Most salespeople are probably familiar with the classic play “Glengarry Glen Ross.” In the 1992 film adaptation, Alec Baldwin plays a corporate boss named Blake who is sent in to motivate a team of real estate salesmen. During Blake’s colorful lecture, one of the men stands up to get a cup of coffee, and Blake stops him in his tracks with the infamous line, “Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers only.”
While this tactic may have worked for the unethical, fast-talking hucksters of the film’s fictional Premier Properties, in today’s world, taking this approach won’t get you very far.
Plenty of studies point to the influence of positive motivation. In fact, a study by Glassdoor, a job-posting and recruiting site, showed that 81 percent of employees are driven to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. On the other hand, a demanding boss and fear of losing one’s job motivated far fewer survey respondents—38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.
Rather than verbally attacking team members — or attempting to revoke coffee privileges — consider employing some of these techniques instead.
Have regular “lunch and learn” sessions. The polar opposite of anything that Blake would ever do, lunch and learn sessions can be a great way to open up communication between agents, giving them a chance to learn without pressure. Salespeople can be encouraged to share how they handle certain aspects of their jobs or transactions in an effort to enlighten and help other team members. These sessions are a great way to create a collaborative environment.
Host creative brainstorming events. We all know that brainstorming with someone else can often be more effective than trying to come up with solutions on your own. But how can you get your agents involved?
“The worst way to do brainstorming is to just sit around and talk,” says Keith Sawyer, a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis. Instead, Sawyer recommends holding the session in a bright, spacious room, with plenty of space for walking around. Some companies find it helpful to have a variety of ways for everyone to get their ideas out. This means providing markers and white boards or tablets and software. Sawyer also advocates inviting a mix of staff from a range of departments, from education to marketing.
“There needs to be that feeling of ‘We’re in this together, we’re doing something that’s really important, and we really need to pull together and get this done,’” Sawyer says.
Engage in improv roleplaying. Roleplaying has long been an effective training tool in sales meetings. Having to think on your toes teaches listening skills, improves response time, and sharpens reactions. It also encourages creative problem-solving. Additionally, roleplaying is a tremendous confidence booster, pushing agents out of their comfort zone and forcing them to face their fears. Teams that continually engage in roleplaying are more likely to outperform competitors who don’t engage in this activity — a good reason to consider adding it to your training curricula. One particularly useful exercise is using improv roleplaying to address potential objections. This will give the team practical solutions and skills they need to best address clients’ concerns.
Hold internal “hackathons.” Hailing from the days where programmers and designers would get together and collaborate to solve a problem, hackathons today are used in a wide range of different business environments. This approach can be especially useful for tackling difficult problems head on. It could be used to brainstorm ideas for lead-generation techniques, updates to agent websites, efficient office workflow, and more. Instead of sweeping issues under the rug, the team comes together and works in a highly collaborative environment for a few hours or days to find solutions.
Lead by action. Finally, none of the above will make much difference if you’re not leading your team. This means standing up, taking action, and leading by example. Avoid sending conflicting messages; you’ve got to walk the walk. For instance, don’t leave early on Fridays if that’s typically the busiest day for your team. Set a precedent and stay. When things get tough, don’t avoid conversations. Keep the door open and encourage your staff to approach you with any questions and concerns they have. Remove frustration from the equation by giving your agents everything they need to do their jobs. Work to make your staff’s jobs easier, and they’ll appreciate you for it — and will be more productive as a result. Remember, being a leader isn’t about having a title; it’s about influencing people through inspiration and example.
As you can see, these strategies are a far cry from the high-stress, competitive tactics of “Glengarry Glen Ross.” If you’re looking to motivate your agents, encouraging teamwork is a better approach than instituting strategies that inevitably pit team members against each other. Giving salespeople the tools and training they need to reach their goals will enable them to succeed. By removing fear from the equation, you’ll draw the best out of everyone — and your brokerage will reap the rewards of a motivated salesforce.