Editor’s note: Each year we encourage current and future college students to submit an essay to us in the chance to win an $1,000 scholarship. Our winner this year is Tony Wang, whose essay about, “How to Motivate a Weak Sales Team,” impressed our staff. We’ve shared his essay below, edited for grammar and modified to fit a blog format.
How to motivate a weak sales team: 5 common personnel issues and solutions you can use to improve the output of your sales team.
For any company vying to sell a product, the sales team acts as a multiplier to revenue. No matter how amazing the marketed product, a weak sales team is a sure-fire catalyst of business insolvency. As with any problem, the crucial first step is to identify from where it ultimately stems. Here’s how to identify and how to motivate a weak sales team:
1. Unmotivated Personnel
Unmotivated personnel is usually the consequence of several outstanding issues. Perhaps employees feel underpaid, overworked, or otherwise without incentive to complete their job to their full capabilities. As with any underperforming employees, the solution varies with circumstance:
Perhaps you’re wondering how to motivate a weak sales team that feels underpaid. The solution is simple. Workers that are genuinely underpaid should receive more money in some form or another. A commission rate for products they manage to sell is usually in order as it provides monetary incentive to sell more products.
Overworked employees should have their hours reduced to induce rest and relaxation. More workers can be brought on to compensate for the reduced hours of overworked employees.
Paying higher commission and reducing hours only works to a point, however, as competent salespeople are few and far between, and a certain amount of overwork is acceptable in this market of scarcity. That a balance exists is a given; financial analysis with real data should be done to determine working hours and number of workers.
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2. Unknowledgeable Salespeople
Even world-class salespeople are less effective when given improper information about their marketed product. Although Research & Development and Sales/Marketing are generally compartmentalized into different departments, there still must exist a modicum of communication between the two.
All too often, salespeople are misinformed about the capabilities of the product they are trying to sell. A product, underperforming compared to expectations, harms the reputation of the company and results in falling sales long-term.
3. Ill-Informed Potential Customers
On the flip side, consumers not being fully informed of the full capabilities of products leads to an immediate drop in sales. In both of these situations, the misinformation of salespeople and consumers cause a weak sales department.
It is imperative that management bridges the gap between those who design the product and those who must sell it. Depending on the size of the company, this can be done through a formal presentation, from the R&D department to the marketing department. In a smaller enterprise, a simple conversation between members of the two groups should suffice.
4. You Haven’t Set Deadlines
People are naturally predisposed to work more efficiently if given deadlines. While there is an argument against the imposition of sale quotas, citing worker stress and their resorting to unethical sales practices, deadlines are still beneficial to an extent.
When given a deadline, workers perform more efficiently, motivated by the rewards and punishments packaged with the deadline. For example, rewards could include monetary incentives for surpassing the quota in each pay period. In contrast, punishments might include being let go for failing to meet the quota an excessive amount of times.
Of course, there are ethical and financial considerations: labor laws and regulations must be followed. Rewards and penalties must also not be applied to too extreme an extent.
5. You Should Consider Your Workers’ Happiness
Of course, sales quotas are not the only reward and punishment system available to employers, and there are studies that show that reward and punishment systems are not effective in every case. Contemporary politics places more importance on as a factor to their productivity, the conventional wisdom being “a happy worker is a productive worker.”
It goes without saying that an unhappy sales team is an unproductive sales team. Workers dissatisfied with their job are naturally inclined to slack off. That’s because they’re less concerned with job security when they have no love for their job. The forgone conclusion is that an improved work environment is crucial to the motivation of a weak sales team.
The improvement of the work environment is not entirely an objective process. Even something as simple as being nicer or less curt towards your employees can brighten their day enough to improve their productivity.
In a large company where multiple levels of management exist, the upper echelons must be careful so as to not prioritize meeting quotas over compassion for their workers. An effective manager who is disliked by his or her subordinates will suffer their lack of initiative as a dire consequence. Meanwhile, a less competent but compassionate manager can have his or her faults compensated for with subordinates that take initiative because they’re happy at work.
Those are several ways to motivate a weak sales team. A well-planned combination of these suggestions can heavily influence, for the better, the salespeople under anyone’s command. By extension, the success of the company has its basis in the strength of its salespeople; the company as a whole will get stronger with its personnel.
Student, University of Waterloo
Tony Wang is the 2019 winner of the $1,000 Blitz Sales Software Scholarship. He will be a first-year student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, where he’ll major in electrical engineering. Outside of school, Tony’s favorite activities include cycling, ice skating, reading, and spending time with his friends.