Shout out or grind it out

Tony Prentice.

We are firmly on the run home for all the major Australian media owners. It is make or break season for their revenue machines and even though they work at a high speed all year round, the risk and reward equation right now largely determines the success or failure of their performance for the year.

But more importantly, this period underwrites the majority of profit that the company will endeavour to bank for this financial year.

Overlay more recent requirements such as upfronts that have now permeated the broader sector, no longer remaining the sole domain of TV networks and it makes for an action packed 40 days in the sales calendar.

The dashboard for sales leadership is flashing with numbers indicating YOY spend levels by category, client and buying groups. Intense scrutiny switches from activity monitoring to inventory utilisation, fill levels, yield outcomes and pricing agility.

As the rising tide of demand from advertisers increases with the onset of the ever-increasing Christmas sales period, so too does the requirement to manage the sales force in a way that engenders sustainable performance and doesn’t burn out the operation both physically and emotionally.

Any archetypal scenes from bygone days of long lunches on a Friday afternoon as junior sales staff tend to the processing of orders and bookings has long since disappeared as the race to the line has become a thoroughbred event that will have its share of both winners and losers.

The management of the sales organisation throughout this season is directly relates to the spoils attached. Managers are fully aware of the need to drive performance but often need to remind themselves that the overall result that the team delivers is as much a reflection of inspiration as it is from perspiration.

The default setting is to drive the team relentlessly until the final day of trading before the now-compulsory holiday closure period. Sales leaders would be wise to consider a more balanced approach to this period and give equal measures of shout outs to the efforts of the team as much as the need to continue pressure on the group to grind it out.

In fact it is more likely than not a team largely composed of millennials will respond better to an environment that focuses on rewarding and recognising effort and results during this peak season rather than only the need to deliver another booking to feed the needs of this week’s stretch target.

Weekly run rates and pacing numbers are very real in the context of the race to the revenue finish line for the year, but a balanced approach to the people management and the emotional well-being of the sales organisation will deliver both a better outcome for the quarter as well as create an environment whereby the team actually will want to come back and do it all again as the market resets in the first quarter of the new calendar year.

The most engaged teams deliver the best results and prosper in a climate that provides genuine reward and recognition for their efforts and results. Although counter intuitive to driving teams harder, it pays dividends to invest equally in the softer and more emotional related matters.

Available options to feed the emotional well-being of the team often includes annual sales awards, short-term team and individual incentives, personal development sessions and engagement planning forums.

As a rule, anything that doesn’t relate to corporate needs and does add value to the individual or team will return dividends during this period of high intensity.

The investment in time is often cited as a barrier to a program that supports the reward and recognition of the sales team. But the reality is more geared to the whole business understanding the need to continue to invest in teams over the course of the entire year.

The “revenue at all costs” mantra comes at its own price and the best sales leaders understand how to convey this message to the broader business in order to avoid having to be the sole buffering point between frontline sales teams and the wider management group.

Too often sales leaders feel the need to “protect” the team from the constant message around the revenue imperative.

It is without doubt that the sales team understands the mission and would deliver a stronger outcome if the whole of business participated in a well-managed and authentic reward and recognition scheme.

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