Be Open and Honest With Your Salespeople and Reduce The Politics

by Robert Driscoll on October 7, 2009

whisperAll companies have politics, but how you handle them can make or break your career.  In a sales organization where the atmosphere can be intense and stressful, politics within this segment can make or break a company if not handled properly.

There are the “How To Play Office Politics” rules, such as:

  • Surround yourself with other ambitious colleagues in your organization and build a strong network of help.
  • Find a good mentor.
  • Ask for help and reciprocate.
  • Perception is more important than reality.

And the list goes on.  Politics is something we can’t avoid, but in a sales organization, it is important to minimize it and instead work on having your sales professionals foster and build not only their relationships within your organization, but more importantly, their relationships with their customers to help grow the business.  Office politics can distract your sales professionals from focusing on their goals when they should instead be making offers in the marketplace to your customers.  Reducing politics within a sales organization and creating a clear vision for your salespeople can be done by:

–          Setting goals for your sales teams in a timely manner

There is nothing worse for salespeople to sell in to a marketplace without understanding what their goals are.  If you want salespeople to be productive, give them their sales goals sooner than later and have them be realistic.  Include them in this decision making process and get their input as well to help provide a line of sight that they understand and believe in.  If you’re late in providing sales goals to your team, you will quickly de-motivate them and they will lose trust in you as you are unable to keep your commitments to them.

–          Be clear on your compensation plan

Don’t complicate the compensation plan for your salespeople.  Unless you have multiple products and/or services with different margins that require a different payout for each, try to keep your compensation plan as simple as possible.  Salespeople should be focused on selling and not on trying to decipher their compensation plan.  If you have to change your sales goals or your compensation plan, reveal the reasons for the decision.  If you hide the reasons why their compensation plan has changed or you are unable to provide a clear understanding as to why  it changed you will start creating an us versus them environment.  Be open and honest.

–          Measure and publicize performance data

Salespeople tend to respect what is being measured and publicized for their peers to see.  Not only is it important to measure and publicize it, but meet with your salespeople on a regular basis and tell them how they are performing against their goals.  Provide constructive criticism that will help them grow.  Beat them down and disrespect them and they will not respect you or their goals.

–          Eliminate back-office tasks for your salespeople and let them focus more on selling

Sounds  obvious, but a report done by the The Dartnell Group in 1992 showed that salespeople only spent 50% of their time selling with the remainder of their time traveling and/or waiting for and doing paperwork.  In 2007, a survey done by Robert Nadeau of Industrial Performance Group found that this figure had dropped to 38 percent.  Granted some of the other 62 percent is spent on account management and relationship building with their existing customers, but too often it’s dealing with internal processes and procedures (i.e. correcting billing errors, dealing with internal processes/procedures to get pricing or contracts approved).  With companies expecting more from their employees today and demanding they take on more responsibilities, this figure may continue to fall.  Eliminate some of these responsibilities from them by either automating some of the processes or hiring extra help.  Free up their time to meet with their customers and sell.  It will pay off in the long run.

Sales success also depends on intangible factors that are difficult to quantify such as the salespersons ability to build relationships and connect with their customers.  Salespeople are a major factor in determining if an organization will fail or succeed.  Eliminating as many barriers for them and creating an environment where their input is valued will minimize the politics and in turn create a powerful sales organization.

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