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A salesperson or sales representative is responsible for using their company know-how to connect with customers and generate sales for their employer. While a professional salesperson wears several hats, their core duties include prospecting clients and opportunities, cultivating relationships and building trust with clients, positioning the value of the products or services they’re selling, and closing with an offer clients can’t turn down.
But above all, members of the sales team are tasked with nurturing relationships with all customers — present, and potential — so they can stay ahead of leads.
There are six main categories of salespersons: manufacturer’s salesperson, wholesaler’s salesperson, retail salesperson or retail sales worker, specialty salesperson, industrial salesperson, and exporter’s salesperson. Regardless of their specialization, their duties remain largely the same: to win new business for their employer.
The core 5 functions of a salesperson include empathy, focus, responsibility, optimism, and ego drive. These essential salesperson skills help them establish rapport, identify with customers, stay attentive, organized, and — most importantly — motivated.
While members of the sales team are crucial to any company, they’re often underappreciated and overworked. Since sales representatives operate on quotas — a minimum sales target to achieve monthly, quarterly, or yearly — they have a hard time taking time off to recharge.
“I was very tied to the hamster wheel, and despite people’s best advice for me to take time off, I just didn’t prioritize it,” shares Ryan Heapy, who felt like he could never take a vacation or any time off to recharge.
The struggle with taking time off isn’t all. Many salespeople struggle with stress, anxiety, and depression. “There’s so much I love about sales,” shares sales rep Jeff Riseley.
“I love the rush when you close a big deal and all the learning and growth that goes into it. But my mind and body just [weren't] able to sustain the stress and the pressure I was under every day.”
To add to their list of challenges, the pandemic has disrupted their sales performance and relationship with clients. Instead of leveraging facetime to nurture relationships, they’re now faced with a virtual barrier, leaving emails and phone calls as their dominant form of communication with prospects.
In honor of National Salesperson Day (December 13), let’s take a look at five ways employers and upper management can address these challenges and help keep their sales team happy and productive.
One of the characteristics of high performing sales teams is their laser-sharp focus on goals and quotas — which is why it’s important to set clear goals for salesperson jobs as early as the time of hiring. This lets employees know what is expected of them in terms of time and sales targets. “Only hire people whose personal goals align with what your business has to offer,” advises Solomon Thimothy of One IMS.
“Make sure they feel their progress. It’s commonly believed that salespeople are only motivated by money, but that’s not always true. More often than not, they are motivated by growth.”
Thimothy isn’t the only one who prioritizes setting goals in the workplace. In this TED talk, author and business expert Dan Pink discusses the importance of goal-based motivation, emphasizing how projects take on more meaning and purpose once employees know what they’re contributing to.
Furthermore, goal-oriented sales people are more inclined to stay true to their timelines and develop successive sales for the company, even without direct guidance from upper management.
One of the greatest disadvantages of being a salesperson is not being able to take a break without impacting their sales quota. “Even taking a week off during the holidays can come at the risk of making quota, which could lead to being placed on a performance improvement plan, and, eventually termination,” writes Brian Nordi for Builtin.
“The number one problem is, if you take off, you risk falling behind and making less money,” says Ryan Heapy. “Cue more anxiety. Imagine going on vacation and having that quota looming over your head.”
Being a salesperson requires perseverance and an innate sense of competitiveness. But working relentlessly comes at a price. It can cause anxiety, stress, burnout, and a host of other health issues that lead to poor performance and affect team sales.
Reducing a sales representative’s quota for the days they take off for vacation can help them take time off without financial repercussions, or the risk of being terminated.
A single unit of relief, for example, enables a salesperson to take up to nine days off with a reduction of 8.5 percent of their quarterly quota. This alleviates the pressure of meeting goals for the days they choose to take off.
Remember: relentless work can cause good salespeople burnout, which can cost productivity levels for the company, and further pose the risk of top salespeople quitting.
Erica Stacy, a senior sales development representative for outreach company Interstellar, acknowledges her line of work can be strenuous. But vacations help her keep burnout and salesperson depression at bay. Whenever she begins to feel exhausted, she takes advantage of her paid time off and quota relief to schedule a weeklong vacation to New Orleans or a beach in southern Florida.
“That’s what gets me through the burnout,” shares Stacy, “knowing I have a vacation coming.”
PTO gives employees the opportunity to take a break from the daily demands of their job, and recharge. But that’s not all: PTO also helps increase productivity and creativity at work, which is why it’s vital for upper management to encourage their staff to take time away from work.
Communication from leadership about vacation helps remind employees that their mental health is important to the company. Whether it’s a note in the company newsletter, an announcement at staff meetings, or employers setting examples by taking PTO themselves, reminding salespeople to step away from their job can motivate them to rest and recharge.
Expert communication skills are among the most valuable qualities of a salesperson, but that doesn’t mean the connection should be one-sided. Success comes from relationship-building, which is why it’s important to be vocal with your support for salespeople.
“Agencies should focus holistically on their work culture across the board for all employees to create a great vibe, a movement that will encourage all staff, no matter their position, to stay,” advises Adrian Falk of Believe Advertising & PR.
“Too often, the people at the top get all the attention; but focusing on everyone, from the agency’s coordination team up to the management and sales team, will allow you to build a strong team for years to come.”
It’s no secret that happy employees are more creative and productive. Whether upper management shows appreciation with thank you notes for salespersons, a shoutout on a Slack channel, or acknowledging them company-wide as Salesperson of the Month, it’s crucial to be vocal with support.
Of course, there are other ways to show your support such as added benefits and recognition gifts. Sandra Wiley from Firm of the Future advises, “the more creative and individualized the reward is, the better it will be received by the staff member.” And when employers use Hero in their workplace, they’ll have access to an all-in-one gifting solution to make business gifting seamless and scalable, regardless of their sales team structure.
Remember: in the age of The Great Resignation, sales team motivation is simply non-negotiable.
“Sometimes, sales forces are marginalized because the rest of the company thinks they’re smarter or more important,” shares Jason Wulfson of AUDIENCEX. “The best salespeople are treasured assets and are treated as such. Listen to what they have to say about the operation as a whole.”
It’s true — effective and active listening not only helps the company retain their best sales talent, but also gives employers insight into direct sales team incentives and sales team management as a whole. Regularly checking in with your team members can help them understand how to build a sales team, give them the opportunity to provide valuable feedback (how can marketing support the sales team better, for example), identify pain points, and set goals for the future.
“Sales numbers are definitely important; but in a creative agency, strong relationship building is key,” says Christopher Tompkings of The Go! Agency. “Also, focus on their post-sale after-care experience. It is important for a salesperson not to vanish after the contract is signed!”
Sales can be a profession of extreme stress and responsibility. Together, let’s take steps to create a healthier environment.
Small interactions can make a big impact on company culture. SmartGift’s Spotlight Series identifies the joys, challenges, and needs of specific roles within the teams we work. Over the forthcoming weeks, we aim to outline creative and unique strategies for companies to show appreciation and support their team members.