Small Business, Employees sell, Motivate, Selling Organization

How to Motivate Your Small Business Employees to SELL

Most small businesses don’t yet have a sales team. All the “selling” has been shouldered by the owner from the launch and through the growth of the business and that owner wears way too many hats. For successful businesses, at some point, the owner decides that growth requires sharing that “sales” hat and then seeks to hire a sales person.

That’s the most common first thought: to hire a sales person to generate more opportunities and bring in revenue.

However, we have a more unconventional approach and say, WAIT, let’s make EVERYONE in your organization a sales person, first!

Part of our strategy to give our small business clients a distinct competitive advantage is to help them create an entire organization that sells. All the talent and resources are focused on creating extraordinary customer experiences and recognizing and promoting customer opportunities to retain and grow sales. This is not your traditional ideal of “Sales” but recognizing when to nurture relationships, collaborate with customers or uncovering and advancing opportunities with customers IS selling and your employees are capable of being your secret revenue weapons.

This is usually when our owner/client scratches their head and says a big “But HOW? HOW do I get my employees to sell?”

It’s not enough to just ask them to sell, there’s a lot of strategy and coaching that goes in to creating a selling organization. It’s about setting the intention to reframe or create your business culture and defining the behaviors and the actions that support that culture.

Here’s your 5 step strategy to motivate your small business employees to sell:

Set the expectation – Try this statement on for size: Everyone has the responsibility to contribute to the fiscal health of the organization. Period. From front desk receptionist to delivery driver to sales person to the CEO. EVERYONE has the responsibility of selling in the organization and helping your customers buy you.

This starts at hiring the right people. It’s much harder {but not impossible} to change behaviors if you don’t hire for the right intention and culture. The moment you define and articulate the opportunities for this employee in this role to contribute to the financial growth of the company, you’re giving them the power to stay employed, create their own wealth and play a part in the success of the entire organization. Ask anyone who’s been through a painful downsizing if they could have contributed to the fiscal health of the company if would have helped saved their job and you’d get a “Heck yeah!”

Set the expectation by discussing the internal {and external} encounters they have with customers and determine –

What opportunities do you have to get customer feedback?
What key words or phrases are signals they should listen for?
What is the key message for the company’s mission?
What are the next steps when you recognize an opportunity?

Walk the Talk – Take the time to understand what you’re asking of them by walking in their shoes. Are your expectations realistic? Is their environment conducive to having exploratory conversations or ask probing questions? Do you have the right resources at their fingertips to make conversations happen? Can your employees see you listening for buying signals or opportunities and stepping up to do what you’re asking of them too?

It’s important that employees see owners and colleagues participating in the selling organization culture but it’s also important that they understand how they’re going to be supported and held accountable for the activities and behaviors that you’re asking them to perform. Walking the Talk is just as much about doing as it is follow through. Don’t be all bark and no bite. Follow through with coaching, training and accountability for the actions that advance customer opportunities.

Leverage their natural strengths – Ask anyone who’s NOT in the sales department to sell and you’ll see them bug out and say “I’m not a salesperson, I can’t SELL!” Most employees outside the sales role wouldn’t see themselves as sales professionals and frankly, don’t WANT to be in the sales department. However, this is a great opportunity to listen to your customers and leverage the great personalities and natural strengths of non sales employees.

They may have open and more relaxed relationships with customers based more on their unique personality than their job roles. Every employee is different and that’s a great asset when you encourage them to be authentic and transparent in expanding their relationships with customers. They don’t need to fear turning in to a hard driven sales robot. Let them to be themselves and coach your employees to keep their personality and use their own voice to amplify the value and solutions your company can provide.

Give permission and empower them to make the decisions – Nothing is worse than asking your employees to take charge and make things happen but leaving them powerless to make any decisions outside of the “perfect scenario” created in the training materials {if there are any}.

Be specific about giving them your trust to make decisions. Be explicit that you support their attempts to do the right thing. Let them know that you expect they will make mistakes or get it wrong sometimes. Be clear that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Many employees don’t “try” new things or to resolve issues because they are afraid of the consequences of making errors. Creating this culture of “trust and try” can be key to innovation and expansion in a small business. Fresh perspectives are most always needed when businesses get busy and running at a frantic pace.

How do you handle mistakes made by employees? Are they learning opportunities? Do you train and coach for multiple scenarios? Do your employees know how far they can go to make customers happy or customize solutions?

If you don’t encourage them to use their judgment, make mistakes, and learn, they will hold back, afraid that their decisions could land them in trouble. There’s a lot of trust here and if you don’t have the right people in place for the right roll, it can be hard to trust them to use their own judgment to talk to customers and advance opportunities.

Coaching and Encouragement – Just like sales teams need directors and leaders, your employees need coaching and encouragement as well.

Resources – Do they have the technical tools and resources, guidelines and questions to be able to engage customers and recognize opportunities.

Practice – Are you providing opportunities to practice having conversations, asking questions, making decisions and handing off opportunities? Do you roll play through multiple scenarios so employees are comfortable making suggestions and getting feedback?

Support – Don’t make training a one time event – are you providing ongoing “coaching” and reviewing performance?

Celebration – How are you celebrating the efforts and wins of employees who are engaged and connecting with customers? Employees need to know how their actions – even seemingly small, contribute to growing revenue, retaining or winning customers. Understanding their influence and power to shape the outcome through their actions give them tremendous motivation to keep going and keep looking for more customer opportunities.

Every employee has opportunities to impact the bottom line. It takes trust and training, resources and accountability, and adoption of the culture and behaviors to create a Selling Organization. So, even before you think of hiring a sales person, why not leverage ALL your talent and resources to recognizing and promoting customer opportunities? Maximize these resources first and you’ll have a head start on a solid sales culture before you hire your first sales person – motivate your small business employees to sell!

Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!


PS – For a more in depth look at the 4 steps to creating a Selling Organization, click here. It’s a game changer to operate leaner, meaner and GREENER!

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Straightforward, practical and perhaps slightly cheeky, Shawn Karol Sandy's innate gift is helping people find new ways to solve old problems, unique ways to approach new problems and helping businesses re-invent themselves and their sales strategies. With Bold and Brave thought leadership and Clear Action Plans, her impact on business is Measurable and Meaningful and will lead your sales revolution to growth and revenue goals.

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