Podcast – the Psychology of a High Performing Sales Team

Dec 22
sales teams

Podcast – the Psychology of a High Performing Sales Team

I had the opportunity to give an interview to the Australian Podcast Network recently, answering some questions on the Psychology of a High Performing Sales Team. Here it is.

It got me thinking about the work we’ve done to really understand what makes and keeps a call centre sales team motivated and firing on all cylinders.

It takes real courage to work in an outbound call centre – it’s an environment which can be tough on staff morale. At times I’m reminded of the lyrics to an Eminem song:

He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The whole crowd goes so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out
He’s choking how, everybody’s joking now
The clock’s run out, time’s up, over, blaow!

For an outbound agent, each phone call starts the clock running again, each day becomes a groundhog day of good calls and bad ones – the sort of work that can be a testing place to keep your morale high.

And yet, we know that good staff morale is key to a productive and profitable call centre. Ensuring your agents are feeling good about their jobs and happy to be present requires consistent effort and dedication on your behalf. Yet even managers who work hard to set a good example for their call centre team may find themselves lost at what to do when morale seems low.

To help you, we’re providing these tips so you can keep your contact centre running efficiently while actively working to reduce staff turnover.

1. Recognize and Reward Achievement

Companies with employee recognition programs have more engaged employees and stronger sales teams. And businesses with more sophisticated recognition practices are twelve times more likely to see strong business outcomes.

When your agents are doing well, tell them. When they get good feedback from clients, share it with them. Recognize individuals and team efforts. Whether it’s in the form of a “job well done” and a pat on the back, or a small cash bonus, employee rewards will drive motivation to continue to do well.

2. Recognize Special Events in Their Lives

When someone on your sales team has a birthday, celebrate it. If an agent is expecting a new addition to the family soon, send a gift for the baby. Is an agent getting married? Send a wedding gift. This level of attention shows you care, and helps employees feel valued. When they know their home life is acknowledged, they’re more likely to bring their best to work.

3. Keep the Door Open

An open-door communication policy encourages agents and sales team leaders to come to you whenever they need you, with whatever they need. Transparency in the business helps build trust, and employees who know their feedback is valued are often more productive. Staff morale will improve simply because they know have someone to talk to who will listen to what they have to say.

Working with an open-door policy allows you to be more aware of what’s happening in your sales team on a daily basis. Informal discussions with staff can help you gain insights about the business. It also helps ensure your employees when come to you whenever they have issues or ideas, which is important in the fast paced world of a contact centre. You’ll also foster a closer working relationship by letting your staff see you as friendly and approachable.

However, even with an open door management style, you’ll still need to close the door for confidential employee discussions. To avoid creating anxiety amongst staff who repeatedly see the door close for these types of conversations, opt to hold these meetings in a conference room, or go for a walk for a confidential chat.

One study shows 77% of employees want more collaboration with their manager, and when they’re shut out, they’re more likely to leave their job. 74% of employees want a manager who will listen to what they have to say, understand, and respond to their concerns, and 86% of employees want to trust, and be trusted by their manager. Open door management helps address all these key areas of what employees are looking for.

When someone on your sales team has a birthday, celebrate it. If an agent is expecting a new addition to the family soon, send a gift for the baby. Is an agent getting married? Send a wedding gift. This level of attention shows you care, and helps employees feel valued. When they know their home life is acknowledged, they’re more likely to bring their best to work.

4. Encourage Breaks

Remind everyone of the importance of taking a proper break. If you have agents who are workaholics and avoid leaving their station for the duration of their shift, or use their breaks to catch up on paperwork, institute a mandatory away-from-desk break policy.

Though this seems counterintuitive, taking short breaks will increase their ability to focus on their work. A 2011 study showed the longer someone worked, the more their performance declined, but allowing people to take short breaks from the main tasks enabled them to stay more focused as a whole.

Want your sales team to make the most of those breaks? Encourage staff to exercise. Getting the blood pumping increases energy and alertness, making it easier to get things done. Encourage your agents to get up and move to keep blood flowing – suggest they go walk around the block, grab a coffee, or simply go to the break room for a snack. Taking a break every 90 minutes to walk a couple of laps around the office is better than sitting still at the cubicle.

5. Organize Something Different

While employees will surely appreciate a free breakfast or lunch, think outside the box. Your agents are in front of computers all day, which can be stressful on the body. Hire a massage therapist to provide quick back and shoulder massages while agents take their breaks. Or, hire a professional instructor to teach yoga or a Zumba class for an hour. Going beyond the standard free meal will boost staff morale because employees know you care.

6. Provide Time Off for Personal Projects

Personal projects can break the monotony of day-to-day work in the call centre, and could provide your company with a source of innovation. Atlassian, a collaboration software developer in Sydney, hosts a “ShipIt day” every quarter where employees are allowed to work on anything they find exciting, as long as it is somewhat related to the company’s products or processes.

A day like this in your contact centre could include ideas on how to make training sessions more fun, ideas to vary the scripts used with customers, and more.

Other companies provide volunteer leave, which allows sales teams to work together to contribute to a charity or other volunteer organisation together.

7. Random Acts of Kindness

When onboarding new agents, include a small questionnaire with a list of their favourite things – sports team, flower, colour, candy, etc. Keep the information on hand so when someone clearly needs a pick-me-up, you’re ready with one. Have an agent who’s been working overtime to cover someone out on leave? On Friday, present them with their favourite treat or a bunch of their favourite flowers.

Boosting staff morale requires an honest appraisal of where morale sits currently. Reach out to employees and find out what you can do to help motivate them. Get their ideas on policy and process changes that can make their jobs easier and more enjoyable. Take your findings to senior management if the suggestions aren’t within your power to implement, and start with praise for a job well done as soon as possible.

Just like with team motivation, it’s possible for staff morale to waiver from one day to the next. Some days will be a breeze, while others will feel as though they’re about to go head to head with a tough audience. That’s normal, because outbound sales is one of the most challenging jobs out there. When your staff is down because they’re not happy with schedules, their performance, or have been upset by a rough call, knowing they can come to you and talk, or get some encouragement from their fellow team members, can make all the difference.

Need a game plan to win on the customer experience battlefield?


Flickr cc:Mystic Politics