The 3 Best Ways to Demoralize Your Sales Team

I’m not sure who would actually want to demoralize their sales team, but I’m sorry to say it happens every day of the week. I mean, everyone wants their sales team to consistently perform at a high level, right? But, like many things in business, good intentions don’t always translate to best results. Conventional wisdom, after all, is often wrong.
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There’s an old joke about a man who goes to the doctor complaining that every time he drinks coffee he gets a sharp pain in his right eye. The doctor’s sage advice? “Try taking the spoon out of the cup.” These 3 ways of demoralizing your sales team are those “spoons in the cup” and if you’re not happy with the current level of production from your sales team, you just might be in the mood for my nickel’s worth of free advice.

1. Measure activity instead of results
I know countless sales leaders and business owners who sincerely believe more sales calls will result in more sales. In theory it seems logical, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Unless you’re in telemarketing, you’re wasting valuable time on a very low-probability activity.

In order to embrace the more-equals-more approach, you’d have to accept certain assumptions. One of those assumptions is that buyers are always ready to buy the minute they pick up the phone. Or that it only takes one great sales presentation to close a sale. The truth is, it can take up to 10 or 11 “touches” until a buyer signs the order. Another supposition is that a prospect is a prospect is a prospect. If they are not buying from us now, they are fair game. The truth is that not all accounts are equal. Not even close. The name of the game here is quality, not quantity.

I’d rather see a salesperson spend 40-50% of his time researching and qualifying the most promising prospects before ever picking up the phone. There is a direct correlation between high closing ratios and a solid qualification process. Whatever you measure, you get more of. If you want more sales calls, please keep measuring them – just know that as you do, you’re sucking the life out of your sales team. Now if you want more sales, measure only the results.

2. Tell them HOW to do their job
“Just give me my sales goals and leave me alone” is a common but unspoken sentiment among most salespeople. The world is full of sales leaders who believe their job is to ride roughshod over their salespeople who, without your constant supervision, would spend all day sharpening pencils and rearranging their desk. If you are worried about this behavior, the problem is YOU, because you’ve done a poor hiring job.

Micromanagers are a curse to any sales team. They slow things down. They create fear and loathing. It would save everyone a lot of time if they just came out and said, “I think you’re incompetent.” Every unsolicited suggestion, every “constructive” critique chips away at a salesperson’s self-esteem. Creativity and the ability to think fast on your feet are key components to sales success. So if you don’t care about sales success, by all means, get your people to question themselves and to think they need to stop and ask your permission before proceeding.

3. Show you don’t trust them
In Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he calls trust a “critical performance multiplier.” The ability of a salesperson to perform at a very high level is in direct proportion the level of trust given to them by their supervisor. Everyone knows what it feels like to not be trusted by your boss. You can just feel it. One way this shows up in a sales job is your boss calling you at the end of the work day on the pretense of “seeing how your day went” and instead listening as hard as he can for background noises that might indicate your presence in a bar, or far worse – at home playing with your children. And, of course, their favorite day of the week to do this is Friday.

The whole “weekly/daily” call report is also a great way to show your people you don’t trust them. Look, you’re either hitting your sales goals or you’re not. If you don’t think your sales people are capable of achieving their sales goals or can’t be trusted to conduct themselves at work with honor, you should fire them on the spot. No amount of babysitting or micro-managing is going ameliorate a lack of integrity.

A final note addressed to Presidents and CEO’s: if you are not happy with your company’s sales results, don’t be too quick to blame your sales people. Take a good, hard look at the sales leaders, too. More often than not, salespeople are being held back from their potential by their leaders. After all, it’s quite true that people don’t quit companies, they quit their managers.

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