After an interesting talent feedback call, I had spoken with a sales manager who was dealing with a challenge that most managers deal with at some point in their career. Can you identify with the following situation – and can you learn from this story?
The good news: The salesperson he is managing is highly talented. She has a lot of natural ability, and when she is engaged, she’s one of her company’s top performers.
The bad news: She is not that engaged. She is occupied with other things outside of work and seems to lack the desire and drive to succeed in her job.
We talk a lot at The Center for Sales Strategy about putting the right people in the right jobs and we believe that when you do that, they naturally soar with their strengths. Throw a fish in the water and it swims. Put Taylor Swift on stage and she belts it out. Hire someone who is born to sell, and they sell.
Except when they don’t.
The best explanation I can give you comes straight from the mouth of a high school basketball coach named Tim Notke, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Talent can only get you so far. A person has to activate their talent in order to make anything big happen. If they don’t, it’s as if they never even had the talent in the first place.
So how can you help to engage your salespeople in such a way that they are energized by their work and they activate their sales talent?
8 Things You Should Do To Turn Talent Into Performance
1. Find out what is truly motivating them to get out of bed and come to work every day.
For every seller, it is something different. Are they motivated by money, recognition, or being #1? Once you determine what really motivates them, you can create incentives that tie in with their motivations.
2. Pay attention to them.
Attention and retention go hand in hand. Let them know they are important to you and to the mission of the organization.
3. Inform them.
Don’t just tell them what they need to do, talk with them about why they need to do it. Get their buy-in, ask their thoughts, and show them that they are a critical piece in the bigger picture of what you are trying to accomplish.
4. Spend time with them to develop their natural strengths.
Don’t try to coach them from behind your desk. Go out in the field and watch them in action.
5. Give them specific feedback on what they are doing right.
And do that often. Did you know that the typical person needs 5 positive comments before they are really open for one piece of constructive coaching? They also need to hear positive feedback from you at least once every 7 days. Put those rules together and we call it the “5-7 Happy Hour Rule.”
6. Treat each person as an individual.
Understand their unique strengths and challenge them to grow in those areas.
7. Ask them how they want to be treated.
Make a list of the things you will need to know in order to individualize your coaching, and then ask them every question on the list. How do they like to celebrate successes? When they are struggling, how do they want you to offer your help? Will they come to you with things that are on their mind or should you make it a point to ask them instead? What do they expect of you as their manager this year? What do they think you expect of them? Questions like that.
8. Work with them to set meaningful goals and help them track their progress.
Show them how invested you are in their success.
As a sales manager, you should never let a good talent go to waste. Help your gifted sellers activate their talent and make something happen.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on March 3, 2014, and it has been updated.