Step Two: Align the System with the Strategy
Adjust your sales performance management system (objectives, tools, rewards, consequences, and feedback) to align with your new services selling strategy.
A. Fitting performance specifications.
First, make it crystal clear that selling services is now an important focus of the company and an important required responsibility of the sales force. These expectations should be translated into quantifiable services sales goals (how much, what type, when) and should be in place and outlined in all sellers’ quotas and in their performance plan.
B. Adequate resources.
You must have the necessary knowledge, skills, and tools supported by quick and easy access to your knowledge management system and internal experts. Most of this is best introduced through training, as discussed below.
C. Minimal interference.
In all probability, you have just added more responsibility and more work to your sellers, but have not taken away any of their product sales quotas. To give your sellers the time to learn and practice how to sell services in the field, you need to minimize or eliminate secondary expectations. For example, for the first six months, ask the marketing department to eliminate all requests of the sales force, minimize the amount of time you expect sellers to take executives around to visit customers— unless those visits include services sales coaching by the executive—try to hold off involving your salespeople in task forces, and reduce required paperwork and all the other things that keep them out of the field selling services along with products. Minimizing interference will not only free up time for your sellers to learn how to better sell services, it also will take away excuses for non-performance.
D. Appropriate consequences.
First, add a carrot—link the achievement of services targets to lucrative incentives. You can scale back later. In an attempt to get the attention of your sales force, make sure you are paying a higher percentage of bonus on services compared to products. In addition, tack on some highly visible bonuses (five-day cruise for two, twin Harleys, country club memberships—whatever gets their interest) to generate some excitement when your box sellers make good services sales. Your best sellers like to compete among themselves, and this is a highly visible way to do it. If you really want to generate maximum interest in selling services, make sure the spouses are aware of the incentive program. They can apply pressure that sales management can never match. Second, add a stick—put negative consequences in place if services selling goals are not met (no trip to the Bahamas for the services slackers, no product bonuses if services sales goals are not achieved). Punishment is a strong word, but necessary nonetheless. If your top product seller, Ace Flanagan, does poorly at selling services, put him on probation and let him know that job security requires services sales maturity. You will be sending a strong signal.
E. Quality feedback.
The faster you get reliable performance feedback to people, the more likely they will self-direct their behavior to meet expectations and gain the positive incentives. Ideally, your sellers should be able to access their performance-to-goal anywhere, anytime. And, of course, management attention, encouragement, and coaching will increase the probability of repeatable, sustainable performance. Start every sales meeting with the selling services review of performance to demonstrate its importance and generate motivation.
The above process seems logical, doesn’t it? These are classic, proven steps of how to change people performance. Yet I rarely see organizations that address all of these points from the start. Most executives will set services targets and provide solid incentives, then expect/hope/demand that selling behavior changes. It will not. The gap is too large, and the change is too scary. Without meaningful ramifications for not selling services, you are wasting your time. The result will be dismal (if any) increases in services sales and a year of frustration for management.
The important thing to remember here is to do all of these steps, or don’t do them at all. But often management is very reluctant to put negative consequences in place around not selling services. (Maybe all the sellers will revolt!) Even if they put the negative consequences in place, it takes a steel-backed sales executive to keep the top-producing product seller (and his or her spouse) from making the trip to Rio for not selling enough services. (Maybe he will quit!) Finally, most product sellers, no matter how effective they are in that role, find it hard to transition to selling the invisible.
GIST: Getting the sales force to attempt to sell services is only effective when:
- Objectives and metrics requiring them to sell services are a part of the selling package.
- Lucrative incentives are in place for selling services.
- There are meaningful negative consequences if their selling services objectives are not met.
- Management actually enforces the significant negative consequences if selling services objectives are not met.
- If you put a gun to their head, the sellers could effectively sell services on their own.