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How to transform your sales team from “going through the motions” to becoming passionate climate changers.

Updated on December 23, 2010

Most companies in retail put their basic sales process and coaching model in the forefront of daily work life. They always seem to be acronyms on back rooms filled with posters or in countless emails and on the tip of every manager’s tongue. Mainly newly hire sales associates are trained on this in their first few weeks as a process of assimilation. Sadly, many are trained this same process for years of their employment until they leave of are terminated. Hubert Dreyfus from UC Berkley postulates a 5-stage model of effective skill acquisition, novice / competent proficient / expert / master; however, many companies require a blanket model for all sales associates that are on different levels of skills. Many standard sales process and coaching models are more geared to the sales associates that is at a “novice/competent” level. For newly hire sales associates this can be very effective, but in a situational leadership method, there should be a more advanced coaching for sales associates that is at a more advanced “proficient / expert / master” level. For advanced sales associates, their required daily activities and sales process becomes a process of “transparent coping” where they do not think about the activity, they become the activity, and the activity becomes second nature to them. The problem with this is sometimes they get bored with many tasks because they are no longer challenged. They feel some tasks are pointless, sometimes view them as punishment, and are not helping them to advance their skills. Furthermore, they feel the required forms, scripted talking points and company platitudes have almost succumbed to mechanistic and impersonal procedures. If managers implement a more intuitive model that promotes human creativity and ownership it may create a type of Hawthorne effect that would spawn more passion and self development that motivates the sales associate to use an inquisitive approach to learning. For advanced sales associates, managers need to focus on a comprehensive coaching and incentive plan that presents advanced skill acquisition that embodies exciting and challenging goals. The focal point of this plan should encompass rewards and recognition which increases team morale and commitment. Managers are looking for something they can implement that is juxtaposed with the “best place to perform and grow” value, not just a blanket universal strategy for all sales associates that are on different skill levels. I believe that the roadblock from going from good to great is not an employee problem, it’s a process and motivation problem and we need to find a better solution to clear the road to in order to form sales associates into authentic sales leaders that will become organizational climate changers.

There is an interesting idea from Mark Murphy in his book, Hundred Percenters. Instead of SMART goals, he advocates HARD goals for the advanced sales professionals. HARD goals are:

Heartfelt — My goals will enrich the lives of somebody besides me—
customers, the community, co-workers and managers.
Animated — I can vividly picture how great it will feel when I achieve
my goals.
Required — My goals are absolutely necessary to help this company.
Difficult — I will have to learn new skills and leave my comfort zone to
achieve my assigned goals for this year.

This is a winning approach because of its creative progressive approach but this approach also has been statistically validated through regression analysis. What ever the approach, I would like a model that would include a progressive style, backed by quantitative method, and promotes T-Mobile values, such as, (1) Sales recognition and incentive, (2) New learning and skill acquisition for RSA competencies, (3) Fun is good principal, (4) Self managed goal setting, and (5) 360 degree performance appraisals.

Putting these ideas and philosophies in place should promote sustained growth and cultivate a spirit of creative innovation within the organization. The measured result show reflect a sales staff that is self motivated and empowered to lead change and thrust the organization into being a good company into a great company.

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