A big part of the sales manager's job is getting her sales team to fall in line with company sales initiatives and overarching strategies. This is easier said than done, as salespeople – especially the great ones – tend to be very independent, tough-minded folks. So how do you get them to sign on to and execute a new sales strategy that's been imposed on them from high?
Explain – Just telling the sales team what the new plan of action will be isn't enough. Remember, salespeople are often independent and contrary. If you're asking them to change their whole way of doing business, you must explain why the new strategy is important to the company and why you think it will work better than the old strategy. If you don't know the answers to these questions yourself, pester upper management until they tell you.
Motivate – Once you've explained what the strategy is about and why it matters to the company, the next step is to explain why it matters to your sales team. In essence, you're selling your team on this new plan, so you need to approach it in the same way that you'd approach a sale to a prospect. In other words, you'd better have some powerful benefits to share with the sales team. Without benefits, why would the team bother to make more than the minimum effort to adhere to the new strategy?
Measure – You won't know if the strategy is working unless you can collect some actual data. As part of the new strategy, you should set up some new goals and ask your team to keep track of their relevant sales metrics. This information will allow you to compare the results of your team's new approach with their old strategy, allowing you to hopefully prove to them that the new approach is in fact helping them to sell better. Examples of metrics to track would be number of cold calls made, number of appointments set, number of referrals collected, etc. Depending on the nature of your strategy change, you may wish to track other activities as well.
Train – If your new strategy involves using social media and no one on your sales team so much as has a Twitter account, you are going to need to get them some serious training before you proceed. Otherwise even the most enthusiastic salesperson will struggle to close sales under the new regime. Whatever tasks or sales skills your new approach emphasizes are the ones that your salespeople will need to master BEFORE they can succeed. If you're not sure how strong your team is in these areas, either meet with them one-on-one and ask about their experience with those tasks or schedule a time to go with them on appointments so that you can see for yourself.
Reward – Implementing a whole new sales approach is no minor task. Your sales team needs to know that you appreciate how hard they're working even if their efforts aren't met with instant success. One approach is to set milestone goals for which you provide a small reward (for example, giving each salesperson a $20 gift card after they've made 200 cold calls with the new script). Some generous verbal praise can also make a big difference in morale. And when sales do start to take off, you should certainly praise and reward your team publicly. On the other hand, if your team starts to slip and goes back to their old sales strategies, you must hold them accountable. If you simply overlook backsliders, your team isn't likely to maintain a change in strategy for long.