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We need to talk.
Well, we don’t. But you do.
If you’re a sales manager or VP, and you’re not making an effort to regularly communicate with those folks in the field and on the phones—the engines that are in fact powering your sales force—then you’re making one of the most critical mistakes you can make in your managerial career.
Shawna Suckow, who speaks around the world on marketing and sales ideas, shared a startling revelation in one of her LinkedIn posts: “Almost without fail, when I speak to an audience of salespeople, I get the same feedback: ‘My boss doesn’t get it.’” And you know what? The truth is that you may in, actually, in fact, get it. But if your employees don’t feel like they’re being heard and understood, then your own self-knowledge isn’t going to be enough to keep them engaged and thriving within your organization.
We don’t always like to boil things down to brass tax. It can seem crude, or harsh—or maybe just an oversimplification.
But the truth is, bad communication is a surefire way to drive revenue into the ground. Bad communication leads to disengaged employees. And disengaged employees are at a much higher risk of leaving your organization than engaged ones.
Sabrina Son, writing for TinyPulse, puts it plainly: “In many instances, even when a member of the sales team jumps ship, you’re still expected to meet your revenue goals and help grow your organization. Unfortunately, your existing team is probably already stretched pretty thin, so you may face some difficulty if you expect them to pinch hit for the departing colleague.”
In other words, by the time an employee has disengaged and left your organization, it’s already too late. You have to nip the problem in the bud before it becomes an issue that affects your entire team’s performance.
And that’s why it’s not just about avoiding bad communication, but rather practicing—and even mastering—good communication. James Meincke over at CloserIQ reminds us that a VP’s job isn’t to be omniscient, rather it’s to be an advocate for the salespeople that you oversee: “You may not know everything all the time, but by actively fostering a working relationship based on open communication and trust with your team, you won’t need to.”
Meincke goes on to say the benefit of opening communication and being able to listen to those boots-on-the-ground folks is that you “can learn what problems plague the department and address them so that the team can sell.” In short, good communication between VPs, managers, and their sales staff is crucial because it empowers sales teams to, well, sell. And here’s how you can do that really well.
A lot of times, we fall into the trap of thinking that good communication starts and stops with setting some meetings at the start of our new tenure—and then running with that information for the next year or so, until review time comes around again. But that’s exactly the problem. No, we’re not knocking the idea of an annual checking, but rather the idea of just stopping there.
Having a formal time each year to talk about an employee’s job is in fact a great opportunity to talk about long-term goals, and realigning on various objectives—even simply setting expectations. But along the way, employees will run into new problems, they’ll encounter new challenges both in and out of the office, and life will find a way of throwing those curveballs that it always seems to throw.
If you’re not regularly checking in with your employees, you’re going to assume that the goals they laid out in January are the same goals they have in June. But maybe there’s a new home on the market, a new baby on the way, or a new meeting they had that’s caused them to see things with a new vision.
Keep that line open, and those things all become challenges that you and your employees can work through together.
Nobody likes meetings. Okay, there. We said it. ATD’s Alexa Lemly says it best: “Don’t crowd their day with unnecessary demands such as bureaucratic issues or unnecessary meetings. Make sure your communication with your sales team is timely, simple and streamlined to allow them to focus on what’s most important to sales.
Sometimes when we hear “more communication” it translates to “more stuff that has communication in it.” That undoubtedly leads to lots of email blasts, the aforementioned unnecessary meetings, and all sorts of other horrifying workday activities that merely “check the box” on communication, rather than provide a proper outlet for it.
Instead, find ways to streamline your communication with your employees into their day—or in ways that can even improve their day! One such example might be taking them out for lunch. They have to eat anyway—why not do it on the company dime, and get a chance to sit down one-on-one in a less stiff environment. It really can be that simple!
At the end of the day, communication is a dance. We know that in our personal relationships—it takes practice, and work, and a lot of patience. So why would it be any different around the office (although, notedly, we hope that the content of your personal and work-related communication is quite different).
And so our encouragement is to not be shy about communicating with your employees. Stop by their desk and have a quick check-in chat. If someone on your team is doing a great job—just tell them! We here at Hoopla are no strangers to some good old fashioned recognition. So whether you’re broadcasting an employee’s big win or simply nodding at some nice work, take a page out of the sunshine band’s playbook: celebrate good times. Come on!
The point is, give it a go. As we’ve made the case above, the time to start communicating well with your employees is now. So get out there and make it happen!
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