How to Manage and Motivate a Sales Team

Education & Training with

This week we speak with Christine Hamilton, sales trainer, speaker, and consultant.

Christine Hamilton is a co-author of GPS for Success: Goals and Proven Strategies for Success, along with Stephen Covey, John Gray, Les Brown and others.  We spoke with Christine about her contribution to the book and what it takes to achieve success in selling homes in this environment.  Below are excerpts from our interview:

Managers:  Know thy salespeople.
One of the most important things is to first evaluate the needs of the company. First and foremost is shopping the front line sales people. We observe how they manage what we call the ‘critical path.’ This includes greeting the customer and having a nice conversation, which is hugely important.

I also look at the sales peoples’ compensation plan.  Sales is first; everything else is secondary – customer service, I.T. related things, advertising, customer care issues – those are secondary factors that help support the whole sales effort and create an upward spiral of sales. The saying is true – “Nothing else happens until a sale is made.”

Motivating Your Sales Force

I am a huge advocate of a 100% commission-based competitive floor when it comes to a compensation plan. That means that there are no salaries though a very small nominal draw is okay. The governing rule on that floor is ‘whoever writes it, gets it.’ There are no protected leads. It doesn’t matter how many times a sales person has talked to a customer or if they’ve put them in the system. This may seem hard or extreme at first, but the effects are phenomenal.

A good salesperson is always thinking about sales.  In their mind they’re saying, “I need to sell consistently because I have bills that come in consistently. I need to constantly look forward and know where that paycheck is going to be later.”

You don’t have to micromanage your sales people when it comes to follow-ups. A lot of companies want to monitor and manage all that. But as a manager you don’t have to ride your sales people if they are competing for their sales. When they know the can lose a customer they don’t fail to do the follow up.

It also changes the profile of the sales person. The ones that are weaker or afraid of competition will be steered away. It’s important to pay a good percentage to your sales people so they know they’ll make good money on that sale.

Motivating salespeople isn’t a ‘one size fits all,’ because what motivates you may not motivate me. From a managers standpoint it takes time to get inside the heads and the hearts of the people we are relating to, to find out what they need, and why. Once you know that you can help them move forward and make sales for their own reasons.

Typically, though, most sales persons want two things: time and money. In most companies salespeople are working every weekend, sometimes 50 weekends per year. That takes a lot away from time with friends and family. So a lot want time off, and then they like some money. I never did big bonuses. When we did have a sales promotion for the fun of it, I would only give $100 gift cards. But the regular commission is really what motivated them.

Do You Train?
Training should be situational. It depends on the salesperson. For example, when I went back to management, I went out and shopped my salespeople.  I could see that one person left work often or that another didn’t know the primary features of our homes that differentiated us from other builders.  I evaluated greetings, following up on contacts, knowing how to talk finance and money, and whether they knew the product – did they know all the details, features and benefits of the product? Also, they had to know the competition inside and out. How else could you sell against your competitor unless you knew exactly what products and features are offered in their homes? That starts it.

Also, pay close attention to the greeting.  Are we really getting up and helping every customer 100% of the time without fail? I set that bar there, right up front. You do your best job with every customer, every time, without fail. That training is ongoing. It keeps us all sharp and keeps the sales team pumped. It helps you not to skip the little steps.

One of the training techniques I received from Canon was ‘SPIN’ selling.  S.P.I.N. stands for Situations, Problems, Implications, and Needs Payoff.  It’s needs-based selling. It takes asking questions to a higher level where you truly get into the head and heart of your customer and their situation. You get into wants, needs and desire.

The second they walk into our sales center, after a warm greeting, we’re going to assess their needs and wants. We’re going to talk to them about it and dare to dig and ask the questions that you may not want to ask. The mindset is, “I’m here to help you in the way that you need to be helped,” not, “I’m just here to sell you something.” So the goal is to help them get over what ever is keeping them from moving forward.

Following a Process vs. Freestyle Selling
Let’s say a new, younger sales person is following the process and going through the six steps. He asks the customer about their situation, the problems, and the implications of those problems so they are magnified, and then he offers them the solution. That’s a process.

There’s a point at which the mature sales person no longer has to stick with the order of the path. It becomes second nature. Process isn’t everything; that’s not how we relate to people. I’ve been in sales 28 years and believe I know most of the tricks to the trade. But I appreciate the maturity level. With it you can grab from the process whatever feels right at the time and not have to think about it.  You’re more in tune with the customer instead of the process. You’re adjusting your presentation, mannerisms, the way you ask questions, and you help them in the way that they need to be helped.

Attribute is Everything.
It’s a challenge not to want to hire people in our own image. But I’ve come to appreciate people that have different personality characteristics. Analysts vs. Drivers’ vs. people who are supportive vs. ‘the promoter,’ but I always ask, “How much money do you want to make?” That’s key to me because you can have all the personality in the world, but I believe people will not make a dime more than they want to make. So I ask that and I think, “is that a real number or are they telling me what I want to hear?” I personally prefer the people that want to make more.

With personality characteristics, it’s important that they follow up. They’re going to treat getting a job just as they treat a customer and so I see how fast they get back to me. Are they persistent in trying to get in touch with me? Did you leave a detailed message? There are very few people that get in the door, but if you called me three times you can count on me calling you back.

The other thing is I always had my assistant ask them where they were currently working, especially if they were already in the building industry, because then I would go out and shop them.

We had one woman that wanted to come work for us.  She knew we paid better than anyone else and that there was 100% competitive floor. She went to my boss and he told her I would shop her, so I did. I was a very qualified buyer, I had just sold my home down in the bay area, I had one hundred thousand bucks burning a hole in my pocket and I was staying at the Extended Stay. It doesn’t get any better.

I told her I liked this home, but I was considering another home right down the street. I wanted to know how she sold against the competition. Her response was, “I’m sorry.” But that’s not how you sell against your competition. She hadn’t escorted me through the models. At the very least she could have escorted me back to the models and pointed out how her homes were different. I was getting ready to leave and saying to myself, “Please ask me for my contact info.” My door was open about a foot and she finally asked me to fill out a card. So I gave her my real number but not my real name and I waited to get a call back.

So those are the ways that you can go out and shop them. Are they making it, do they have the potential and are they trust worthy?

Listen to this weeks interview.

Comments (1)

Gray Winn
RE/MAX Legacy - Madison, AL
New Home Specialist in Madison AL and Athens AL

Thank you for taking time to share the wealth of information.   I currently have a new home sales team and this gives me a lot to think about - on how to manage the team.  

Sep 07, 2010 08:05 AM