How to run a happy, productive sales team

Joe Griffin
Joe Griffin

Any team manager will tell you that sales is a challenging job and that staff churn can happen as a consequence of burnout, poaching or a colleague not being suited to the team or job. 

Wayne Thompson, sales manager for AutoEntry in the UK, has overseen strong growth in his department as well as healthy eNPS ratings and low staff turnover. He’s done this while hitting targets. 

The Value of Emotional Intelligence

When asked why staff turnover is so low, he maintains that emotional intelligence and respect are key factors in running a team: “A major issue [in some other companies] is the boss looking at staff as staff. I don’t. I look at them as colleagues, friends and family. I’m protective of them. That separates me from some bosses I’ve worked for.”

Wayne is strict, but respect and diligence are the key pillars of what he demands from the team. Once you’re respectful of colleagues and make an honest effort, even if you struggle or misstep in other ways, you’ll have a place on Wayne’s team. “Stay within the parameters of that box. How you dress, how you look? Irrelevant. It makes no difference to me what someone is like, as long as they behave well.” 

“My colleagues treat their colleagues like siblings. If they’re struggling, help them. I have let go more good salespeople than I have hard workers. I’d stop working with a good salesperson who doesn’t help colleagues before I would someone who’s trying their best and is respectful to colleagues.”

Vanity and Sales "Superstars"

The concept of a superstar salesperson is not important to Wayne. Yes, making sales and hitting targets are important, but no one person is more valuable than the team. And someone with a bad attitude - even if they’re hugely talented - can do more harm than good. “One glorious person is aggravating everyone,” says Wayne. “People doing great, sometimes get a chip on their shoulder, then start acting arrogant, hurting morale. The unit is better than an individual. Getting rid of difficult people makes the group better.”

He also believes that the biggest challenges as a sales manager are not necessarily with salespeople in a slump. “Sales has ups and downs. When you’re winning, it’s the best job in the world, but when you’re not, it’s the worst. It’s about picking people up when they’re down.”

Vanity has no place in sales, and indeed, it can be a humbling profession. While Wayne maintains that he was good at sales, he wants his team to be better than he is: “Every one of my team members, I want them to be better than me. Some people don’t want to share information because they want to be the best. Someone who comes in with some better skills than me, I give them all my skills so ideally, they’ll become much better than me. We’re all part of the same engine.” 

The Staff Turnover Challenge

Industry-wide, sales has a higher turnover than other professions, especially B2B sales. Indeed, voluntary leaving is at 16% and employee disengagement is a constant threat (as it is in all industries).

So how does Wayne run a tight ship while also maintaining high morale? “I run on emotion, not stats,” he says. “I understand what makes people happy or unhappy. I have emotional intelligence.”

“If someone’s down, I’d tell them to eyeball themselves and call themselves amazing.

I wouldn’t shout at someone because they’re down - it’s about making sure they know they’re better than how they’re feeling - that they are more than their numbers on that day.”

Training - To Shadow or Not to Shadow?

Training and shadowing can be a tricky subject too: Being shadowed is an essential way to find out why a salesperson is struggling, but paradoxically it can make the colleague self conscious and insecure about their work. “You need to wait for them to ask you,” says Wayne. “Wait for that cry for help. Then you can sit the trainers with them every day all day to help them get better.”

“Encourage conversation with your staff. Tell them to talk to you.”

Like many managers, Wayne has taken some inspiration from giants of football management. In this case, it’s Alex Ferguson. “He’s the one who made me think of that box - the parameters that you have to work within. You have to have rules and be very strict- as long as you’re obeying those rules, anything in between you let go.” 

“Be the best version of yourself as possible.”

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