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Keys to Unlock Consistent Improvement

4 Mar, 2015

In a world where change, organizational transition and sales force transformation seem to be the status quo; some things still remain the same.

I’m referring to the resolute expectation for sales managers to continually improve performance. No matter how successful a sales team or selling organization is currently, there is still always a need for continuous productivity and profitability improvements. For number sales managers today, this call to “achieve even more” has become a stain of concern on an otherwise spotless management / leadership career. And, according to numerous sales managers the question is simple, “How do we get even more than we already are?”

As a training and education company who offers both advanced selling skills and effective management leadership education and coaching; and having educated and coached more than 40,000 professional sales leaders; and as a result, we have come to what we believe are some very credible conclusions. Consistent improvement in a transitional environment requires 5 key components for success.

Key components for continuous improvement success:

  1. Understand that business improvement is never finished.

Leonardo Da Vinci said that “Art is never finished, it’s only abandoned.” It’s important that sales managers recognize and communicate that there is no “end” to improvement. No matter how successful a sales person, sales team or company become; there is always a need for consistent positive improvement. The most successful sales managers don’t “sell” every change to employees; they engage employees to create improvement by creating a work environment of expected improvement and then simply lead their teams in the current direction of perceived opportunity.

One of the fundamental sales manager and/or leadership mistakes we’ve witnessed time and again is the communication to the company or team that the current goal is the finish line. Remember resistance to change is commonly nothing more than loyalty to the old way of doing things! It’s great to get the team pumped up and engaged to achieve the current goal; but don’t give the impression that the achievement of the goal is the final resting place of success. It’s only a stepping stone on the way to our future and with more or different information this goal may also change.

  1. Define and communicate your “current” perception of success.

We all know that to be successful in business we must continually change as information, circumstances and opportunities change. It is important that sales managers consistently focus their employees of the “current” view of success. This is the primary reason that when we teach both consultative selling as well as developmentally focused management we instruct participants to not worry about what they cannot control, but instead, focus on the things that you “can do” that will take you closer to your current goals. Tomorrow we may decide to proceed in a different direction; but based our current vision of success; what tasks should we perform today that will take us closer to our goals. By helping employees to understand and work toward your current goals, daily improvements lead to greater success where ever that might eventually turn out to be. Remember that like “life”, “business” is a journey and a process; not a series of destinations and plateaus.

  1. The shortcut to improvement… is the people.

The most successful managers know that true, sustainable business success can only be achieved by the development and improvement of their most valuable resource… their employees! Managers must focus their daily decision and work effort around developing their staff. Great managers know that it is much more difficult to achieve any objective when your staff is unprepared or lacks the ability or attitude to accomplish the goal. At Learning Outsource Group, we focus manager intention and work toward what we believe is the number one management leadership priority: “Developing my staff to perform their job responsibilities better than I ever could,” or at least to the best of their capability! Managers can only do so much of the work themselves before they reach the inevitable point of diminishing returns. Great managers diversify their abilities to and through their team and/or organization in order to best leverage the talent and ability of many to achieve greater goals. Only by developing our staff can we continue to make the necessary business improvements and continue to achieve greater goals!

  1. Focus on daily behavior and activity.

Once the current goal has been defined and communicated, every employee and manager should focus their intentions and efforts toward the work that can be performed today which should move the team closer to the goal. As I’ve said many times in sales and sales management training programs; “Success comes most easily from doing the right things… every day!”

For selling professionals this means working from a daily plan that the employee has determined will take them closer to achieving their portion of the overall goal. For sales managers; this means that they should monitor, manage and coach to those daily employee goals, activities and behaviors. If managers wish to achieve and improve on current and future goals then it must be understood that weekly, monthly or quarterly goals are more easily and best accomplished by helping sales staff stay focused on the “daily” behavior and activity that will eventually culminate in overall achievement success.  And if sales managers want salespeople to be consistently more successful and continually improve over time, then they must understand that improvement is incremental and that it is the commonly the daily implementation of the effective strategies and tasks; performed with the appropriate professional attitude, that delivers long term, ever increasing improvements.

  1. Celebrate small successes!

A very common mistake we’ve witness is managers allowing good selling efforts to go too long without review or recognition.  Once a manager truly understands the improvement value of focusing on daily behavior and activity, then celebrating small successes becomes a natural opportunity for leveraging daily employee achievement into grander team and company goals.

Involved in most selling days is a lot of work with very little selling reward. And yet, selling professionals commit to the work and selling challenges anyway. Sales managers, who monitor, manage and coach daily sales activities and behaviors create many more opportunities for improvement coaching as well as employee improvement motivation. We should never underestimate the power of recognition and appreciation when motivating others to step outside their own “box” for consistency and improvement. Celebrating the smaller daily activity and behavior successes of employees will create a working platform much more conducive to achieving the ever increasing expectations for improvement. Showing employees that you care about them and what they do every day is one way to positively encourage people to try and do even more!

(*Kim Ward and Tom Cooke of Learning Outsource Group will be presenting at the ITEX EXPO 2015, held March 10-12 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For full ITEX agenda details visit http://www.itexshow.com)

Author Bio: Kim D. Ward is the Director of Training for Learning Outsource Group based in Ormond Beach, Florida. He has been involved in training and consulting within the office imaging industry since 1993. He is a nationally recognized speaker, facilitator, consultant, and coach and has personally worked with over 30,000 industry professionals, teaching such programs as Sales Management Leadership, Management Development, Advanced Sales Training, Selling Managed Print Services, and many others. Kim has worked extensively with a large number of industry OEM’s, IKON, Global Imaging Systems, Xerox, and over 800 independent office imaging dealers during the past 20 years. www.learningoutsourcegroup.com

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