How to keep your sales organization focused

During this time, when many of us are directly or indirectly dealing with issues related to the global COVID-19 pandemic or, perhaps, financial pressures on the personal and organizational levels, many sales leaders are struggling with the issue of keeping their teams focused. It’s not at all surprising that sales teams can become distracted. The question is, what do leaders do when that distraction reaches the point where it affects revenue generation?

Maybe a better question is: Why does it seem that so many younger members, of so many sales organizations, are so prone to distraction right now? Two possible, interdependent answers: One is that, for much of this year there have been major social upheavals, and personal challenges, we’ve all had to face … and that younger people (under 30-ish) are more inclined to bring their responses to these challenges into the workplace. The reason for this brings us to the second answer which involves a fascinating demographic shift in behavioral styles.

If you are not already familiar with the behavioral assessment tool known as DiSC, it’s a system that identifies four distinct ways human beings communicate, and interact, with other human beings. Two of these, identified by the letters “D” and “C,” tend to prioritize the completion of tasks. The other two, identified by the letters “I” and “S,” tend to place a much higher priority on relationships with people.

That’s not enough to give you much insight into the use of the DiSC system as a management tool, but it is enough to shed some light on the question of why so many sales teams find themselves profoundly distracted right now. The answer is that, in recent years, younger workers have skewed strongly toward the “I” and “S” profiles, and away from the “D” and “C” profiles.

In fact, according to the Extended DiSC Validation Report 2019, the overall English-speaking population of respondents that have the “Driver” profile has seen a drop in the last 15 years from 14% to 10%. This means that many sales teams populated by younger workers are more inclined to explore feelings, and relationships, as their means of interacting with the world at large.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this, as there are no good or bad DiSC styles. However, a challenge arises for “Driver” sales leaders who are trying to motivate their people to close deals, and hit revenue projections, while their people desire to explore their feelings and solidify relationships with others.

If there are behaviors that need to happen on a daily, weekly and monthly basis for the person to do his or her job effectively, and those behaviors consistently are not happening, the sales leader needs to find an effective way to respond. Here are some suggestions for handling this situation:

• Acknowledge the importance of feelings and relationships. These are how “I” and “S” team members experience the world. Effective communication requires you to acknowledge their importance.

• Set up a one-on-one meeting with the team member in question. Don’t try to address this during a group meeting. It won’t work.

• Stick to logic and facts. Focus on objective realities on which you can both agree (such as the need to help and support family members, and others at the company, who are counting on the salesperson).

• Keep bringing the conversation back to the behaviors. You can do this by asking questions like, “What can we control?” “What can we do next?” “How can we make this better?” The best answers will tactfully, but invariably, point the salesperson back to his or her behavioral plan.

One final important point: social media is a portal into distraction. Use these one-on-one coaching discussions to encourage limiting nonwork-related social media usage during the day. You will find it easier to keep people on task. ♦

Jim Marshall is owner and president of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay, which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or [email protected].

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