Sales gurus spend much of their time showing sales teams and managers how to prospect, build relationships, close more business and lead more effectively. The purpose is to at least reach the ultimate goal: the sales quota. But often, we may forget an important component of this process that can motivate a sales force to achieve even more than expected. We forget that sales can also be fun.
I believe -- and have proven -- you don't have to sacrifice the fun quota to hit the sales quota. Here are several reasons you should want to achieve the fun quota at your company:
Put problems in perspective.
A few years ago, I was vice president of sales and marketing for a large manufacturing and distribution company. We periodically had trouble with production and distribution, attempting to keep up with annual growth of nearly 30 percent. One year, we did a particularly fine job of filling few orders on time because of process inefficiencies and the inadequate size of our warehouse. Our sales force was rightfully frustrated and upset. The national sales meeting was coming up, and I realized it could be the appropriate time and venue to address the attitude and morale problem.
It was time for a fun strategy.
Prior to the meeting, the company solved the order-filling issues by improving the technology and expanding the warehouse. So the reason for the sales force unhappiness was eliminated.
I could've opened the meeting by delivering a stoic speech on warehouse improvements and assuring my team of better days ahead. But I knew these people, and I understood they needed that little extra boost to get them re-energized and ready to sell again.
So I opened the meeting with a lively animated video of me stuffed into a small shipping container, leading them on a tour of the new and improved warehouse, with all its added amenities designed to help them fulfill their promises. The group cheered, laughed and, ultimately, went back to their respective territories to surpass even more sales goals.
Walk the talk when it comes to innovation.
You can't just tell people you're different. You must be different. We all have relentlessly pursued those elusive top prospects or dissatisfied clients who, regardless of what we do or say, we just can't seem to close the deal or bring them back. This is where a fun strategy replaces some of the high-level strategy.
A few years ago, a client of mine acquired one of its competitors. The clients of the acquired competitor were absorbed by the existing sales team. Unfortunately, some of these clients didn't like being absorbed and were refusing to speak with their newly appointed sales representatives.
It was time for a fun strategy.
In a brainstorming session, we came up with off-the-wall strategies to placate the disillusioned customers. One sales representative showed up to an appointment with a bull's-eye pinned on her jacket. Another rep who had trouble getting the first appointment showed up with ice cream cones at the front desk. Upset customers laughed -- breaking the ice -- and greeted their new representatives. New relationships started.
Have fun with failure and learn.
How many of you are tired of hearing: "You learn more from your failures than your successes. Don't take failure personally."?
Then why aren't we talking about these failures? Legends are built at great companies by sharing these stories and laughing at them. It's important to remember where we have failed and what we have learned, and enjoy a chuckle or two along the way.
I've shared several of my failure stories from my early years in business with clients. One of my favorites is about the struggle I had in learning how to create real pain and impact on a sales call.
Early in my career, I had an appointment in which I was committed to finding a prospect's "pain." In fact, I wasn't leaving until I found it. Well, I created pain, all right. After a three-hour meeting, the prospect escorted me out the door, informing me he was diabetic and could no longer wait to eat.
In so many words, he informed me I was a bigger pain than any problem he had just shared with me during our half-day sales call. Not my finest moment; however, I learned more that day than I could have learned in a dozen easy sales calls.
Business owners and sales managers: If you aren't sharing your war stories or providing a forum for fun and failure as well as success, you are sending an unspoken message that failure isn't OK unless you are the author of a motivational book.
When was the last time you actually had fun developing and implementing a sales plan?
It's time for fun strategy.