d expect high scores in the above areas. The good (and bad) news is that they are not fixed. As their perceived scores go down or stay static, it’s possible for your people to start to get disillusioned and look elsewhere. A useful response to this is to look for ways to increase the scores and get your best sales people to outperform themselves.

Here are some questions to ask about your sales people that may do just that.

Autonomy: What is the primary way that your sales team approach their task? How much freedom do they feel they have? Why? Do they take responsibility and what do they see their responsibility as? What restrictions might you be placing on your sales people in terms of how they approach potential clients? What support do they need to exercise more autonomy? How could you give them this support? For example, how much contact do they have with the other departments within your agency? Good salespeople are good listeners. What are they hearing that could be useful to others?

Mastery: What skills do your sales people possess? Are they developing their skills, adding new ones? What do you do to encourage that? How do your sales people access learning and development opportunities? What effect and impact do your sales people have on the rest of the business? For example, sales people have high levels of empathy, drive and curiousity. How might these skills be useful, say to your accounts department when chasing outstanding payments. Or how often do your sales people speak at events and conferences?

Purpose: What awareness do your sales people have of how their winning a piece of work impacts the business? How do they see their contribution fitting into the whole? And what is their view of the purpose of the business moving forward? Where do your sales people believe you should be looking to grow? Where do they see the opportunities?

You could ask your sales people the above questions and see what they say. You may be surprised by what you hear. And if you’re reading this as a sales person, why not ask yourself these questions and reflect on your answers. They can be very useful in getting you moving, whether you’re at the top of your game, or you feel you’ve reached a plateau.

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