To run your business well, you have to have high-performing salespeople--people who are free from the universal fears that plague, and often cripple, sales teams at companies large and small.
Here are four common fears of salespeople, and advice on how you can help alleviate them in your company:
1. Fear of rejection
Your salespeople can't be productive if they constantly fear rejection from customers. You must do what you can to instill confidence in them as they meet with prospects. Say your product is highly technical in nature; reps may be reluctant to show it if they fear that customers will react badly to all the complexity. In this case, reps need to be equipped with relevant product knowledge so they step in front of the customer without the fear of being shut down.
As another example, say your company had a bad customer-service incident and your rep is now hesitant to call on a particular customer because of the high likelihood of rejection. In this case, you need to train the salesperson on how to handle customer complaints, turning the negative situation into a relationship-building opportunity.
2. Fear of asking for the order
Related to the fear of rejection is fear of asking for the order. Many salespeople feel uncomfortable doing this--but surveys have shown that not asking for the order is one of the primary reasons salespeople fail. You can help the members of your sales team get past this fear by arming them with easy-to-use closing questions that won't pressure the customer but that will make the sale.
3. Fear of losing territory and customers
At one time or another, you might find yourself needing to reduce the size of sales territories or take customers away from individual reps. Even when absolutely necessary, these situations can be pure poison. Salespeople see lost customers and territory as lost income, and the result will be undermined morale, less confidence in management, and lower sales performance.
What can you do? When you must reduce territory or remove customers, do it in a way that shows you care about the members of your sales team, that you have their future success in mind, and that you understand how they feel and can be trusted. You may have to get creative here. Perhaps you could show the reps how this has happened with others before and how they quickly exceeded sales and income growth with the reduced territory, or how they saved expenses with a smaller travel area. And even if you don't have such statistics, remember that showing sincere concern for your sales team's happiness can go a long way, even when you're delivering bad news.
4. Fear of falling salaries and commissions
Salespeople don't want their income slashed. Would you? But that's what they feel happens when you reduce their salaries and commissions. They fear this happening, and when it does, it causes more grief among a sales force than almost any other situation, especially among the high performers.
Of course, sometimes you have to reduce the expense of the sales force, but before you do so, make absolutely sure it's not because you or any other leader in the company is jealous of the reps' income. It's a situation I see more than you'd think. But CEOs of powerful companies recognize the contribution a well-paid sales force makes and are not envious of the money salespeople take home.
If you must make adjustments to rep salaries or commissions, do it in a way, again, that demonstrates your appreciation for the members of the sales team. Show them how, even with the reduction, they can make more money than last year, perhaps through bonuses on growth. Or, in the case of a commissioned sales force, show how a reduction in commission rates doesn't necessarily mean the reps will make less. They may receive a lower rate of commission but have higher income on more sales due to new products or customer incentives.
As you manage your business, keep these four fears of salespeople in mind. If you deal with them well, you'll have a happy sales team--and a happy sales team is your most powerful competitive advantage.