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With Your Staff, Sharing is Caring

The next time you are working at your desk and all of your employees are in-house, take a long and introspective look around you. Take in what these folks mean to you. Then think about what you mean to them. Some might call this taking stock, but I call it realizing your potential. You can do great things with your business if you lead your employees in the right way. And, similarly, they can succeed if they are allowed to be clear with you on what they need.

Your business can prosper if you have a good handle on where you want to go with it. Sales people will do especially well because they are, by nature, confident types. When they believe in something, they are all over it. So encourage your sales team to sell what your company does, not the products you install.

I know some of my factory friends may take issue with this statement, but it is true. The boxes of speakers, glass, components, and bundles of wire are the enabling hardware to show off and sell what you do, which is to create great ease and entertainment solutions in peoples homes.

Clarifying Your Expectations
I want to talk about how to share expectations between you and your employees. Notice that I said share, not the usual and redundant set mode. Setting expectations is a one-way managerial process, and that doesnt play well today. Were no longer a drone workforce waiting to be told what to do and how to do it. Employees at all levels deserve the respect of being led on a good business journey so long as they have been appropriately involved in deciding the end game.

Employees who are respected in this manner will give you more than you might imagine because they will believe in the goal. Yes, even if you, the boss and business owner, stand to gain the most, a good team of employees will want to see you succeed because they want to be part of a shared winning experience.

Lets start with those confident, yet quirky, folks on the sales team. Everybody knows that without them, nothing would happen, right? Your sales team needs to be very involved with you as you work toward a certain future for your business. Sales people will be your most vocal group when it comes to talking to your prospects and customers. If they are not being vocal, then youve got a big problem. Either someone else is not busy enough with his or her job or your sales people arent relationship-builder closers. Fix this, please.

Determining Sales Goals
A situation I often see is a CI business owner tracking his business on a previous year comp sales basis. Although this is not an unjust metric, it is not the one that is most effective. You need to track your business against a current year goal. How you determine this sales goal should be discussed with your sales people. They know whats in the pipeline, what is likely to hold, what is risky, and how much they think they can sell in new business.

Share this information among the sales team and any other employees who are highly active in developing sales. Get ideas on how to do more business based on the success factors that come up during the discussion. Once you have a reasonable sales goal that everyone can agree on, it is your turn to talk about where you see the business going. You can only plan your future with realistic vision if you have a shared understanding of the business potential.

Let your team know that the agreed upon goal can keep the team together. Share with them what can be done by reaching this goal. Ask them how they feel about it. If they say it is good, that may be okay or it may be a telling sign of their lack of determination. If you believe they are a good team, then perhaps they have given you an honest, candid response that you should respect. On the other hand, maybe they need a push beyond the current thinking.

Always Remain Positive
How do you take your team to this level while remaining positive? Heres one way: Go back to what the agreed goal can do for the business. Talk with them about things you want to do for the businessfor example, hire two new technicians, build out a small home theater with nice lighting, great seating, and a larger screen than you have in the (unfinished) theater now. You also want to take everyone to CEDIA EXPO by next year. You want this because you know it will be good for the business and everyones CI soul. But, of course, doing this requires more business and perhaps a few rules need to be broken in the next 12 to 18 months to grow the business. Ask them what they think can be done differently to try and get to these new goals.

This is all about sharing ideas, enthusiasm, and creativity so that everyone digs what they are doing. If they are digging whats going on, then you probably have really happy employees and you have a greater chance of keeping them around longer to share the success with you.

Now, someone reading this who is not a sales person might be saying, What about all the stuff I do for the business? Im just as important as our salesperson. How come I dont get a say in this? Well, the fact is that not everyone gets a say, but if you work for a good person and you go to them and let them know youd like to learn more about the business goals and how the sales people work toward them, youve just done yourself a huge favor. Youll learn something new and thats what everyone wants to see their employees trying to do. Ask, listen, and learn. Bosses love to share their ideas so take them up on it.

Buzz Delano ([email protected]) is an industry consultant focused on growth strategies and new market plans for manufacturers.