Are Sales “Focus” Days Motivational?

I’ve just commented at ukbf on a post where the op wanted ideas for a ‘sales focus day’ on a tight budget. He could only afford to “buy the guys pizza” and this has prompted me to write about these kind of sales focus days to increase sales success.
Antonio's Pizza

In short my view is that they act more as a demotivator than a motivator and here’s why:

1.  People feel rubbish

If you have a sales focus day then there is the implication that on usual working days the team are unfocused. Similarly if the company wants to ‘energise the sales floor’ then it implies that on normal days they are un-energised / lazy. How would that make you feel?  Therefore by it’s very nature it will make people feel pretty rubbish from the outset. They will feel unappreciated, undervalued and not important. This in turn is directly linked to performance.

2.  Who likes pizza?

This question is being asked the 2nd week of February. That’s only 6 weeks into the new year and one of the top new years resolutions each year is getting healthy. Sure pizza is popular with some people but it’s equally unpopular with others. Then there are the people who have food alergies such as gluten, dairy etc. They will feel that they are excluded. Another de-motivator!

3.  Humiliation as a Management Style

Not everyone likes to participate in fun-fuelled, bell ringing, pizza fuelled team days. Personalities in teams can be very different. Some people are more introvert than extrovert and introverts can be fantastic in sales roles. Other people might be modest about their performance. Other people might have other H.R. considerations to be taken into account where ‘focus days’ could be seen as adding to their stress and in the worst case scenario might even lead to grievances.  Some people will naturally want to jump up and down when they get a sale whereas others feel comfortable simply moving onto the next call. The key message here is not to humiliate people…. Ever!  This means things like having a leader board where there is a name at the bottom. Just have the top three listed for example and don’t show the rest in public. Don’t make other signals obvious if they are humiliating to others. Everyone will remember and hate you for it, even the “winners”.

4.  Turkeys don’t like Christmas

Sales people aren’t daft. They know that if they perform over and above the expected levels they will be expected to operate at this new level all the time. It will become the norm. More stress and anxiety. Is a slice of pizza really worth it?

5. Financial trouble might be the real issue

It doesn’t matter what is real, it matters more what people’s perceptions are. Does the sales team need incentivising to focus more? Does that mean the company is behind on target? Does it mean they are not paying good enough basic salaries to attract the right people? How come the company can only afford pizza for increased sales performance? Is that what a sale is worth around here?  These are just a few thoughts that will go through people’s minds both inside the sales team and in other areas of the business.  These thoughts lead to an underlying perception that the company must be in financial difficulties if all it can afford for increased sales is pizza!

6. Is it a performance management issue in disguise?

‘Focus days” can also be seen as a sign that management are shirking responsibility for effective leadership and managing performance properly.   A good example is that some team members may need extra training.  If this is the case and a focus day comes along all it will do is to make the problem even bigger!  Getting to the root cause of why a “focus day” is needed is the real issue here. Quite possibly there may be a small number of individual people in the team whose performance could be improved via different methods yet the rest of the team may feel punished for the sub standard performance of the minority members. Or, they could feel that they are doing the bosses job for them by ‘leading by example’ and training.  Either way they are both de-motivators both to the top performers and everyone else.

7. Is the company not really listening?

If a company needs a ‘focus day’then chances are something has changed in performance over time. I would presume that sales performance has decreased in some way.  Assuming that it is all of the sales team members fault for not focusing enough sounds like quite a wild assumption to me. People do not usually come to work to do a bad job. Not a whole team anyway!  My gut instincts when I have experienced ‘focus days’ in progress is that they are usually symptomatic of things such as a) difficult sales objections that are difficult to overcome  b) the wrong things being measured as important  c) people dislike the first line manager  d) product knowledge is weak   e) the company is out of touch with it’s target audience.

In conclusion I wanted to write this article to show a number of warning signs associated with ‘sales focus days’ and why they can be more of a de-motivator than a motivator.

Finally I want to end with a link to a video that I have watched a few times. I love the way the messages come together and the whole animation and flow of it and feel that it shows the proper human elements of motivation.

RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

Have you got any thoughts or experiences to share?


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