Beware the decline of morale


Virtually every sales team is susceptible to morale problems, but vigilant leadership can minimize the frequency of attitude decline, and the toll that it takes. Although the general outlook of a sales team—its collective attitude and tendency toward optimism or pessimism–is difficult to quantify, it is apparent that morale can make or break an enterprise.

Consequently, declining morale must be addressed and corrected in short order. The most astute executive forges their own workplace culture, and keeps a finger on the “psychological pulse” of their sales team. They are keenly aware of the potential sources of morale problems.

Quite often, a single individual is responsible for declining morale. An incompetent or dictatorial manager, for instance, is a menace to the attitude of a sales team. The problem manager’s shenanigans may be unwittingly facilitated by leadership, which is either ignorant of the issue, or too busy to concern themselves. The source of declining morale might also be a bullying or lazy sales rep—a “problem child”—that no one does anything about.

The problem could also be systemic. If sales reps feel bogged down or overburdened by regulations, or by the demands of operations or administration, morale is certain to decline. Sales professionals want to spend their time selling, face-to-face with customers. They do not want to spend an inordinate amount of time filing reports, entering data, or attending meetings with administrative personnel.

Another potential morale-crusher is a flawed pay plan. The sales rep who believes the amount of time and effort he expends is greater than the financial benefits he derives will quickly descend into doom and gloom–and frequently, so will his teammates. Unchecked morale problems spread virus-like, from one individual to another. An entire sales team, an entire organization, can be “infected” very quickly.

Ironically, even prosperity can lead to morale problems. How so? A highly successful sales team can become lethargic. When sales come easily—several profitable accounts are established–the individual members of the sales team are not honing their skills. When the market changes (as it inevitably will), the sales team will have to work harder and make less money until it is reacquainted with front-end sales techniques. Morale declines.

The sales team that is depressed, frustrated, and pessimistic cannot compete with the team that is inspired and highly-motivated. Executives ignore morale problems at their peril.

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