Shh. Yes, it’s true. I quietly quit before there was an eye-catching alliterative social name for it.
Lack of employee engagement is bad. We all know this. It can derail a company’s operations and performance. Especially, a lack of sales employee engagement leads to certain disaster, including high turnover, missed targets and/or declining revenues. Sales leaders must be even more vigilant about employee engagement to succeed.
Why did I quietly quit? It all started when I closed the largest deal in company history. The whole leadership team was aware of it. I structured the deal hand-in-hand with our CFO. When the deal closed, my manager called to tell me that the company would not pay me per the comp plan because it was “just too large” and that he would “go to bat for me”. What was paid was actually about 50% of what the comp plan should have paid at face value. About 6 months later, it happened again. As a sales rep, it’s hard to drive for the fences when there’s a big asterisk next to compensation. Additionally, this company had a culture of no 1-on-1 meetings so I didn’t have context for the decisions. The only meeting I had with my management team was the team forecast call and we know how much fun those are. When I presented my deal story at the Sales Kick-off, a guy from another department who was unrelated to the deal mansplained it to the audience. Unsurprisingly, my efforts fizzled along with my motivation. I was very nearly completely disengaged.
What happens when an entire sales team is disengaged? I worked with a client company that saw overall revenues decline by 40% over several years. They were in trouble with their bank and in a bad place. When I started interviewing the front-line sales representatives — all remote employees– the experience was bizarre. I was mystified when the half-hour meetings turned into 1 to 2-hour impassioned brain dumps of their frustrations, hopes, and dreams. The sales team comprised all fairly senior people with significant experience in the market, but they had no way to voice their concerns or share ideas that would lead to revenue growth and better customer service. The team had no information or communication on what the company’s goals and key metrics were. They had minimal learning opportunities to help them grow in their roles. The team leader didn’t return phone calls when reps called with a question. Our number one recommendation to the team was to replace the non-communicative manager and restore employee engagement.
Keeping a team motivated and engaged is not brain surgery but it takes a consistent and measured approach. If you keep these concepts in mind, you won’t have to sweat engagement issues that impact on your top (or bottom) line.
So, how do you keep your team members from quietly quitting?
Communicate, communicate, communicate. Then communicate some more.
Leadership involves much more than giving orders. It also requires effective communication. After all, how can you lead people if they don’t understand what direction you’re headed? That’s why communication is such an important skill for leaders. If you can learn to communicate effectively, you’ll be able to better lead and manage people. You’ll also be able to build stronger relationships, inspire others with your vision, and, ultimately, achieve your goals.
Give employees a voice
All employees have unique perspectives and opinions. Listening is critical to your success as a sales leader.
As Simon Sinek says, there is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. Really listening to your employees demonstrates respect and offers you a channel for you to learn about your business from another person’s perspective. You get to know more about each individual–what gets them excited, their worries. Listen, confirm receipt, and thank them.
If employees feel they are working in an environment that allows them to address issues openly and are listened to by management, they are far more likely to be engaged and happy in their roles. Transparency about directional shifts within the company is always appreciated, as it implies trust and respect. For example, if a business implements new software that would impact on the wider team, the employees will be more accepting of the change if they are involved in the decision-making process.
Provide opportunities for learning and growth
Most employees are happy to be called out for more responsibility. I know this because of kindergarten. Do you remember when you were in kindergarten and your teacher rotated weekly assignments? When I was the line monitor, I thought I was the queen of the universe. I learned quickly that being in charge of ensuring that 30 5-year-olds were quiet, orderly, and respectful is an impossible task. And power is fleeting: the next Monday someone else was assigned the coveted title. Of course, your team is not a group of kindergarteners but you can help them expand their knowledge and feel good about themselves by taking on a temporary leadership mantle or taking point on a special assignment. Even feedback, delivered respectfully, is a learning opportunity.
Review your comp strategy
If there is any question about your team’s engagement, reviewing your comp plan with a critical eye is imperative. Do your reps understand the plan well? Is the plan driving the behavior you want? Is at least 60% (ideally 70%) of your team hitting their numbers? If the plan isn’t working and it’s not possible to revise it, look into short-term spiffs to drive engagement. And to prevent your company from balking at paying successful salespeople, make sure you model extremes of achievement in the planning phase so that you get buy-in and don’t have to deal with losing the engagement of top performers.
Help develop their careers
Organizations that invest in employee career development see more increased employee engagement and retention. By providing opportunities for employees to grow and advance in their careers, you show them you value their development and are committed to their success. Employee career development can take many forms, from formalized training programs to mentorship and coaching relationships, as well as development plans.
Be human, and acknowledge their humanity
At bottom, we are all human beings. Pretending otherwise is inauthentic and, honestly, kind of silly. Yes, I have done ridiculous things like negotiating a contract while immobilized with a broken leg and had customer calls 2 weeks after giving birth to my son. I missed my brother-in-law’s wedding because I was “too busy”. In every case, I was either capable of delivering results without damaging my body or my relationships, or I shouldn’t have even tried. An effective employee shouldn’t have to sacrifice all. As a leader, don’t let them go overboard and pick up the slack temporarily if needed.
In conclusion, employee engagement is critical to the success of any sales organization and is the solution to quiet quitting. Sales leaders can exercise practices to increase employee engagement, including effective two-way communication, having leadership support behind a great comp plan, and encouraging employees to take on meaty new challenges.
What have you done to increase employee engagement in your organization? We are happy to help explore opportunities with you.
Lindsey Anderson is the Managing Partner with CROs2Go having 30 years of sales leadership experience, growing public and private companies and advising early-stage startups. She quickly refines processes and approaches to accelerate revenue growth and is an expert at creating high-value partnerships. Lindsey operates as a fractional sales leader, consultant and sales leadership coach.