Driving Sales Growth

Jan 11, 2022 | Business, Sales


Investing, empowering, and challenging employees to improve can result in engaged sales personnel and better sales performance. 

By Chad Counts

Sales in automotive recycling is one of the more challenging sectors of the industry. In many cases, the larger the team, the easier it is to have some sort of maintaining of success. Whereas the smaller your team, the more ebbs and flows you are likely to face in terms of having really good, strong months or not.

The main reason why I say this is one of the most challenging arenas in sales is that there are very few days – even if I had a great day yesterday – where the amount of work, calls and opportunities coming at me the next day never stop. And even if I’ve set a record month, we sit there and immediately set our goals for the next month to a higher level. There is a sense that there is no resting place in our success or our performance. There is always this constant drive for more and to do better.

That said, every company is different. And every company addresses and either scaffolds or builds up this culture to a benefit or perhaps it is something they are not as aware of. This is highly foundational and critical to maintaining not just intermittent sales growth but engaging sales growth as a way of culture, as a way of success within your operations.

Importance of Goal-Setting

In order to create an engaging culture and one that is sustaining, one that lasts and can be built upon, there has to be foundational elements of being able to win. While this may cater to adrenaline junkies and those that love a fast-paced role and can enjoy that rigor, even the most successful people need to be able to hang records on the wall or benchmarks that they hit.

Even in the midst of getting those 120+ calls answered a day, they want to have a marker. They want to have a measure that this was a successful day. And while they don’t like failing, they need that measure. About 80 to 90 percent of the companies in this industry do establish sales goals to some extent – whether that is on a company basis, in-stock only or a net sales goal only. However, I find more often than not there is a disconnect between those setting the goals and those that are tasked with achieving those goals.

There are two types of culture you can have within the sales realm: an engaging culture versus one that is more of a demanding culture, which may be engaging to some extent. But the demanding culture sets forth those goals without much engagement, buy in or influence from the people that are in charge of accomplishing those goals. And while that can still be successful in the short run, you may experience burn out, turnover and disconnect from certain salespeople because there is a sense of something that is happening to you as opposed to something happening with you. The best companies have developed a sense of achievement and accomplishment along with their employees rather than at their employees. It is a subtle difference but it is a difference that determines whether or not this is likely to be a culture that stands and flourishes over the long run or one that is going to experience fits and starts, as we are busy replacing and rebuilding more often than not.

For the elements of establishing and sustaining a winning culture, there needs to be a win or a loss. There needs to be some ability or award to go along with it. I think this is a critical element as well in order to bring life, newness and renewal into companies to make sure we are not burning out. There should be striving toward a competition or game or contest, whether that is on an individual or team basis, or if it changes each month, it is very critical.

If we find ourselves as owners and managers setting benchmarks and we find employees chasing those because it is what they ought to do or should do, I’m not saying that’s wrong, but if you are after results, I think that is short-sighted. We all seek some sort of benefit and the likelihood that people are going to make that extra effort and strive for the extra result is much higher if they feel that improvement is honored, warranted, or rewarded.

So what is your current prime objective or goal? This is where a lot of companies make a mistake. Many companies have too many goals, especially on the sales counter, which is highly measured and highly tracked. Each month or time period you should have one major goal and component that you are pushing toward. The more goals that we add or the more prime objectives that we set forth for employees, the less important each one becomes. If we are a company that has eight to 10 primary goals, then we have no primary goals. It is very rare that most employees are capable of pursuing improvement or progress across two areas let alone more than three. At most you should cap your priorities, directives and goals at two elements, such as net sales or warranty percentages.

As sales managers and owners, we set our monthly goal as a company, which is critical. I don’t want to set individual goals without considering whether that makes a successful month for the company. The reason we have some singular goals is that they should add up and reach the overall company goal and where we need to be as a company.

We see this all the time with sports teams. You have a star athlete who puts up amazing stats but for a team that never wins. We definitely want to avoid that at all costs. We want to establish that every team member matters and we want each person to hit goals. I like to set collective individual goals at a level that if everyone hit those goals, we would absolutely smash company goals. Then if the top performers over achieve and hit those goals, that would cover any shortcomings from other team members. These goals should be set to each person’s background, experience, customer base and they should be meaningful on both an individual, as well as a collective company level.

I think those that produce the most profit should earn the highest paycheck. There should also be some recognition that they are not alone and their success and results don’t happen in isolation. Sometimes a salesperson continues to achieve all their goals and they work in a manner that is detrimental to the team or company goals. They may be wonderful for themselves but make it very difficult for the rest of the team to achieve. This can be problematic because there is not long-term success that is going to be able to be established as we aren’t pulling in the same direction.

All of these elements are important and need to be addressed across each sales counter throughout the year. This is not a stagnant thing where we have arrived and all of a sudden we have hit that result and we are always a winning culture. This has to be maintained and monitored. It definitely becomes more resilient the more consistent this element is to our workforce.

We’ve seen this play out, especially having an engaging a winning culture, on grander scales than our industry. The most notable that many of us know about is the dynamic of what happened to NASA when President Kennedy came into office and gave it a very specific and measurable goal. Prior to Kennedy coming on board as president, NASA was floundering and not moving at a rate that was keeping up with Soviet competition. Given all the brilliant and motivated people, something that even seemed incredibly difficult, unsafe and unknowable, by tying them together we got much closer and achieved the goal that many thought impossible.

Even in your company you have certain expectations and goals about what you want to achieve. Having generic goals like 10 percent growth is great, but what does that mean specifically for each salesperson or the sales counter? Is it acceptable for the majority of that growth to be stock or does a certain amount of it need to be brokered? Many of the auctions have become very competitive and it is difficult to maintain the inventory that needs to be purchased. What are you doing about that? What dynamics have been shifted and how have you redefined goals in a manner that reflects the growth, success and development of a team?

A lot of companies do a good job of communicating expectations between managers but when we interview employees on a frontline level, they are unable to give us those same goals or they are unable to repeat those same expectations. This is an important thing to consider as well as we set these goals. It is our duty as owners and managers that we take the time to make sure these things are explained and understood by our employees. How can we expect them to produce the results that we are expecting if they aren’t aware of what the expected results are? Make sure you take the necessary time to set people up for success and for them to be challenged.

Goals also have to have an endpoint of when we expect this to happen. We are creatures that need to have a deadline. Having a timeframe adds pressure and for many people that’s a benefit. Some of your best performers will perform at a higher level when there’s that tension or push. When things are relatively easy to achieve you will lose engagement from them if we don’t maintain that sense of pressure or drive when there’s something new or challenging for them to pursue.

Engaging, Alienating or Adrift

Each of your counters, whether you have goals or not are going to fit into one of three categories. You are going to see an engaged staff, an alienated staff or you are going to see a staff that’s adrift.

Again, most companies have goals but you can look at your own environment or your counter to see how your team is responding. This will change even if you have a very engaged staff that is doing well with their goals. We have been seeing most companies experiencing at least 15% percent growth. To sit there and to keep raising that bar again and again for salespeople, there could a strong sense to them of are you ever going to be satisfied? Is this ever going to be enough? This perception could lead to more of our team feeling alienated and feeling burnt out.

This is where our leadership comes into play. If I see one person that is a rock, I can keep raising their goal as they step up and deliver. Others may feel burnt out and wonder when it is ever going to be enough. It is my job as a leader to have that conversation and engage where they are at and help them remove that barrier from themselves and then they can claim that goal as their own. If I’m in the business of setting goals that seem like they are negative or out of sight for that person, that is going to impact the likelihood that those goals are going to be reached.

On the other side, aside from burnout and being frustrated, you have salespeople or companies that are adrift. I’m putting goals out there and it’s not that they are too difficult, they just don’t care. They see their job as answering phones. This is an instance of the disconnected, frustrated and alienated employees.

Think of it this way: Are the goals you are setting building up or getting people excited? Are they driven to achieve? Or is it making them feel frustrated? Or do they not even care and are they disconnected and adrift? That is the great thing about having goals as it becomes very apparent which category a team or an individual is in. You need to be able to connect and make a significance in the life of your team.

Our most dynamic resource that we have in our companies is our people. Inventory is going to dictate itself. However the productivity of the single person can swing between when they are really engaged and motivated and when they are burnt out. That’s one of the main reasons we have these goals – if someone is starting to get frustrated, I want to see the early warning signs and catch it before to goes from bad to worse. If you have the right goals and speak with your personnel, you can always catch these things and bring your people back.

The other side of this is we want to keep teaching our sales team and to keep coming up with daily measures, especially on the sales counter. Every day is different. I don’t want to lose one day so not only do I need end-of-day numbers, but more often I need intra-day numbers. I want to make sure if the morning is off to slow start or there are problems, what alerts me to that and what are the moves that will get the most out of that day. There is a lot of success that can be gained by companies by filling in the valleys, instead of just sitting on our hands and not shifting gears. Why should we let the whole day go? Most of you know the tenure or the pace of the day by 10 a.m., if not earlier. You have a sense of what is coming or happening. There needs to be a compelling scoreboard, something that ties in not just outcomes but leads and something that will clue me into what our potential is. The daily numbers scorecard can be based on the number of searches, calls or invoices per hour. You can also look at the daily outcome in the areas of sales, warranty and close rate.

Involve Sales with the Numbers

We all want the best outcome, however we are typically able to achieve that by focusing on what is most likely to deliver the best results. This can be an area where we are engaging your sales employees. There needs to be a great enough sense of awareness about where these numbers come from, how they are tracked and the reports, which are often different with each inventory system. We want salespeople to know how these numbers are derived and how they are impacted. If we are going to expect them to change these numbers and show improvement and progress on these numbers, shouldn’t we equip them with the knowledge in training, in techniques for how to improve these numbers?

This can be on a technical front in terms of their phone skills or it can be on a software side or inventory side where we will clue them in on how close rates are tracked. Many times these are overlooked and lead to burnout because we don’t take the time to make these numbers significant to them and explain how they benefit them. In many cases, these numbers may not benefit them in the day-to-day or involve processes that help them necessarily move through their calls faster. But in the long run these numbers benefit them because they provide better feedback or help them stay organized.

We often think if we simply do the top line goal then that’s enough and if they don’t maintain engagement that’s on them. But good employees are hard to come by and so the more employees that we are able to improve, engage and change, then the more we are able to improve and grow as a company. We want to put ourselves in a position where we can achieve great success and great results.

Train on Expectations and Equip

To a lot of employees, training happens to them and is not something that happens for them. As part of our process we always start with getting to know who a person is and why this training would be beneficial to them. If they don’t believe the training is beneficial to them, the likelihood that they are going to take my input drops tremendously. If they struggle, they don’t grow, and that hurts me. We are in a mutually beneficial relationship that if I can help them improve, it benefits me, it benefits them and benefits the company.

More often than not, they assume the training might benefit the company but they question whether it is going to benefit them. I’m not saying say that’s all employees but it is a good many that we overlook. Even as we talk about what we are going to train and equip on, the level of engagement and making it meaningful to them as an employee is critical. You have to gauge that yourself as you know your people. What is going to engage them? If we are going to ask for a lot from our teams then we need to make sure we offer them support to achieve our goals.

Create a Cadence of Accountability

It’s important to create systems and a culture of winning. The goals becomes part of the DNA of the team. It gives us the opportunity to showcase our best. When we talk about one of the challenges of sales – that it often feels mundane, is repetitive and lacks ultimate novelty, we have to keep the energy levels high. I do not want low energy people at the sales counter. I want a high level of engagement, accountability and motivation. Not only are the numbers updated daily, but it offers the opportunity that if I see something going wrong, I can say, “Hey this is someone I need to help out. Or this person needs to be spotlighted or needs recognition for their level of performance.” This can help drive motivation as well.

Once this is in place, and I have solid engagement, this cadence of accountability and recognition on a daily basis just becomes part of the heartbeat of what we do.

Winning with Engagement

Have you ever played a game just for fun and then played with money or prize on the line? Your mind is a little sharper and you try a little harder. It is those subtle differences that can be the change in 10, 20 or 30 percent productivity for some people.

If the things discussed above are not a part of your company or culture, why are you continuing to do the same things day in and day out? Why aren’t you making the change if you aren’t satisfied with the results? Maybe you need to take a look at what are you doing to create a winning and engaging sales score. We need to invest, empower, equip and challenge our employees to continue to perform and improve their performance. When you keep score, you pay attention to the game, you are invested in the outcome, you are looking for ways to win and you encourage and challenge your teammates. 


Carlos Barboza

owner of Eco Green Auto Parts

Carlos Barboza is the owner of Eco Green Auto Parts, Orlando FL. Their website is https://ecogautoparts.com and they can be found on Facebook @ecogreenautoparts.

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