Part 2: Managing the next generation of sellers

by Murray Cohn – February 2013

Last month we began our discussion on how to manage the new generation (Gen-Y) of sellers. We now turn to some specific ideas I’ve gathered from managers on how they help motivate their young salespeople. Maybe offering the double-donut burger (above) as an incentive might work. Well, thankfully we have better ideas than that. I hope.

Create a management-in-training program

Many NBA teams such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Washington have created a program that allows sellers who achieve sales goals to receive hands-on management training. The programs provide opportunities to be the Manager-on-Duty  for game nights, night calls, or entry level sales staff.[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-bottom-right” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

Jake Reynolds
Jake Reynolds

“Every person is motivated by different incentives. The key is to understand the motives of each one and then manage  toward reaching their specific goals. For some it’s money, some it’s responsibility, and others it’s career advancement. Superstars seem to value the mentoring and career advancement more than money.  By finding what drives our sellers, we can create platforms of additional responsibility and continued learning to develop skills beyond just their current roles.” [/dropshadowbox]

These programs have three key benefits:

  1. The recognition and achievement is a tremendous motivator for goal-directed top sellers.
  2. Teams develop a management bench.
  3. The training program allows some sellers to look behind the curtain to learn sales management is not for them, but selling and making money is.

Develop more tiers of advancement

Our survey clearly shows (see last month) promotions and advancement matters.  The Orlando Magic,  Sacramento Kings, New York Mets and others created tiers within their sales departments. New employees can advance from ticket sales representative, senior ticket sales rep, account executive, and senior account executive. Each level takes on more responsibility, rewards and higher sales goals.

Set Clear Expectations

From the first interview managers need to communicate a clear vision to the candidate of what is expected of them. I love what Dr. Bill Sutton and Dr. Dick Irwin create in their Sports Sales Combines to give candidates a real life experience of selling. On an academic level, schools like Baylor, Mt. Union and other universities partner with teams on class sales projects where students gain real experience making 100’s of calls just like they will in their first inside sales job.

Have candidates meet with your top sales people. It always sounds cool to candidates to work for their favorite teams. But spending a little time with your successful salespeople (during the interview as well as after hiring) will help them truly understand what’s expected and will allow you to hire better people and alleviate turnover.

Create shorter sales contests and incentives: Make it fun!

Stop setting an all or nothing bonus on the end-of-year result. Use time off as a potential prize.

The Minnesota Timberwolves set goals and incentives for five eight-game blocks. The Washington Wizards did a  fantastic weekly contest, with “minute-to-win-it” weekly competitions. How many do-nut holes can you get in your mouth?  That sets the rep’s winning prize amount.  The Columbus Blue Jackets do Tour De Columbus with a daily winner getting to wear the first place Yellow Jersey.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”curled” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Contests should:

  1. Be visual,
  2. Have a scoreboard, and
  3. Have the prizes sales reps want–not what the managers want.[/dropshadowbox]

Embrace technology

Many managers see reps abusing internet privileges and shut down usage. This is a mistake.

Set clear, acceptable usage rates such as 30 minutes of prospecting time per day on LinkedIn or Facebook.  Going to check fantasy football 20 plus times a day is not OK. These behaviors need to be monitored, not because you’re the internet police, but because these are symptoms or signs of poor motivation and future performance. You want to coach and motivate reps to focus and enjoy their work–and the work best enjoyed is work done efficiently and effectively.

[dropshadowbox align=”left” effect=”lifted-bottom-left” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]

Tim Salier
Tim Salier

“As we continue the transition to a new generation of sellers, embracing technology has been critical for the continued development of our sales and sales leadership staff. Over the last several years, our tracking metrics, key performance indicators and sales training modules have evolved to include and actually encourage the use of new technology such as LinkedIn, texting and Facebook. The key for SS&E has been to establish clarity in terms of prospecting and activity expectations while embracing alternative outreach methods. “[/dropshadowbox]

Expecting these new age reps to make 100 calls a day is also a mistake. Include things like texts and e-mails into an overall hustle board that includes points for face-to-face meetings, number of phone calls and talk time duration. You can assign point values based on what you feel will drive the greatest number of sales.

This generation is hi-tech and hi-touch. Provide your sellers with iPads and encourage more face-to-face, in-game and event selling using technology to show seats, make impactful presentations and close more deals.

What do you think?

Doing these things to engage this new generation of sellers will help energize your team, retain your rising stars and generate more sales. I’d like to hear about your challenges and your solutions to sales management in today’s environment. You may comment below or join our S3 Report group on LinkedIn and start a discussion!

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