At the upcoming annual company holiday party I can’t wait to thank my CRM system for all of my success this past year; a sentence that is likely to be said by a total of zero sales people in the next month and a half. Not because CRM systems are not important, but rather because they do little to nothing when it comes to motivating sales people. Likewise, you are not going to hear many reps stand up and thank their manager for their overwhelming product and industry knowledge. Again, not because these things are not important, but rather because they are not what research proves motivates sales people to drive performance. So what will sales reps thank for their success? People, they will thank people!
Imagine all of the different award shows or recognition events you have watched in your life: The Grammy’s, The Oscars, The Espy’s, retirement parties, commencement ceremonies, graduations, etc., etc., etc. Every time at these events the person being recognized thanks the significant people in their lives who helped them achieve their successes. They thank their spouses, children, grandparents, coaches, managers, teachers, mentors, colleagues, and so on down the line. Most always they thank people and not systems, tools, or processes. Specifically, as it pertains to sales reps, they are going to thank their managers for their ability to coach them (defined as helping reps’ improve their skills) and for helping them progress towards their career goals and development. Now, they may not say it using the aforementioned language, but if you listen closely these themes will be present.
The reason people always thank people makes perfect sense because whether it is a spouse or a sales manager, if a person feels that you truly helped them achieve a level of performance which they could not have achieved without your help they will be grateful. Back to CRM for a moment, does CRM motivate reps to drive more performance? Of course not, most sales reps enjoy their CRM the way they enjoy eating vegetables every day, they know that it is good for them so they do it and that is where the motivation stops. However, reps are (or should be) motivated by the person who implemented the CRM and by the person who has a vested interest in them using it correctly … their sales manager. The challenge for sales managers is how they can coach reps to get the most out of using their CRM to ensure short term success and also present a solid case for why going through the painstaking process of data entry every day will ultimately help them progress to their long term career aspirations. If sales managers can help sales reps buy into the important processes the rep will always thank the sales manager for doing so way after the fact, say at a holiday party or recognition dinner.
If you are not sure about all of this, I will offer a real life example I experienced this past weekend. Tom Osborne, long time Nebraska football head coach and most recently Athletic Director, retired from the University of Nebraska. The University used the Nebraska vs. Minnesota football game as a platform to honor Coach Osborne for all of his work he has done for the school and to recognize all of his personal and professional accomplishments. Throughout the game a plethora of former students, players, and colleagues gave video tributes to coach Osborne about how he helped shape their lives and not one of their tributes had much to do with the game of football. As cliché as it sounds Coach Osborne taught his players more about the game of life than he did about the game of football, yet his results were better than most coaches could ever dream of achieving. Coach Osborne has a strong developmental bias, a developmental bias that leads him to coach everyone he interacts with to improve all of their skills in order to help them achieve whatever their ultimate goals may be and it is reflected in the sentiments of everyone he has had the opportunity to coach.
As sales managers, be thankful to be in a position that allows you an opportunity to have so much positive influence on so many lives. While the next quarter is important, if you judge the impact you have on your producers lives 20 years from now instead of 20 days from now I promise you the results will follow. I promise you they will be thanking you at the next Holiday party.