7 Barriers to High Employee Engagement


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The annual employee engagement survey (EES) scores are out. It’s no surprise that Sales ranks at the bottom – as always. Sales leaders and their HR business partners have come to expect it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This post is for you if you are grappling with the question, “How can we improve employee engagement results in Sales?”

This post identifies the 7 Barriers that make Sales employee engagement different. It provides a unique sales perspective and offers sales-specific solutions. Download the free Guide to Improving Sales Employee Engagement. If your EES scores are dangerously low today, this tool will help. If you anticipate low scores soon, the guide will put you ahead of the problem.

Employee Engagement is Urgent for Sales

Why should Sales leaders care about EES? Revenue in this quarter doesn’t depend on EES. This problem only shows up in the long term. So it’s never a priority – but it should be. It’s about Making the Number for the year and beyond.

  1. Low engagement is a leading indicator of a very expensive problem – sales turnover.

When engagement scores dip, the cost of recruiting, hiring and onboarding will soon rise. Open territories kill your chances of success this year.

  1. Customers are directly influenced by the attitudes of their sales representatives.

Research reported in an article in the Ivey Business Journal revealed that “…an employee’s attitude toward the job’s importance and the company had the greatest impact on loyalty and customer service than all other employee factors combined.”

The 7 Barriers to Engagement for Sales

The usual solutions to EES problems don’t apply to Sales. Team-building exercises and reward systems are frequently cited as panaceas. But they don’t work well for field sales people who are remote from their managers and peers. Their performance is already rewarded by a highly leverage compensation plan. Additional prizes and rewards have little impact. Their concerns are different.

Here are the 7 unique Barriers to Sales Employee Engagement:

  1. Isolation
  2. Split Allegiance
  3. Silos
  4. Income Inequity
  5. Rejection
  6. Job Insecurity
  7. Work-Life Imbalance

Guidance and Solutions

There are unique solutions for each of the Barriers faced by Sales. Here are 3 examples from the Guide. You can access the complete guide for information on all 7 Barriers.

  1. Isolation
Symptoms and Root Causes: Field sales people often work from their homes. They have infrequent physical contact with co-workers. They feel alienated and disconnected. This puts them at risk of being unaware of what is going on. They lose credibility with customers when embarrassed by a question they can’t answer.
Solution: Take advantage of the abundance of cameras and social media channels. Leaders set an example that all virtual meetings include video. This is awkward at first, but soon becomes comfortable. Use enterprise social networks like SFDC Chatter, Microsoft Yammer, or Jive. Select one channel and set an expectation that everyone will participate. Use it daily, make it the single source to stay up to date.
  1. Split Allegiance

Symptoms and Root Causes: Sales people can be caught in the middle between doing what is best for the customer and doing what is best for the company. Example: a lower price pleases the customer, but it hurts gross margin. A higher price improves the bottom line, but loses to the competition. Sales people must make difficult choices that never please everyone.

Solution: Publicly recognize reps who have actively mediated positive outcomes. Communicate success stories of how conflicting priorities were resolved. Solve the underlying problems where possible. Create temporary teams to apply lessons learned and avoid repeating past history.

  1. Silos
Symptoms and Root Causes: After the sale, customers demand service and support from their vendors. The customer always holds the sales person accountable no matter who does the work. Sales has no authority over customer service, billing, or professional services. Poorly integrated sales, delivery and support teams are silos. They don’t communicate well or coordinate activities. When the customer suffers, the sales rep is the common denominator for all breakdowns.
Solution: Sponsor cross-functional team projects to address missed hand-offs. Reduce friction and improve communications with a team approach that builds respect across functional areas. Engage sales reps in project teams that knock down barriers and fix broken connections. Don’t let distance be an obstacle. Use virtual project meetings to engage remote field sales participants.

Take Action Today

Employee Engagement surveys set an expectation that leadership cares. When your sales team participates in a survey, they presume that action will result. A research report by employee engagement consultants BlessingWhite uncovered this interconnected dynamic: “Organizations that survey their workforce without acting on the feedback appear to negatively impact engagement scores.”

Don’t focus on the scores. Focus on taking action to improve the scores. Download the complete Guide to Improving Sales Employee Engagement today. You’ll find more information on specific ways to engage your sales talent. Learn more about all seven Barriers. Develop a solution action plan and execute it.

The solutions in the Guide will enable you to look forward to the next EES. Your engagement scores will be higher than ever. Turnover rates will improve. Customer satisfaction will move upward. You’ll increase your chances to Make the Number.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

John Kenney
John Kenney serves as Senior Consultant at Sales Benchmark Index (SBI). John brings more than 20 years of direct sales and sales management experience to his consulting role. His recent client list includes: Hewlett Packard, Phillips 66, Motorola Solutions, and Sanofi BioSurgery.


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