Does your sales force have the summertime blues?

Does your sales force have the summertime blues?

I do not have to tell you that we are now being visited by the hot and lazy days of summertime. The calendar says so, and signs are all about.  And just like the weather, sales forces can have a tendency to get a bit lazy and rudderless when summer is in high session. I call it the “summertime blues.”

Here are a few sure signs to watch for—

  • The number of physical sales calls drop like a rock—”you know, no one is ever around during the summer anyway, and they really prefer to speak with me by telephone.”
  • Prospects and potential customers get virtually no attention.
  • It takes nearly 48 hours to personally get in touch with anyone from the sales force.
  • The number of sales representatives meeting or exceeding their sales goals or quotas drop by half from the prior couple of months.

There is no need to look at the calendar if the above is occurring, it is summertime and your sales force has a case of the blues.

What causes this to occur? There is a long-held belief that sales forces are generally self-directed and only need financial motivations or rewards to be directed to achieve expected sales results. In such a world who needs a sales manager? Our theory is that while sales forces are more self-managed than other employees, job structure, high expectations and planning are still (and always) required to assure sales force effectiveness.

Summer is a quiet time for managers as well as sales forces. It is our experience that normal expectations for the sales force become lax (or loose) during those months and sales representatives can tend to readily and quietly wander off task while no one is looking. It is a bit of a tradition, but does not have to be. And, such behavior is not isolated to only the sales force.

What should the prudent company do? We think the cure is simple: double down on your summertime sales-force expectations! Here are four examples for how to improve sales energy level and focus for the months of June through August:

  1. Summer is a wonderful time for cold calling. Double your physical cold-calling quota for the summer months. If you expect 5 per month, increase the number to 10. Give your sales force the lead information required to support this effort and set a 3-month goal for closing business with new customers. Throw in a $1,000 bonus check or two to spice up the process and reward the people really doing the work.
  2. If you expect your sales force to make 15 calls per week on select customers, then they must continue to expend that same effort during the summer months. If a client is on vacation and unavailable, find then another client to call upon. No excuses, just plenty of hot-weather sales calls completed. [I actually like summer sales calls; I find one can be more productive.]
  3. Realign your monthly and quarterly sales goals at the beginning of the New Year and ask for more sales production and closes during the summer months—if you do not already. Having to reach a little higher makes people work a little harder. [Now, I do not want any cards or letters next year from any of you saying that you tried my idea in 2012 and all it did was create a bad case of “the spring blues.”]
  4. Make summer a prime time for passing knowledge and skills from senior employees to those new to the company or sales force. Many call this process mentoring. As such, pair a senior sales rep with a rookie for a month or more—in either a territory or to develop and service client portfolio. We believe that it is a valuable exercise for both parties. Particularly, it makes the senior sales rep think about:
    • What is important about each step the sales process;
    • How they must execute each; and
    • Most importantly, how do they explain this mystery of life to a rookie?

While some would argue that there could be a loss in productivity in such a pairing, we believe that the formation of this loose team will likely both increase productivity and sales force focus. And, neither party is ever alone to get lost in those summer weeds.

In short, keep your sales force busy during the summer and they will get more done. It may take a bit more work for the sales managers, but it will pay dividends for the employee and company.

Is your sales force experiencing the summertime blues? If you do not like my work plan, create your own—the secret is acting before you lose the attention of the sales force for the next couple of months.

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