The Pressure Valve: Sustainable Long Term Success For Sales Teams

Dear Business Leaders,

Sales can be a tough game. It takes more than just charisma and confidence to succeed in this field. 

As someone who has managed sales teams for over 15 years, I know the pressures and challenges that salespeople face every day.

Contrary to popular belief, salespeople are not always the most confident and extroverted people in the room. They often struggle with self-doubt, and they need support and encouragement to keep going. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to strike the right balance between accountability and support for your team to achieve sustainable long-term success.

Over my career, I have been guilty of putting too much pressure on sales teams and, at other times, not enough. Achieving the right balance of when and how to adjust that pressure goes a long way to building a high-performance environment that is sustainable over a long period.

The Pressure Valve

It all starts with trust. As a leader, you must genuinely care about your team and their well-being and prove it to them. Go out of your way to protect them externally, provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed, and trust them to do their job. 

When things go bad, don’t single them out in public; talk to them individually and preferably in person. Find out why things aren’t working for them, and then help them find a solution.

Once you build that trust and provide them with all the resources they need to succeed, you have earned the right to turn the pressure up. Sometimes, sales teams need the pressure valve closed tighter to increase pressure. But leave that pressure valve tight for too long, and the steam will blow harder and hotter, eventually blowing. 

Identifying when the sales team is entering the ‘red zone’ and taking action to reduce that pressure is vital. That’s why you need to structure your targets, their compensation packages, your special offers, and other marketing techniques with this in mind. You can’t run the team in the red zone forever; it will blow.

Sometimes, the sales team will be in the red zone, but you must keep pushing to hit a target. In that situation, the best thing to do is to absolve them of all responsibility.  At your next sales meeting, explain that it was your fault things hadn’t worked this quarter. You made mistakes, and it’s not their fault they didn’t hit the target. Apologise that it will affect their bonuses. 

Often, by taking this responsibility, the team will double down, with the pressure off, to hit their number for themselves and you. That is when you know you have earned their ultimate trust and respect.

Managing a team is a privilege; like with all privileges, it comes with responsibility. Yes, responsibility for a target, but more importantly, responsibility for people. 

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