What will you feed your sales team in 2022?

Most of us head into the New Year with the goal of trying to eat healthier.  It isn’t an easy transition.

This is an especially hard story to sell to kids.  They can’t understand why all the buttered noodles and powdered-sugar-covered cookies can’t last.

They need to trade the junk in for some nutrients.  You can show them all the nutrition labels you want, but it probably won’t work.  While they might understand the logic, the cold-hard facts that asparagus is good for you is not a winning argument.  Logic isn’t usually fun, and it doesn’t usually drive the behavior you want.

The same idea applies to your 2022 marketing goals.  Most companies head into the new year with a full slate of new products, exciting promotions, and big aspirations.  Last year’s plan is over and it is time to focus on the new stuff.

How will you tell those new stories to your salespeople?  How will you get them on board to sell the new products or talk to customers about the new initiatives?  It is hard.  They just got used to the stuff from the past couple of years.

I’ll start by telling you what won’t work.  Nutrition labels.  Most companies create training and materials for their sales channels that looks like their industry’s equivalent of a nutrition facts on food packaging.  It is chock full of facts and logic, but it lacks a compelling story.  It doesn’t grab attention and it isn’t very motivating.

You can’t just rely on incentives, either.  I attended a conference recently, where I had a conversation with a sales leader from a product distributor.  He asked me if compensation and incentives were the only way to get salespeople to pay attention.  Despite all the data that tells us that salespeople care about much more than compensation, it is still a common notion that salespeople only respond to more money.  I asked him what they did to win customers, and he shared all of the creative ideas they had to market themselves.  He answered the question for me.  His response was, “I guess we do spend a lot of time trying to manipulate salespeople with money and not enough time trying to inspire them.”

That is my challenge to marketers at the start of a new year.  Set the bar higher for your new initiatives.  Go the extra mile to earn adoption and buy-in from the channels you rely on most.  Product specs and fact sheets are not interesting. They’re information.  Incentives alone are an attempt to manipulate.

Gather feedback from your sales team and partners.  Find out what they think of the new offerings.  Ask them what support they need to achieve the new goals.  Build an engagement plan for each channel that not only meets their needs, but demands their attention.

If that doesn’t work, you can always try offering them another cookie.

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