Selling for a living can be living under a constant push for figures. If you are struggling as a team to hit your sales target you are under a huge amount of pressure to hit it…. or else, if you just about hit target you’re under pressure to improve and if you smash your target? You can guarantee it will be put up for the next month.
As sales managers we can fall into the bad habit of ‘passing down’ to our sales teams the pressure we are put under by our company. Is that an effective way of motivating our team and building a culture of success? Absolutely not! It is the worse thing we can do as a manager, in fact the more pressure we put our teams under, the more we increase the probability of missing our sales target by a long way. Why is that?
It sabotages your chances of success because you introduce the fear of failure into your sales person’s success ratio. It is that fear of failure which prevents sales people, teams and Companies hitting target week in week out. Does a fear of failure really affect your sales people so badly?
Try this out, lay a length of 100x50mm timber on the floor and ask for volunteers to walk across it. Every one will be happy to do that with hardly any one losing their balance. If you then raised that timber 50m into the air and asked for volunteers to walk across it with out any safety nets, how many would volunteer? None!
Although physically nothing has changed it is just walking across a piece of wood, the fear of falling makes it a completely different activity, in fact the greater your fear of falling is, the worse your performance will be.
This works just the same with our sales people, we could think that the more pressure we put them under to perform, the more seriously they will take it, the more effort they will put in and the better chance we have of getting good results from them but it very rarely works because of that fear of failure. On the other hand it is amazing what results can be achieved if you take the pressure off them.
I managed a team of sales people for a large telecommunication Company whose sales were achieved from door to door selling. This was a very tuff selling environment and we were under relentless pressure to perform. This meant every so often one of my sales people would suffer a crisis of confidence and go into a sales slump, the harder they tried to sell the more stress and anxiety they felt.
I used a very simple method to turn them round and get them earning money again. I would sit them down and tell them that I would sell the deals they needed for that day and the next day if I needed to, they did not need to sell at all, and in fact I did not want them to sell!
I just wanted them to go out and enjoy them selves for the day and get their confidence back, I wanted them to find nice people who they could have a laugh with, practice some small talk on, and share a joke and most of all have fun. They would go out with no pressure on them at all and guess what? They would have one of their best selling days for weeks because, just like walking on the piece of wood on the ground, there was no fear of failure.
As managers we need to find as many ways as possible to reduce that fear of failure for our sales people at the same time as initiating a thorough and comprehensive examination of the complete sales process.
By John Vaughan