As the leader of AJ’s healthcare practice, Meghan understands the nuances of the pharmaceutical industry and how to bring purpose to the forefront of meaningful communication.
If you are the one responsible for directing a large sales force into the future of annual sales increases, the pressure is on to inspire, align and organize your reps behind your organizational goals.
Easier said than done. By design, your team is often disconnected from the home office, on the road or in the air, chasing leads, building relationships and closing deals. The act of sharing important information and tools to support their efforts needs to be useful, rather than overwhelming or distracting. Effective sales team communication should also be more than product updates and pricing information.
The bottom-line is, employee engagement is a big deal with a big payoff. As their leader, your communication should be a welcome, engaging and purposeful message – not just white noise. If you’re giving your sales team the content and context they need, and communicating with them consistently, your organization will experience noticeable success:
- Connection = Productivity: Productivity improves by 20 – 25% in organizations with connected employees (according to a McKinsey Global Institute study).
- Increased Revenues: Increases in productivity translate to potential revenues of approximately $1.3 trillion each year. According to Gallup, companies that actively work to engage their employees “win an average of 147% higher earnings per share.”
- Less Turnover. And the losses aren’t to be discounted either. When employees are engaged and aligned, they are less likely to be unhappy. Bloomberg BNA found that companies lose $11 billion in annual employee turnover.
You’ll keep your sales force more engaged when you take a more strategic approach, rather than playing “whack-a-mole.” Plan your communications and messaging from start to finish. The right mix of content, frequency and voice will help them absorb the information that is most important to the business, stay motivated throughout their busy days and throughout the year, and will reinforce the importance of their role in the larger community. A community that exists to support them at every turn.
HOW to communicate with your sales team
When plotting your sales force communications strategy, consider your platforms, or vehicles, for carrying your messages. And, don’t stop with just one method. The magic will be in the mix of delivery.
Embracing technology is critical when you have team members spread across the U.S. or globe. Here are the communication tools that the top organizations are using to keep their salesforce engaged.
The cloud – Eliminate the barrage of emails and “use this one” confusion. From DropBox to Google Drive, sharing documents, presentation decks and sales collateral has never been easier. Create a space of shared files for your sales team. They will have an accessible library of important sales material at their fingertips and updating those files will be quick and painless.
Internal videos – According to a recent study from Forrester, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Video gets a memorable message across quickly to your sales teams. Whether you choose to create highly-produced videos or edit on a smartphone, the most important thing here is the message. Be consistent in how you use video. It may not be ideal for urgent messaging, but will provide a special, more-engaging platform for your C-suite executives to communicate important milestones or motivational messages.
Video conferencing – Video conference calls allow you to share information across your sales team in a highly engaging way. Virtual face-to-face is more effective than audio conference calls as it reduces multi-tasking and provides visual feedback. Forbes Research conducted a study in 2017 and found that “62% overall – and 73% of executives from high-growth companies – say video conferencing improves outcomes.” Not to mention the fact that 50% of those surveyed also felt that video conferencing improves the level of understanding.
Internal social platform – Consider the growth of internally-networked platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack. Similar to a social media network, these tools are a productive and more socially-interactive diversion from cluttered email boxes. These collaborative tools encourage team sharing, direct messaging, file sharing and organizational communication – all in real time.
Text messaging – This classic form of communication is a powerful tool for immediate messaging – especially for words of encouragement or quick updates as the quarter is closing. Incorporating text messaging into your multi-channel communications approach will help your team stay in constant sync.
WHAT to communicate to your sales team
It is important to fuel sales excellence by arming sales teams with information beyond sales numbers and data. Valuable content motivates them to succeed, inspires their dedication to your business goals and helps them do their job more efficiently. A supportive approach to sales team communication is essential for gaining attention, driving results and keeping culture scores high. Give them the content they need to succeed, without over-communicating or redundancy, and your sales steam will love you.
Highly-specific client and prospect data – There’s nothing more impressive to a client than knowing more about them than they know themselves. Give your sales team print or digital collateral that delivers digestible, personalized data about trends, conditions or opportunities in a customer’s industry. This highly-tailored approach supports your reps’ ability to be a valued consultant, rather than a tactical sales person. This content should be seen as a piece of strategic communication that will help your sales team build genuine relationships in the field.
Examples of this type of content might include:
- Information specific to their buying behavior with your company – which brands, quantities, samples requested, etc.
- Competitive information, such as number of competitive products bought, frequency of purchase or new buying behavior that may signal a change in their business.
- Data specific to their company and/or industry. Do you see trends that may affect their business that you/your product could help alleviate?
Creating this type of content on behalf of your sales team provides your reps with more purpose as it directly translates to their client or prospect’s business – it could become a leave-behind that will leave a lasting impression. This will not only differentiate your sales team from the competition, but it will also help drive incremental business for your company and create a stronger bond with you and your reps.
No matter the type of content you’re creating for your sales team, there are a few things that should be consistent across the board. Here are my top three guidelines for developing content and material that will help your salesforce sell:
Don’t forget to communicate accomplishments – According to a 2018 Globoforce Social Impact in the Human Workplace report, 69% of employees admit that they would feel more dedicated to their work if they felt more appreciated or felt like their good work was being acknowledged. Accomplishments big and small, birthdays, and work anniversaries are important things to recognize to help your sales team feel like they’re important to the organization and that they matter. This is especially important if your sales team is remote and not physically connected in an office environment.
WHEN to communicate with your sales team
How often should you send information to the sales team – what is the right cadence?
There is a fine balance between “enough” information and “too much” information, especially when it comes to a sales team that is (or should be) frequently away from their desk and out in the field most of the day. Sales reps do not want to wade through a variety of emails from management every day. Likewise, you want your team spending time with prospects and clients, not internal communication. Like the age-old story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” if you overwhelm your audience with communications, they will stop listening.
In addition to being strategic about when you communicate, remember to be consistent in selecting the platform from which to communicate, and the spokesperson.
Real-Time Communications – If there is late-breaking news regarding your product, or something critical is happening with a competitor, your sales team should receive or have access to that information immediately.
Weekly Communications – Any data critical to the job, such as new sales leads, product/service updates or upcoming networking events should be communicated weekly. Choose the same day each week to send this weekly sales update so your team gets in the habit of expecting it.
Bi-Weekly Communications – Internal, team-related information, including successes and challenges, should be addressed on a larger conference call every two weeks (be sure to prep a tight agenda to keep things moving along).
Monthly Communications – Distribute morale-building moments, be it an encouraging video from the Sales Director or a message from the corporate office monthly. This keeps the sales team in-tune with the larger picture and how they are contributing to the company overall.
Quarterly Communications – There should be two types of quarterly communication. Prior to the end of the quarter, share any encouragement or incentives for the team. Then after the end of the quarter, take a moment to celebrate the successes of the past quarter and/or constructively evaluate what could have been done differently to achieve success.
Develop a message matrix for your sales force communications plan
In addition to thinking about what the content should be, the platform for delivery, and how often it should be sent out to the team, consider your spokesperson for each type of message, and be consistent. Consider your sales and marketing leaders and be strategic in defining their communication role to the team.
Develop a “message matrix” at the start of each sales year to map out your content, the cadence and who the messages will be coming from throughout the year. This strategic approach allows for the distinction of messages from General Managers, Sales Directors, Regional Directors, etc. As inspiration, here is a sample of a basic message matrix/communications timeline:
While this may differ within organizations, the most senior leader on the team should own the highest level of messaging and promote confidence in the organization as a whole and in the future. They should speak to how the team’s contributions are adding to the bottom line of the larger company.
The Sales Director, or the person responsible for the sales team, should focus their message on inspiration and motivation, while also outlining the details of what they need to do to achieve their goals and how they are going to do it.
Marketing teams should also be included in this matrix. Their messaging should focus on the specific tools that the sales team has at their disposal in order to fulfill the goals that the Sales Director has set.
In addition to helping you get ahead of your communications plan, mapping out the content and cadence allows you the flexibility to change things throughout the year, as new ideas and strategies arise. You have a roadmap and can therefore take a detour if needed. The right mix of content, frequency and voice will help your sales team absorb the information that is most important to the business, stay motivated throughout their busy days and throughout the year, and help remind them that they are part of a larger community that is here to support them at every turn.