Obviously, business productivity will be the main reason for needing to get your team to accept your objectives.
So how do you go about setting objectives that will be both interesting and a source of higher performance? How can you communicate these objectives to your teams in a way that will ensure that they commit to them? This article contains useful advice for any manager who wants to have the right managerial approach when they set objectives, knowing that this is such a strategic issue!
Managers! You need to reassure your sales staff!
When you set an objective for one of your sales operatives, you need to remember that just receiving such the objective may be a source of stress for them. This is the key moment when they will have to evaluate how they are going to implement their action plan over the coming year. For example, if they feel that the objective is impossible, there is a good chance that they will become demotivated before even trying to achieve it. And this is the moment when they will have to negotiate with their immediate superior but bearing in mind that the superior will always get the final word. And all of this could represent a major source of anxiety for sales operatives.
So, as manager, you need to be able to reassure them. How can you make the communication of objectives less stressful for your staff? This question applies to everyone, not just sales operatives. When you give a task to an employee and they feel that they have access to everything they will need to complete that task, then they will have no reason to feel stress. However, if they feel that you are not providing them with the resources they will need to achieve their objective, then it is perfectly normal that they get anxious.
As manager, remember that situations of stress will certainly not add to your staff’s commitment to the company. Sooner or later, you may find that you end up losing your sales force to the competition and, in the worst case scenario, they might go off sick with burn-out or some other long-term psycho-social condition related to stress in the workplace. But you can avoid this by providing your staff with everything they will need to meet their objectives successfully.
Provide your staff with what they need to succeed
If you want your sales force to be confident and motivated when they take on company objectives, don’t forget that they need to be sure that they will be able to meet them. So it will be absolutely essential to consider each individual employee’s specific needs. A new team-member may not necessarily have access to everything they will need. For example, they may require specific training to help them settle into their new position.
In the same way, you will need to adapt the objectives to suit the potentials that, as their manager, you have detected in them. Informing your staff about the resources that the company provides to help them to meet their objectives is an essential part of (good) management practice. One clear example of bad management would be setting a task for an employee that they will not be able to complete, because you have not provided them with the necessary resources. If your staff-member does not have the knowledge, skills or tools they need then it is up to you to provide those resources and ensure that they are able to successfully complete the task that you set them.
An objective can only be acceptable and realistic if the employee, whoever they are (sales, finances, etc.), feels that they have access to everything they will need to meet that objective. So the manager’s role is to make sure that their sales force understands that all the resources they will need to succeed in their tasks are available to them and that the company is there to support them in this, by providing specific training and marketing/communication tools or through the application of an effective commercial pricing policy.
Adopting the right managerial approach
A manager’s job is not just about defining their sales force’s objectives and evaluating the finished job. To be precise, a manager’s job is more to do with supporting staff throughout the completion of their tasks. These days a lot of managers just “read the meter”, and not enough of them provide ongoing support.
However, providing support does not mean falling into the trap of actually doing the job for the employee. Don’t forget that objectives are also a way for employees to improve. A manager can show the employee how to do their job to help them to get started, for new arrivals for example, but if they have been in the job for some time then the manager must never do their work for them. In fact the right approach is more about telling or showing them how to do things better.
And in addition to this, the manager’s role, especially if they are middle-management, is to function as a filter or a screen when things do not go so well with the higher echelons. The correct managerial approach is to ensure that they do not simply pass on the whole of the company’s problems to their staff. This means finding the necessary resources from their partners such that their staff can get on and work to achieve their objectives. So that the objectives are no longer an obstacle!
Provide your sales operative with a realistic view of the objective
The manager must be able to tell their staff exactly what the objective involves in real terms so that they fully understand what is expected from them. Sometimes staff-members don’t really understand what is expected of them and the objectives can seem vague. Managers and staff need to take the time to discuss things in advance.
Some managers do not even realise the true nature of the objectives they set; as if they do not really know how to take them on, or even as if they expect their staff to provide them with the answers. This is an error of management: where the manager is not experienced enough to have a true global vision of the objectives they set. And even an experienced manager can make mistakes: by allowing their emotions to drive their actions for instance. And consequently, the manager will lack coherence in terms of what they are supposed to be doing.
But the manager’s job is to run the business, and make sure that it continues to exist and grow. Being a manager is something that is learnt, and the same applies to getting respect from staff. This is less to do with a sense of hierarchy and more to do with who you are and the respect, trust and commitment that you inspire in your staff.
Incentive compensation: can we really evaluate a manager’s managerial capacities?
As regards incentive compensation, it is quite difficult to put a real value on a manager’s managerial capacities. This would require applying a Management By Objectives (MBO) process using pertinent criteria. In reality, this pertinence is rarely applied since it requires genuine managerial courage. It is true that it can be quite difficult to talk with one’s staff about the managerial errors one has made (even if this is generally not a problem).
Consequently, we tend to set basic objectives when in fact they need to be more sophisticated.
Why not just stick to basic objectives?
Here’s an example: some big business bosses wanted their sales staff to simply complete a CRM, based on a number of given indicators, to get their incentive compensation. But the employees could quite easily complete the CRM with false data and still get paid. So this is clearly not the thing to do. Even if the indicator makes sense, the basic fact of completing a CRM is no proof of performance: it’s just basic housekeeping for the job. For these indicators to be an effective part of a sales and marketing strategy, they need to make sense so staff will commit to them and stay motivated.
As part of an MBO strategy applied to managerial capacities, we need to use soft skills to define the kind of manager able to evaluate individuals without just using basic indicators.
And we must consider the possibility that everyone will get an average score, if those evaluating fall into the gaping trap of not sufficiently differentiating between individuals. But, in order to increase motivation, those who have progressed and proven their abilities must be rewarded and, conversely, those who need to de better will simply not get any incentive compensation. And that is where we need to show managerial courage.
In the end, getting your sales staff to accept objectives involves adapting to their individual needs and requirements by providing them with all of the resources they will need to make the achievement of those objectives realistic. Some sales operatives will need more training than others. You need to be able to keep an eye on each member of your sales force, provide them with regular support to help them to meet their objectives, which must always be SMART: specific (clear and precise), measurable, achievable (but ambitious all the same), realistic and time-related.
And even if it is possible to apply incentive compensation to reward managers for their capacities and increase their motivation, it’s still a complicated process to put in place. We need to concentrate on sophisticated objectives based on indicators that make sense, and show managerial courage by rewarding only those who have shown significant progress.