This Week’s Big Deal: Keys to an Engaged Sales Team

April 15, 2019

We’re doing better, but we still have work to do.

This is the conclusion reached in Gartner’s latest research around employee engagement, which found last year that 34% of U.S. employees are engaged. That’s tied for the highest number Gartner has surfaced in its many years of tracking, but clearly there remains room for improvement.

It’s a critical consideration. Gallup reports that, “Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.”

Employee engagement should be top-of-mind for sales managers, especially those running a modern selling program. This strategy thrives when reps are collaborating, sharing knowledge, and continually focused on learning. Oh, and it also helps when they stick around. Reducing churn is one of the clearest benefits of an engaged team.

Drawing some insight from trending sales content around the web, let’s examine ways to pursue this vital objective.

How Sales Leaders Can Improve Employee Engagement

“Want to keep your employees engaged?” asked a headline on Forbes last week. “Start viewing them as people.”

That bit of advice seems obvious, but the human element can get lost in the modern sales world. There’s a disconnect between the new paradigm of digitization and social interaction, and the old paradigm of a numbers game and the focus on the bottom line. As the industry evolves, it’s crucial to keep the human connection strong.

With that in mind, here are four areas of focus:

1: Build strong bonds between reps and managers

“Make time for a monthly meeting that only focuses on your employees' personal needs,” writes Jill Douka Mba in the Forbes piece. “Don't consider it a waste of time; if your intention to help them evolve and develop new tactics that will settle up some of their anxiety is sincere, you'll see that your people will also be sincere toward working tasks.”

For managers, the value of regular meetings with reps – customized to their specific circumstances – can hardly be overstated. When discussing methods for reducing churn on the sales team, we called out the example of CollegeWise, a company that enjoys near-100 percent retention and credits it largely to one-on-one meetings designed with empathy in mind.

A rushed meeting where the manager ticks through a list of goals, and areas to improve, is more likely to produce a stressed or irritated employee than an engaged one. Ensure that these sessions are open-ended and welcoming. Remember that people aren’t always forthcoming with issues that might be bothering them or preventing them from being fully tuned into their work.   

2: Build strong bonds between reps and other reps

In an ostensibly individualistic profession, it can be hard to sell the concept of integrated teamwork. But doing away with the stubborn stereotype of cutthroat competition should be a priority for sales leaders that want to get the most out of their people.

When sales reps enjoy working together, and better yet rely on one another to succeed, they became more engaged and ingrained in your organization.

Arianna Miskel offers three examples of sales teamwork to inspire your crew: success stories, accountability groups, and knowledge collaboration.

3: Promote the personal benefits of modern selling

Successful digital selling programs require all employees to be involved,” writes SAP’s Arif Johari at Digitalist Magazine. “When every person is engaged and actively communicating on behalf of the organization, they are helping increase personal and corporate branding. They’re increasing the visibility of the organization and demonstrating personal expertise.”

Playing up those personally advantageous aspects of a strategic social presence – you’re building your own brand, you’re growing your network, and you’re establishing your expertise – leads to reps that are more deeply invested.

Continues Johari: “It takes a long time for organizations to realize that helping their people figure out what makes them great and how to publicly display their expertise not only makes them feel engaged and more likely to stay with the company, but they deliver better work in the process.”

4: Trust is a must

Sales leaders talk often about the essential directive of building trust with prospects and customers. (Or at least, we should!) But are we talking often enough about building trust internally? The latter has a major impact on the former, as Philip Hesketh wrote at Digital Leadership Associates last week.

“With disengaged employees, how can an organisation be deluded to think that this will not affect customer loyalty and ultimately the bottom line?” he asks. “To develop high-trust relationships with your clients, you must address trust within your organisation first. Allowing employees the freedom and trust to express themselves on social platforms is a great way to engender greater trust.”

Each of the three undertakings listed above is conducive to this outcome. When reps have strong relationships with their superiors, and with one another, it strengthens trust. When they feel empowered to represent the brand on social channels and create their own opportunities, it strengthens trust. And when trust is strengthened, the benefits are wide-reaching.

For Modern Selling, Employee Engagement is a Big Deal

Today’s buyers expect brands and vendors to work around their schedules and needs. Meeting this expectation requires highly engaged reps. As such, savvy sales leaders are making it a continual priority to foster employee engagement through team cohesion, seller empowerment, and trust-building.

We have work to do, but we can get there.

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