Two seemingly random thoughts are on my mind this week.
The first is an article I read that reminded me of something we’ve all seen before. It’s the line that “people join companies, but they leave bosses.”
The second is the number of my LinkedIn connections who are AE’s who have left our business to go to ad agencies, especially digital agencies. It seems like there have been even more lately.
It’s very clear to me that there’s a correlation between people exiting our business and the quality of leadership. But, the number of great people exiting seems to be increasing, so I’m not sure that’s the only issue. More on that later in this article.
We have a unique vantage point in our company. We’ll work closely with TV stations in 80+ markets this year. And, I can tell you that there’s an absolute relationship between the quality of leadership and the turnover a sales staff experiences. Great bosses also have turnover. Some they create. But great sales managers have a whole lot less turnover than the managers who aren’t as good. In fact, if your sales department is experiencing high turnover, the first thing to look at is leadership.
But leadership is only the beginning. I think it’s also about the culture of your organization. Culture is so important and so seldom talked about by managers. Every manager has a culture. Whether you know it or not, you HAVE a culture. The question to ask? Are we conscious of the culture we’re creating or is it just happening? Great managers create their culture intentionally.
There’s an energy to great sales staffs. You can feel it as you spend time with them. Great sales staffs are having fun. They have clear goals. AE’s know there are standards and that low performers will either have to get better or leave.
In great cultures, there’s an emphasis on doing things that meet many of your AE team’s primary motivations of applause… excitement… and fun. A great place to see that is at the sales meeting. There are way too many bad sales meetings in our industry. Meetings that are boring—with almost nothing exciting and where the prevailing motivation is negative. If your culture is more like “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” I can guarantee you, it’s likely you’ll have a high turnover environment. A great sales meeting isn’t boring. People occasionally even look forward to them. There’s a lot of applause and recognition, which creates energy.
Great leaders also regularly do one other thing. They’ll spend time with top performers to make sure the company is meeting their needs and is aware of where they want to go. One idea? Think about your highest performing AE’s as being just as important as a large account. We teach AE’s that at least once each year they should do an in-depth diagnosis call with their largest accounts. So, do the same with your best salespeople. Ask them where they want to go in their careers and how you can help them get there. Now, that’s something that will help increase loyalty! We need bosses who are listening to our people and trying to help them achieve what they want.
There is stress in high-performing sales staffs. Of course, there is–it’s 2019 in the TV business. We ALL have stress!! But high-performing managers balance the stress with fun and applause so that people don’t get overwhelmed by it. It’s when stress becomes relentless pressure that people start looking for the exits.
Speaking of stress and pressure. In an earlier life, I was in a radio station ownership deal that wasn’t going well, and it was a very tough economic time. I found myself stalking the sales staff daily, asking, “Sell anything today?” I hadn’t done that since I was a brand-new sales manager. Sadly, in hindsight, I realize that when my people needed more from me—more encouragement, more energy, more positive strokes and recognition—I was actually making it worse. As we head into a challenging 2019, I think that’s a lesson on which to reflect. As a manager, don’t let your stress, pressure, and fear cause you to make your culture less appealing. Because this year our teams need us to be at our best.
Besides the “people leave bosses” issue, I think there’s another issue causing the exiting of many good people from our business. I think we’ve done a horrible job in selling our own employees on the future of our industry. TV is not dying. Not even close. And the combination of TV with the cool things we can do for clients digitally makes this the best time ever to be in our business. And since we’re all going to have to be better at creating demand, this is going to be an especially good time to be in our business for someone who is great at selling. This next decade will be prime time for great salespeople.
All of us are charged with the increasingly difficult challenge of finding great people. But one thing is for sure. If I keep the ones I have today who are already great, my recruiting issues get a whole lot easier!
Have a GSM or GM meeting in your future? Why not have Jim Doyle or John Hannon speak to your meeting about how to turn your sales staff into a Sales FORCE? We promise powerful, thought-provoking content customized to your company’s needs. Contact Jim Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 941-926-SELL.