Firefighting: Many of us in the business world have a different meaning of the word “Firefighting”, i.e. to try to solve a problem or meet targets when there is little hope and quite a bit of damage has already been done.
Before I begin this article I would mention that these are hacks and not a long term solution, it’s similar to applying a band-aid instead of dressing a wound. These hacks can help your performance in the short term but for long term results it is important to invest in people and their development. There are no substitutes for skill development, in order to have a good sales force who gives you consistent & organic results it is important to build the right platform, identify the right people & give them the right tools to achieve personal and business goals.
These hacks come in handy when you don’t have the immediate capital, resource, manpower or time to improve your sales performance. These hacks will give you the quantity but sometimes at the price of quality, if your boss is breathing down your neck & a deadline around the corner, this is a card you want to keep up your sleeve.
Bear in mind these are hacks so some of them may back fire, I leave that up to your better judgment which ones might work for you when. You can use just one of the tricks, or make your own cocktail.
1. Run a contest
We all have a habit of comparing, we are always curious to know where we stand, running a contest gives fuel to that physiological fire. The contest does not necessarily need to have a reward in the end; it’s just the satisfaction of doing better than others are the emotion you want to touch. A formal contest becomes a talking point, especially by the ones who are doing well. It is also important to have an end date (Ideally a couple of days before your deadline if not more) and it has to be an event and not a run in the mill activity. The Sales Head & other seniors should make a big deal about the contest. At the end of the contest no matter if the business goals were met or not there should be recognition for the top achievers, either my email, handing them a certificate or a letter of appreciation even a simple candy bar may be good enough, as this activity validates the objective of the contest.
When I say intervention I mean random audits of any kind. It could be doing mock pitches and assessing what the team is doing is right or wrong or asking someone to be a pretend customer, you can read about our “Business intervention services” to get a broader understanding of business interventions. Interventions should be regular in an ideal environment and critical when you are trying to push numbers to achieve a goal. Doing an intervention gets your team off their seats and puts them on the edge; they would now know they need to be on their toes, it is also important to justify sudden interventions so that employees don’t perceive it negatively. We have a habit of trusting our team members, they are doing the best they can, An intervention will either solidify that faith or shatter it and both are important to be aware of, as this will tell you whether it is a skill issue or a will issue. This will give you insight on where the challenge is and now is when you can start to figure out a solution.
Interventions are equally important for process and systems as well to understand if any change in process or system will help improve your performance.
3. Set individual targets
Sales is a target based environment, but a common mistake is we only look at our targets and work towards them, when it comes to managing a team it is important to set individual goals. It comes down to simple addition, if everyone meets their individual goal so do you, MEET YOURS! Of course, it is easier said than done but identifying ad setting individual goals is going to be your starting point every time. You can combine this technique with running a contest and it could work wonders for you.
4. Daily pep talk
One simple activity is to do a daily pep talk. You want to do this at the beginning of the work day, so that your sales team is motivated trough out the day. It also sets a positive atmosphere. During the pep talk you want to focus on the positive, even if you have to mention the negative follow it up with a positive statement. Example:“I know we didn’t meet our target yesterday but I have complete faith in this team that, not only we will meet today’s target but also catch up for yesterday.”
It’s difficult for some people to do this, don’t be afraid to seek help of colleagues, you can even ask other Managers or even your Boss to do it on a morning. There is only one way of getting a hang of giving good pep talks, is by giving more and more of them.
5. Pull historical data
Call up your old clients and ask for references, call up the people who were too busy, approach the guys who turned you down earlier. This is a desperate measure when you have exhausted all options or have a few extra resources at hand. You are probably scraping the bottom of the barrel when trying this.
Another reason why you want to look at historical data you can also look at a period when you did well and assess what are you doing differently from what you were doing then. One can use different analytical techniques and compare the differences.
6. Create a forum where everyone can see how they are doing.
Put up a chart or send a daily summary of their performance there are many ways you can do this. We all love to compare and know where we stand. This works on a sub-conscious level with your team as they now know where they stand, they can also identify who is doing better and see what they are doing different. It should be at a location where it is constantly visible to everyone this will make a huge difference on how your team will work towards improving their numbers.
7. Identify your start performers and give them an extra push
Some people fit in better, perform better and to most of them doing well comes naturally. We all have room for improvement and so do the best. Ideally you want to focus on your bottom performers and bring them at par but when it comes to a “Firefighting” situation you can rely more on top order batsman not your tail enders. As the say “When the going gets though the though get going.”
8. Give them scripts
There are times you may end up with a team which has limited or no sales experience and there is no time to upskill them either, a temporary solution is scripts. It’s that simple! However, you want to consider working towards improving their Sales Skills so that you can stop Firefighting every time.
If you’re able to convince your finance team or have the flexibility & authority of shelling out some extra dough then this is one of the simpler options. As it is a simpler option does not mean it’s the only option, the first thing you would rather want to do is check if there is any other way you can meet the numbers without burning a hole in your pocket.
As a Leader, if your organization has agreed to spend extra it is because they believe in you, however, it comes with the pressure of not letting your organization down. Incentivizeing is an easy option but a risk at the same time, be very weary for choosing this option.
10. Identify the leakage
One thing you want to be absolutely sure is there are no leakages in your Sales Pipeline. This is why maintaining your data well either in sheets or your CRM is important. This is also a form of intervention. If you do not have a system in place and unable to identify if there are any customers or leads that are being missed that is something you would want to fix right away.
11. Make smaller teams
If you have a team of more than 15 people this is good option to have a go at. You want to break your team into smaller units and ask them to pick a leader. Guide them to make a plan, give them targets and track their performance. Your Leadership Skills will be put to test here. You will have to constantly guide and monitor the Pseudo Leaders as things can also get out of hand in such cases. Encourage brain storming sessions and help each team achieve their individual goals.
This method breeds comradely, team work, bonding and last but not the least a healthy work environment.
12. Daily review
You can do a daily review at the end of each day; this would make your team feel accountable for their contributions. You want to try not to be too harsh but check their overall track record before reprimanding anyone, try avoiding reprimanding all together. You can do this on a one on one basis or as a group. As a Leader you want to ensure NOT to put down anyone in front of their colleagues. If you want to put a stern point across you would want do it on a one on one basis, at the same time you don’t want to miss on highlight the good points either.
Always give negative feedback in private and positive in public.
13. Break the goal down to smaller milestones
Looking at a very steep target can be overwhelming; you rather should break it down to smaller milestones. You can set weekly, daily or even hourly targets.
It mentally puts you a little at ease not looking at a huge number and makes the target seem a little more achievable. This hack won’t work alone; you want to tie it up with a couple of other hacks based on your situation and judgement.
14. Lead by Example
Show them how it’s done. You should be ready to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself if you have to and do it well. If you don’t know make the effort to learn and do it nevertheless. You need to believe it can be done more than anyone else. There is no “I” in “TEAM” as they say. Firefighting has to be done as a team and when you yourself are ready to give your all, it only encourages others to follow suit.
Lead by example is a core characteristic of any great leader.
Always remember: “A pat on the back never hurt anybody”