Here’s a quick story that highlights the difference between a high performance sales team and one that needs your constant supervision.
One warm summer day a few years back, I was driving along the interstate heading up to Cleveland. It was one of those days where everyone was at an optimal cruising speed that was about 10 MPH above the posted speed limit.
Suddenly, a state patrol car made an appearance from one of the on ramps and immediately everyone slowed down to about 5 miles below the posted speed limit. We cruised at that speed for fifteen agonizing minutes, nobody willing to challenge the patrol cruiser.
When the cruiser made its exit, I happened to look over at the car next to me. It was a red Camaro with a kid at the wheel. As soon as the cruiser was off the interstate, this kid made a pull-down motion with his fist, said “YES”, and immediately turned that Camaro into a rocket.
Cooperation vs Compliance
Now here’s the question: do you want a sales team that does the bare minimum to get by? Do you want them to comply with the mission and goals only when you are chaperoning them, just waiting for the time when you’re away and they can do what they really want?
Or, do you want a high performance sales team that is built on cooperation, has complete buy-in to the mission and goals, allowing you to leverage their full creative potential?
As a sales leader for 2020 and beyond, you’ll want a high performance sales team that can generate their own energy and has fully bought the company mission and the team goals. To do this, you’ll need to spend some time reviewing your communication style, how you motivate your team, your sales methodology and how you set the key performance indicators for the group. We’ll cover all of that in our next webinar on June 18.
But for now, let’s look at a crucial element of your management style, your delegation process. How do you communicate tasks to make sure you are leveraging your teams’ full functionality and free you up to take on the tasks that only you can do?
Eventually, members of your team will come to you with problems about a project you delegated to them. The way you respond to them will determine your involvement level and their autonomy.
Here are three ways of responding when your salespeople bring you those challenges.
Buying Back the Task and the Responsibility from Your Sales Team
When your team brings you a problem related to the project you delegated to them, do you find yourself using statements like the following:
- Let me think about it for a bit.
- I’ll let you know when I have a free moment to take a look at it.
- Leave it here. I’ll look at it in a moment.
- Let me check with some of my sources and see what they come up with.
- I’ll draft up a couple of ideas and give them to you in a bit.
- After I finish dealing with this review, let’s sit down and discuss some options.
We call this the buyback option. With these responses, you are “buying back” the responsibility and absolving them of all accountability. All delegation is negated. The assignment remains with you, not with the person you are coaching. Ultimately, there is no progress on the project until you do something to make it happen.
In short, you still own the project.
Putting the Results in an Uncertain Limbo
Now, if your responses don’t sound like the ones above, then perhaps they sound like the following statements:
- Send me a memo and we’ll look at it when I get around to it.
- Check with engineering. I think they saw something like this.
- Draft up a proposal and then let’s talk about it.
- See me later about this.
- Let me know if I can help with contacting people for you.
- We’ll have to do something a little later. I’m busy right now.
Statements like these put the project in limbo. Here, you may have defined the desired outcome, but you have no real plan to reach it. There is no identifiable plan of action or discernible activity that moves anyone closer to the completion of the task or reaching the defined outcome. With phrases like these, accountability is muddied and slowed. Decisions are delayed and ownership is unclear. You’ve succeeded in delegating only a part of the task or project because clear accountability is not defined.
Establishing Accountability Within a High Performance Sales Team
Now consider the following responses:
- I know you can do this.
- I’m counting on you to see this through.
- I gave this project to you because of your expertise with these types of systems.
- What are you going to do about this issue?
- What’s your plan for moving the project forward?
- I have full confidence that you will get this done.
At this point, you have effectively established accountability. You have defined the outcome. More importantly, the responsibility for its completion remains with the person you have delegated the project to. Your statements reinforce your position that the individual you have chosen for the task is the right choice to get the job done. With phrasing like this, you clearly indicate that the individual is still accountable for the results. The delegation process is complete, and progress is more likely to occur without your intervention.
Additional Ideas for Effective Delegation and Enhancing Your High Performance Sales Team
Here are some additional ideas that you can employ when following up on delegated tasks with your sales team:
- Include predetermined, desired results of the follow-up.
- It should include predetermined and communicated key performance standards.
- Include KPIs that connect to the key performance standards.
- It should include flexibility to change due to current or updated information.
- Make it a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Remember, you want to stay positive, focus on the desired outcome, and reinforce the abilities of the individual. You don’t want to buy back the responsibility back and you definitely don’t want to put the outcome into uncertainty.
To be an effective sales leader, you want the accountability and responsibility to stay with the assigned team members. And you want to give them the support and encouragement they need until the task or project reaches completion.
Be sure to register for the next webinar in our leadership series, Leading Sales Talent in Uncertainty, and discover more methods to develop your high performance sales team.