How to motivate Romanian sales people (to achieve!)

I started my career in business as a salesman. Fifteen years later, I find myself doing the same thing. Selling. Do I sell better? I don’t think so, I’ve always been in the top three of my teams. Did I learn something? A lot. Process, techniques, psychology, strategy. Do I make more money? Yes, because I’m self employed so I get it all: salary, bonus and profit. Do I sell differently now? Frankly, no. I do what I always did: meet people, and discuss with them passionately about how we can improve things together for them, or for their companies.

Guest post by Adrian Barbu, Managing partner, theCONSULTANTS Group

Three days ago, in a presentation delivered to a large audience by the sales director of an important multinational company, one of the slides drew my attention. The title was: Step 4, motivate the sales team. Lower down it said: “Sales people – a coin operated machine”. The phrase first blocked, then redirected the stream of my thoughts to the last fifteen years of my life, casting a strong light over them and leading to a revelation.

In fifteen years, being a salesman, manager, trainer and coach, I met thousands of other sales people. I worked in multinational and international environment, so I met many foreign sales people and an even larger number of Romanian salesmen. Have I met any “coin operated machine?”. I have not. Like nobody has the monster of Loch Ness, as well.

I was trained to lead by American and French teachers, but only led Romanian sales people, and had to motivate them to reach the targets. I did not always succeed, in the beginning. The wise things taught in the academies were not fully applied by managers around me or above me. So in the beginning I thought they were wise, and copied what they did. Exactly as companies over use promotions to attract consumers, managers around me massively used bonuses and prizes to motivate sales people. It only worked during the prize or bonus period. Later the effect faded out, exactly like the one of consumer promotions…A second stage of the ‘motivational kit’ were the mobile phones. A third one were the cars. A forth one were the laptops. A fifth were bigger salaries and bonuses, a sixth…Fifteen years later I know that all the above motivate Romanian sales people only to seek for a job in the company who offers them. Not to achieve.

So what does? Can Romanian sales people be motivated to highly achieve in sales?

Here’s my revelation: if they like the job and are suited for it, they do. But the real output comes from leadership feeds: they need a goal larger than themselves, an honest, warm and constant care about their evolution as a professional, empowerment and autonomy to succeed through their own forces. They can ‘be operated’ well with a human and open approach, with a straight look in the eyes and a “well done, thank you for that!”, every time they do a good job. They like teams and like to keep close to others, to be known well for who they are as a person, to be appreciated for their personal strengths and encouraged to increase them. These people love to be coached for better performance and adore success. They like to improve strategies and processes, to be listened to and to contribute to the decisions. They want to be understood when they have an occasional failure. They need a firm but fair approach when they loose their way out of performance. Do they want money? In a way that any reasonable person does for an honest job, yes.

As a consultant today, too often I assist internal meetings of sales departments, where the manager is the only voice and the two topics are the carrot (money) or the stick (threats). If the sales are low, the salesmen get blamed. When the sales are up, “it’s ok, but they could do better…”. Anyway, “they have to understand that they must achieve the plan!”. And “look at the nice bonus perspectives if they do!”

Yes, Romanian sales people can be motivated easily: only by employing great leadership skills. Warning: accidentally, any number of extra coins inserted during the process may be swallowed by the machine and not returned.

Adrian Barbu, Managing partner, theCONSULTANTS Group, is the first Romanian consultant certified in Customer Experience, at the highest international level: “Customer Think – Global Certification”. He is a performance management specialist, with deep services, sales & marketing experience: 10 years in consumer goods (FMCG, pharma and fashion) and an experience of 9 years in retail management (fashion, furniture, electronics & home-appliances). theCONSULTANTS Group offers integrated consultancy services through its three companies: SHOPPERS– mystery shopping services, SALESMEN – training and coaching of sales & services staff, and POWERLINK – evaluation & increase of companies’ performance. Established in 2006, theCONSULTANTS had a turnover of 390,000 EUR in 2009, employing 17 people.