"The Navigator" News Blog

Are Your Salespeople Engaged?

How many of your salespeople would you describe as “engaged?”

Before you answer that, let me define “engaged” for you.  The “engaged” salesperson is one who sells (for you) because of a passion and love for the job, for your company, and for the activities in sales.  “Engaged” salespeople do what’s right because it’s right.  They may have to be managed – most salespeople do to one extent or another – but they seldom have to be MOTIVATED.  Oh, and they’re also not out looking for another job.

NOW answer the question.  How many would you describe as “engaged?”  If you said “All of them,” please contact me.  I have some great oceanfront property in Kansas City and I’ll make you a great deal.  Here’s reality, based on national surveys:

  • 30% of salespeople are truly “engaged” at their jobs.
  • 50% are “disengaged.” This means that they’re going through the motions, doing enough to keep their jobs, but not giving it their all in any way, shape, or form.
  • 20% are “actively disengaged.” This means that they’re mad and they’re trying to hurt you.

Now think about your sales team, and ask yourself where everyone fits.  I’d caution you to not use performance as a yardstick; I’ve seen some very talented salespeople who could perform very well without being truly engaged; I’ve also seen some of the most engaged salespeople in the world struggle to make quota every month.  Not all salespeople have the same abilities.

First of all, if you have an ‘actively disengaged’ salesperson, get rid of them.  NOW.  There’s no way you can recover from that.  It is possible to re-engage a “disengaged” salesperson, but not when they have become “actively disengaged.”  Once they decide they want to damage your business, you have to cut that cord.

We can work with “disengagement.”  The first question is, how do “disengaged” salespeople get that way?  Well, the overall statement is that the job – or the company – or the manager – isn’t meeting their needs.  The next statement is that, most of the time, management doesn’t KNOW what the needs of the salesperson might be, or how those needs could be met or unmet.  Hint:  it’s more than just money.

We’ll talk in a moment about how to re-engage a disengaged salesperson, but first, let’s talk about how to engage them from the start so that they never become disengaged.  Here’s the reality – while we spend the first 90 days of a salesperson’s tenure deciding whether they are for us, they are spending the first 30 days deciding if we are for them.  For that reason, it’s essential that we begin engaging our salespeople from the very first day of employment.

How do you begin the onboarding period for new salespeople?  Well, if your company is like most companies, it works like this.  You start with HR paperwork.  Then you give a quick tour of the facility, with quick introductions to other managers and department heads.  These introductions are quick because the other managers make it clear that they have other, better, things to do than meet a new salesperson.

Then they meet the rest of the sales staff, who eyes them suspiciously.  With some luck, they are taken out to lunch by the sales manager, and then it’s into training.  All of which leaves the new salesperson feeling….meh.

NOW think about how you entertain a great customer or potential customer when they come to visit.  The colored lights and the brass bands are turned on.  There’s a welcome sign in the lobby.  There’s a tour, and those managers that were too busy to spend much time with the new salesperson suddenly have all the time in the world to entertain and show off for the customer.  There’s either a very nice lunch in a restaurant or a catered lunch in-house.  The customer leaves feeling that this company is by far the best vendor they’ve ever seen.

These two experiences shouldn’t be different.  Especially when you consider that your new salesperson will be responsible for bringing in those new customers.  When you bring in a new salesperson for their first day, it should be colored light and brass band time.  Roll out the welcome wagon just as you would for a new customer.  Assign a ‘buddy’ within the sales department to mentor them and bring them into the fold.  Begin creating the internal networks they need.  And when the day is over, have them going home thinking that they just made the best decision of their lives.

Beyond the first day, your sales skills are essential to engaging (or re-engaging) a salesperson.  When we sell, we discover needs and present solutions.  We should do this with salespeople as well.  Starting close to the first day of employment, and periodically thereafter, we should be doing a quality discovery with them – asking them what their needs are, what they want to get out of this job, out of their careers, out of their lives.  Helpful hint:  It’s not just money.

Once we know those things, we can work toward solving those needs as we would for a customer.  For instance, if your salesperson wants to progress into management, what can you do, on a periodic basis, to groom and prepare him/her for the next step?  Little efforts like this can make all the difference between “disengagement” and “engagement.”

We spend a lot of time worrying about whether the salesperson is meeting our needs – but if you really want to succeed, put yourself under the microscope and ask yourself if the job is meeting the salesperson’s needs.  The answer might surprise you – and help you re-engage your salesperson.  An engaged salesperson is a performing salesperson.