These days, an employee engagement strategy is a lot like a mindfulness app or a veggie spiralizer - everyone knows they’re supposed to have one, but when you take a moment to look around the amount of people rocking up at work with post-meditation zen and a zoodle salad for lunch, are few and far between. Do you feel like your engagement efforts are falling by the wayside, or that your shiny, happy strategy has turned into a bit of a white elephant?
Never fear, we’re here to tell you how to boost productivity with a holistic employee engagement strategy, based on top tips from industry insiders.
However, before we get down to brass tacks, we’re going to take a moment to resell you on the positive impact of an engaged workforce, because we know if you’re reading this you might be feeling that the whole thing could very well be a highly involved marketing campaign that has been engineered to get you to buy boatloads of gift cards and host team-building brunches at fancy hotels.
This is why we’re going to come at you with some actual facts and real-life statistics. Here goes.
How highly engaged employees facilitate improved turnover:
Right, so we all know that friendly, happy, helpful, well-informed sales personnel are great for business. It’s common sense. However, just be completely sure, two Yale graduates named Ahmed Khwaja and Nathan Yang decided to put this notion to a quantifiable test in 2013, ultimately publishing an illuminating paper called Sales Productivity and Employee Engagement: Evidence from Upselling in the Car Rental Industry, which you can read here.
Essentially, what they did was spend two full years gathering data from 100+ Hertz rental car depots at airports throughout Canada and the United States of America, in order to prove their theory that employee engagement was linked to increased upselling. Why upselling instead of just plain selling? Well, Khwja and Yang realised that measuring overall revenue would skew their data, since sales volumes are influenced by everything from the size of the airport, to the vicinity of competitors - stuff that falls outside of a sales rep's sphere of control. However, every sales rep has the opportunity to upsell a customer to a more expensive vehicle when they come to collect their keys at the rental counter…
The upselling data from all the rental outlets was then compared to the engagement rates of the employees who work at each of the branches. These levels were measured by means of semiannual employee survey that asked employees to respond to questions like whether they felt that their job contributes to the success of overall business strategies, if their manager acts on their suggestions and whether they had sufficient opportunity to discuss job performance with their superiors.
Can you guess what the outcome was?
Upselling levels were up to 50% higher at locations where the employee engagement survey indicated that the workforce enjoyed a supportive, stimulating working environment.
Khwja and Yang then took it one step further by comparing engagement rates with customer satisfaction rates at each rental depot by means of Net Promoter Score surveys among Hertz customers.
Not surprisingly, the depots that had clocked higher employee engagement rates also came out tops in terms of the NPS scores - where the employees were happy, the customers were happy (aka more likely to make use of their services again and to recommend their services to friends and family).
Read more here 👉Retaining top talent with an eNPS - what you need to know
So, in short, high employee engagement rates = happy customers = increased revenue.
But how exactly do you facilitate this wonderful levels of engagement? Where’s the how-to?
Here are four top tips to get you started (but if you really want to take a deep dive into a treasure trove of employee engagement strategy, we highly recommend that you download this eBook ASAP):
Here are 4 tried and tested employee engagement strategies that help build exceptional sales teams:
1. Make sure that you employee the right people
Your sales team should be made up of friendly and helpful people, this much we all know. But do you know how to test for these qualities during the job interview process? According to Keshia Serage, SA country manager for Universum, the company that conducts the research that underpin the annual rankings of South Africa's Most Attractive employees, our country’s top companies have a major retention problem that should be remedied by starting with the recruitment process.
“It goes without saying that employers need to manage their relevance and attractiveness to talent,” says Serage. “It is critical for employers to ensure that their employer brands clearly articulate what they stand for and what talent can expect in their employer- employee relationship.”
2. Facilitate strong bonds between sales personnel and their superiors
According to Jill Douka, Director at Global Academy of Coaching and official member of the Forbes Coaches Council, making time for a monthly meeting that focuses on the personal needs of your sales team should not be considered a waste of time. "If your intention to help them evolve and develop new tactics that will settle up some of their anxiety is sincere, you'll see that your people will also be sincere toward working tasks," she says.
She goes on to explain that a rushed meeting that follows a tick list of company goals will not cut it - that is far more likely to lead to stressed-out, irritated employee. Keep your check-in sessions informal and open-ended; employees are often a little skittish of bringing issues to the table, so nurturing a judgement-free atmosphere is key.
3. Build strong bonds between members of the sales team
This one is a little bit more tricky. It might seem like a tall order to get members of a sales team (a notoriously cutthroat bunch) to get along and depend upon one another, but if you want your business model to be sustainable in the long run, this is exactly what you need to do.
According to Arianna Miskel, Marketing & Innovation Manager at Criteria for Success, teamwork in sales doesn’t have to be a mystical tale. Here are three strategies she recommends to cement your team:
- Share success stories to give other members of the team insight into sales strategies that work.
- Create small accountability groups (two or three members) that hold one another accountable for reaching goals and completing tasks.
- Task every member of the team to contribute to a growing best practice document to facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring on the fly.
4. Create an environment in which trust is a must
According to Philip Hesketh from Digital Leadership Associates, open communication throughout an enterprise helps to build trust that ultimately extends beyond the boardroom doors, onto the street.
“With disengaged employees, how can an organisation be deluded to think that this will not affect customer loyalty and ultimately the bottom line?” he asks. “To develop high-trust relationships with your clients, you must address trust within your organisation first.”
Here are a few ways that you can start to build trust among your team members, starting today:
- Lead by example - place trust in your sales team and show them that you have faith in their ability to perform to the best of their ability without micromanaging every move they make.
- Encourage open lines of communication by remaining objective and neutral when team members have to share less-than-amazing news; work towards solutions rather than dwelling on shortcomings.
- View each other as fully-fledged humans with interests and responsibilities outside of work - encourage your team to socialise on occasion and get to know each other as people.
- Be open about trust issues - it helps to circulate an anonymous questionnaire and then facilitate a dialogue in which the issues that crop up can be discussed and resolved.
In summary - if you want to turn your sales team into a lean, mean, lead-generating machine, start by employing the right people, fostering strong bonds between peers and supervisors, and creating an environment in which trust comes first. Get those irons in the fire, and see how much simpler it will be to fan the flames of ambition going forward.
In the meantime, if you would like to make work of integrating fresh engagement strategies with your existing company processes, we’d like to invite you to take a look at our SaaS-based employee recognition platform.
You can try it for FREE and see for yourself what a difference a holistic employee engagement strategy can make in the motivation and success of your sales force. Simply click the button below to get started 👇