Do you run a sales team? Have you ever noticed that sales people are brilliant at coming up with excuses for why their promised sales didn’t eventuate. I use a simple strategy on my sales team that stopped the excuses and doubled the sales.
A couple of years ago I read a very interesting piece of research. The business school of a major university was conducting an international study into sales management. One of the amazing things they discovered was that sales people who reported to a sales manager, on average produced less than sales people who did not have a sales manager.
The reason for this was that the sales managers tended to be critical of the shortcomings of their team members and this made the sales people nervous. They became so preoccupied with having to face the music at the sales meeting that their focus was on failure rather than success. If your focus is on failure then failure is what you will get.
This is all very interesting but there is still the practical matter that most sales people are performing well below their potential. So how does a sales manager get his or her team performing without creating the problem of failure focus?
When I first started managing a sales team I discovered that sales people had an incredible talent for coming up with excuses. They seemed to be able to justify any lost sales by giving you a plausible reason why it was not possible to get the sale. While I admired their creativity I also realized that in most cases the sale was getable. The problem I had was how to get the sales person away from the excuse habit and onto the success habit.
I also remembered when I first entered the sales world, and how my sales manager had harassed myself and the other sales people at each sales meeting. I used to dread going to those meetings.
I ended up creating a solution that got rid of excuse behavior, avoided the harassing situation and led to a doubling of my sales team’s output. I made a rule that the only excuse that a salesperson was allowed to offer was an excuse that was so good that if they wrote it on a piece of paper and took it to the manager of the local supermarket that the manager would be happy to give them a week’s groceries in exchange for the excuse.
Here’s how I used the “grocery excuse” strategy. I first explained the rule to each of my sales people. Then if during a sales meeting a sales person started to offer any form of excuse I would interrupt and say “excuse me Bob, can I buy a week’s groceries with this excuse that you’re starting on?” They would say no, and then I would say “then let’s focus on a real way that we can get this sale across the line.”
This crazy “grocery rule” worked like a charm. Within a few meetings it totally eliminated excuse behavior and turned the whole focus of the meetings into positive, success oriented thinking. The result was that the teams sales figures improved dramatically and my sales team didn’t fear the meeting.
If you are having problems with excuse focused sales staff then why not give my crazy motto a try.