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How the Bystander effect is killing your quota


In psychology, there’s a phenomenon called the Bystander effect. It’s when individuals in a group are less likely to help someone in need. Why? Often because everyone thinks someone else will take action.

The same effect occurs in team situations.

Take amateur volleyball, for example, when the players of the same team all assume someone else will dive for the ball and it ends up falling to the floor.

Or, if you send a group text to several of your friends asking them to help you move and no one responds because they all assume someone else will step up (at least we hope that’s the case and they’re not just bad friends…).

The more people there are to share the responsibility, the less likely they are to take action.

This happens to be a part of sales psychology sales too. Your team has a quota to hit and while each rep has their own metric, it’s easy for them to feel less responsible for meeting it each quarter. Because (in the mind of your sales reps) if they don’t hit their quota the rest of the team will pick up the slack or share the blame.

But, if every member of your sales team has the same mindset and falls victim to the Bystander effect, your annual quota will almost never be met.

How do you kick this habit to the curb? The answer is having one-on-one relationships with each of your sales reps.

Remove Bystander effects with rep responsibility

Sales reps are naturally competitive with each other and each hopes to come out as the top seller on their team. This often means they tend not to help each other out. Each rep is working toward a common goal but has their own motivations.

It’s time to step away from the “team” mentality and start treating them as individuals.

Setting individual goals

Each rep has his or her own personality and has likely modified the sales process you have in place to better fit their persona. It’s time to stop trying to get everyone on the same page and work toward getting your goals aligned with each individual on your team.

You’ll be wasting your time and energy trying to get each rep to follow the process down to a T. Having a one-on-one relationship with each sales rep allows you to guide and mentor them in a more productive and impactful way.

Towers Watson survey shows that half of managers don’t set effective employee goals. Every member of your team has their own strengths and weaknesses so setting a single objective or “working goal” for your entire team is ineffective.

For example, if 70 percent of your team isn’t making enough calls and you set that as your working goal, you’re not improving or challenging the other 30 percent.

By having one-on-one meetings you can set individual goals based on the strengths and weaknesses of each rep. While reps work on developing different areas they’re effectively improving the overall efficiency of your entire team.

And this makes your employees feel valued too, as 93 percent of employees said they were most invested in jobs where their unique skills and experience were utilized.

Keep everyone accountable

Not to alarm you, but one in two managers are bad at holding their employees accountable. Harvard Business Review found that holding people accountable is the biggest workplace conflict managers avoid.

By giving each rep their own goal, you hold them accountable for delivering on it.

It’s very easy for a group of people to nod their head in agreement when you set a team goal in a group meeting. There’s much more responsibility when you have one-on-one meetings and they verbally agree to make specific improvements.

Grouping together team metrics allows under-performing reps to blend into the background. Holding them accountable for each call, email and meeting metric will transform your sales team into a data-driven machine.

Stay close to your customers

Your sales reps are your front line. They are the ones talking to your customers regularly, if not daily, so they know your customers better than anyone. Each day they hear from customers about what got them to buy the product or what hindered the sale.

This is some of your most valuable information if you’re looking to scale a company and see serious growth. These one-on-one discussions will help you get that information and put it to use.

Yes, CRM data is important and is your friend when looking to improve processes, but nothing will ever be more valuable than direct interaction that focuses on customer needs.

Your customers are your company’s source of wealth and the conversations they have with your reps are your source of truth.

Improve the process

Reduce meetings and save selling time

For a sales manager, this one may be a tough pill to swallow. The content you present and discuss in your sales meetings is important for the growth of your team, but does your team know that?

According to InsideSales.com, reps reported that time spent on Facebook and catching up with colleagues is more effective than internal meetings.

And what are your reps doing during those meetings? More than 90 percent are daydreaming, almost 40 percent have fallen asleep and 73 percent spend that time doing completely unrelated work.

This is an inefficient use of their time; this is time that could be better spent working on deals and interacting with customers. This is also an inefficient way for you to present information since no one is genuinely listening to what you’re saying.

Internal meetings take up about 10 percent of a sales rep’s week. But you can cut that time in half (or more) when you replace group meetings with a one-on-one since you can tailor your agenda. And your rep is on the spot to pay attention.

Mind you that it’s not likely that you’ll replace every one of your group meetings. As a manager, you need to be pragmatic about when and what you speak to your team about in group settings versus individual meetings. But, both types of meetings will be highly focused and much more effective.

This will be more time consuming for you, but your meetings will be more productive and it will give back valuable selling time to each rep.

As the average sales manager is in charge of seven reps, carving out time each week to speak to each of them is manageable. If you have a larger sales force, then maybe cut these down to monthly one-on-one meetings.

Manage up

Individual meetings also give your reps the opportunity to manage up and help you identify the holes in the sales process so you can adjust accordingly.

You spend thousands of dollars each year on sales tools that are meant to simplify the sales process but you rarely use them yourself. This gives you the chance to hear candidly what each of your reps thinks of these tools and if they are helping or hindering their productivity.

Seeing which reps give input and work to improve the sales process also gives you a better idea which reps truly understands the workings of the sales org, are aligned with company goals and are candidates for promotion. You’ll also get insight into who may need extra training.

Lead with impact

And at the end of the day, you’re building better relationships with your employees. These meetings can open up a door to help you intimately understand how each of your reps works and position yourself as an influential leader and mentor in their lives.

During these meetings, you can coach them on tough sales situations and give them the tools and advice they need to reach their goals. According to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Report, less than half of companies said they measured employee progress toward a goal.

During these meeting not only do you see their progress and give them incremental improvements to focus on, but you are also one of the reasons they’re able to succeed. This is a prime opportunity to set a precedence of good managerial skills in case they too want to take that path someday.

One-on-one sales meetings ensure that you’ve aligned every single member of your sales team with your goals and objectives. The shared social responsibility of not meeting those goals is eliminated and each rep is held accountable for their overall contribution. You are now training your sales reps to be independent rather than dependent.

By Jessica Munday