Categorized | Down to Business, Management

Get ‘more with less’ with tested productivity strategies

By Steve Waterhouse   

Experts say the economy is going through a warming trend. Consumers are starting to spend more, but not enough forproductivity companies to justify adding staff. So, to meet increasing demands, you have to know how to get more out of your existing workforce. 

The problem is simple: You can’t do more with less if the “less” aren’t better than they were before. Trying to squeeze more out of the same employees, using the same methods, will only leave you frustrated.

Smart managers know that by working with employees more effectively, they can drive up sales and productivity, without expanding their staff  or burning out their current teams.

Unfortunately, employees are individuals, and each person responds to a different type of management style. This means that you cannot improve your company’s performance by using the same style for all employees.

How to treat whom? That’s the secret. Let’s look at an overall performance-improvement strategy as well as one for the sales department, which is (of course) the group who boost your top line.

An overall strategy

Remember that not every employee learns, becomes motivated, and responds to incentives the same way. Five changes to your leadership style can get more out of your employees, no matter their job function.

• Communicate better. Managers typically think their communication efforts are better than they really are. Here are some simple tips on improving your employee communications: Spend one-on-one time with each employee at least once a week. Never use e-mails for important information. Be open to receive constructive criticism. If you let your team offer suggestions (without fear you will chew them out or put them down), they will be more likely to listen to what you have to say.

• Improve the work environment. Studies have shown that employees who are happy at work perform better. Regularly do things (which don’t have to be expensive) to make the work environment both interesting and rewarding. For example, order pizza for your employees every Friday or run simple contests at work with a gift card or movie tickets as the prize. Whatever incentive you use, make sure it is something that is enjoyable to employees and that they are motivated to participate.

• Show appreciation. Employees want to feel appreciated and know that they are making a difference. Reward employees for jobs well done by sharing customer appreciation statements with them, showing them the pride you have in their work, and displaying their positive results for all other employees to see. If employees take pride in their work, they will consistently deliver better results.

• Avoid burnout. Burnout often occurs when stress is high and/or employees work at the same things without learning anything new. Preventing burnout in employees is not a matter of giving your employees less work (although that may reduce stress). It’s a matter of allowing for balance between work and home.

Employees who work seven days a week and have no time for leisure burn out quickly. Encourage your staff to do things outside of work that they find enjoyable, and provide the opportunities to do them.

• Be flexible. One of the biggest motivators you can offer employees is flex time. If you properly recognize that they have lives outside of work, you should provide reasonable flexibility to their schedules. Understand that their personal life is a priority, and at times, they should be able to work around it.

Productivity improvement for sales

The productivity of your sales department is a leading indicator of performance. A large disparity between your best and worst sales person means your managers are reaching only part of the team.

Three simple changes in the way you and your sales managers deal with your sales team can go a long way in improving their productivity.

• Get out of the way. Your sales team should focus on what they do best— selling. Filling out long reports or answering customer service calls takes away from making sales. Managers should do some of these tasks themselves, or hire support staff to handle them, so that sales people can sell.

• Give good leads. Any sales person will produce better results if they are given better leads. Create more effective advertising and marketing campaigns or consider hiring telemarketers to develop qualified leads. These things will increase the chances that each prospect your sales team approaches is a good fit for your product or service. Then they can close the deal.

• Support. Support. Support. Be there for your sales team to help them close opportunities. It’s the job of every manager and business owner to be the one to do everything that’s needed to make the final sale happen. Don’t rely on your salespeople to do everything and then criticize them when they fail. Instead, step in as early as possible and give as much help as they need.

By including these principles in their sales-improvement strategy, one biotech company increased its sales by 44% over two years. Restructuring the way in which managers and their sales team work together can produce dramatic results.  

Making these simple changes to your management style will increase sales and improve productivity from your employees. You will also gain their respect and loyalty.

Steve WaterhousesmallSteve Waterhouse is president of Jacksonville-based Predictive Results (, a division of PI Worldwide. Predictive Results uses behavior and personality assessments to determine the best ways to improve employee performance, strengthen manager-employee relationships, and make hiring decisions. he can be reach at 904-269-2299, ext. 102.   



Customer-focused selling

Gaining new customers costs more than keeping current ones. There are five steps of customer-focused selling that sales people can use to help build long, lasting relationships with customers.

  1. 1.      Be open. Build trust and credibility with customers.
  2. 2.      Investigate. Identify a customer’s needs.
  3. 3.      Present. Articulate the value you can bring customers.
  4. 4.      Confirm. Agree to move forward with the sale.
  5. 5.      Position. Create a customer for life.

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