I manage a sales team of nearly 250 people. Our corporate headquarters sets our annual sales goals, bonus structures, and incentive programs based around increasing sales production along certain product lines, which sometimes means not focusing on others. My job is to lead a team of managers with the objective of helping the salespeople for whom I am responsible to increase their sales volume according to the goals corporate sets. Some salespeople are very driven by the bonus/incentive programs, and others simply are not. Some are indifferent to what they are asked to sell, and some are terribly ineffective if they don’t have a strong belief system for the product.
Are there certain Color Code tips or strategies that you can give me to help keep everyone motivated and focused?
Yes, there are several Color Code application tips I can give you that readily tie into a sales environment. First of all, it will be important for you and other managers to always remember that each color sells differently, feels incentivized/motivated by different approaches, and will view all aspects of a sales job differently. Your job as the sales manager is to learn how to work with each style effectively in order to drive the results you are looking for.
I’ll give a brief commentary on each of the colors and their natural competencies and challenges within a sales environment. Before I do that, though, I want to state for the record that many people erroneously feel that the best kinds of salespeople to recruit are Reds and Yellows. While it’s true that Reds and Yellows are naturally more drawn to a sales environment than are Whites and Blues, it doesn’t mean that the Whites and Blues can’t excel in sales. One of Color Code’s Sales Code clients recently recognized the top four performers throughout their region. Interestingly enough, there was one of each of the four colors represented in that group.
Let’s begin with the Reds and Yellows. I want to start this way, because most sales incentive programs that I’ve seen are based around getting Reds and Yellows fired up and ready to sell. There is a lot of hype created by throwing big numbers around, playing to the sales associates’ egos through recognition programs, talking about why “we’re the best” at doing what we do, and creating opportunities to snatch up big cash bonuses, trips, and other fantastic prizes. In short, big numbers/big money types of incentives work very naturally for Reds and Yellows.
Reds are driven by the opportunities offered by these types of programs. There is a clearly defined path for both achieving financial success and earning the respect of company leadership. They also thrive on the super-charged feeling of competition created in these environments.
On the downside, Reds are notorious for pushing so hard that they leave paths of scorched earth in their wake. They can be overly aggressive with clients and disrespectful of team members and office staff who aren’t getting them what they want or are wasting their time (at least in their own estimation). Their arrogance can also become a major turn-off to all around them. Reds can become so obsessed with their goals, their awards, their bonus, etc, that they lose sight of helping the client get what they need. This usually results in a bad case of “commission breath,” which inevitably leads to fewer sales.
With Reds, you must teach them how to value people, and connect with them emotionally and socially. If they can learn to spend a little more time helping others get what they want, the Reds will usually find that they are rewarded reciprocally.
Yellows also respond very positively to these types of programs. What people often don’t realize about Yellows is that they actually crave structure in their lives, because they typically don’t know how to create it themselves. Yellows are also very enthusiastic sprinters. They love the short-term, high-energy goals that sales environments offer. They are praised and rewarded for their social skills, and can attain the instant gratification they seek.
Yellows can struggle with the job, however, if it becomes monotonous—the same sales spiel over, and over, and over again, for example. Also, they tend to be fast starters, but unreliable finishers. In other words, if the big prizes require consistently high performance over the course of an entire year, and they fall behind the second or third month, they might be inclined to easily give up and end up with mediocre results rather than muster up the required energy to catch back up.
With Yellows, one of the best things you can do for them is help them take their big, lofty goals and break them up into small, daily chunks that when accomplished, take them all the way to the finish line. You must also help them to focus on what is necessary as opposed to what is fun and exciting.
Now let’s move on to the Whites and Blues. While it’s true that they have nothing against earning big bonuses, exotic trips, etc., most incentive programs are not written in a way that inspire and motivate Whites and Blues as effectively as the Reds and Yellows.
The Whites, for instance, generally don’t have a problem with the company pursuing its goals. They realize there is probably sound reasoning behind the need to emphasize certain production levels in various areas. Where people go wrong with Whites in sales is in reading their intentions. Whites are typically not extroverted, and therefore do not jump up and down and get overly stimulated and excited when the newest sales goals and reward programs are announced. When that happens, people tend to write them off. They assume they don’t care, and don’t put the energy into coaching them through the process.
Whites are very consistent workers who are good at routine. You can count on them to be very measured and methodical in their approach. They are not going to sprint, then rest, sprint, then rest, etc. If they are in a sales environment, it’s probably because they have obtained a certain comfort level in working with others.
The key with motivating White salespeople is to get their input and continue to follow-up. Ask them what they think about the new goals, and what their plan is for achieving them. Be respectful of the way they choose to approach their work, and don’t try to impose an overly exuberant style on them.
For Blues, the incentives can’t be all about the money, the ego, and the numbers. They have to find purpose in what they do. You may have to “translate” the company goals for them by focusing on things like how many people they can help, instead of how many units they can move. If they feel it’s all about them and all the money the company will be making, they might feel like they are exploiting their customers to get what they want. This will actually have an extremely negative effect on their performance. They will feel guilty, even dirty, about what they do, and their performance will whither away.
Where Blues excel is in connecting with people. If they have a product that they truly believe in, they will want to tell everyone about it. When they see how something can make someone’s life better, their sincerity will be hard to resist. Sometimes when a Blue is struggling, what they really need is for you to sit down with them and help them see how what they are doing is truly helping others.
There are so many other things we could talk about here, Dylan. Increasing sales performance is one of the most natural applications of the Color Code. The important thing to remember is that all colors can do well in sales roles. You just have to approach them differently.
Jeremy Daniel (Core Color: Yellow) has been working with the Color Code since 1998 in various capacities from training in the field personally with Dr. Taylor Hartman to designing customized corporate solutions and new training programs for various industries. To ask about Jeremy’s training or speaking services, please email and inquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.