Sales & Sales Management Expertise

5 Keys to Building Successful Sales Teams - Performance Management

Managing a sales team can be described as complicated, difficult, tough, impossible, thankless, endless....

OR... you could make a case for and describe it as rewarding, exciting, challenging, critical for success, important, simple....

performance management

So... which is it?  From my experience, your answer will depend on:

  • Your experience
  • Your bias towards the work required for success
  • Your systems and processes
  • Your culture
  • Your expectations
  • Your own skills and tendencies
  • The people you have brought onboard

At Anthony Cole Training, when we look at a sales organization, we do two things to get started:  1) We conduct an initial interview (disguised as a sales call) to find out:  What outcomes are not being realized, what job isn't getting done, how long have specific challenges existed, what has been done to "fix" the challenges, what exists today that is contributing to the success and/or lack of expected success.  In short, we look for and listen for symptoms of problems within the organization.  2) We conduct an objective evaluation of the organization to uncover the systems, processes, priorities, strategies, sales and sales management skills, tendencies and efficiencies.  One of the consistent findings is this: Out of the 5 sales management skills/competencies that exist, the strongest or most predominant one is "performance management".

What does performance management mean, how is it applied, and what impact does or can it have on building a successful sales team? According to Aubrey Daniels, Performance Management consists of three primary elements- measurement, feedback and positive reinforcement. 

1).  Measurement - Measure what?  First, you must determine what you will measure to determine "we are/you are successful when..."  Normally, in a sales organization, this is your sales results and other production/sales-oriented metrics.  The problem is that too often companies look at lagging indicators such as sales results and therefore are just reporting what has already happened and asking why it happened. 

2).  Feedback  - Managers collect and review data/reports and then have a discussion with sales people that looks or sounds like the following:

    • Your sales numbers are off; you need to close more business.
    • Your sales numbers are off; you need to see more people.
    • Your pipeline doesn't have enough opportunities in it; you need to get more opportunities into your pipeline. You need more appointments.

In other words, the manager is describing the weather - It's raining... and the solution is make sure you take an umbrella.

3).  Positive reinforcement - We are currently coaching a generation of sales professionals that grew up in a world of participation trophies and certificates of completion. They expect to be congratulated just for showing up to work, making phone calls and putting in a little effort.  They've been coached for several years that "It isn't about winning."  Damn, and then we wonder why winning isn't important to them.  In order to provide positive reinforcement, we provide them with the following nuggets: You are making progress, I can tell you are working hard at this, you are trending the right direction, you are almost there... blah, blah, blah-blah-blah.

Yes, I know this description may be extreme and it might be easy for you to read it and say, "That's NOT me."  However, think about this for a minute - "Your approach to performance management is perfectly designed for the results you are geting today!"  What does THAT mean for you and your organization? Well, I can tell you.

It means that your approach today is responsible for the 75% to 80% of the people on your sales team that are underperforming.  Forget what the goals are and how your sales people are doing against those goals. I have clients that set low goals.  Just because everyone hits those goals doesn't necessarily mean that the sales people are achieving to the level of their capabilities.  What I know from 20 years experience is that 20% of most sales teams carry 80% of the load.  Assuming that to be true, it now begs two additional questions:

1). What is everyone else doing?

2). How do I fix this?

In my next post, I'll suggest some variations on the theme of performance management.  PLEASE let me know your thoughts on this!


Additional resources:

Performance Management Concepts - Cal Berkley

Create a Sales Management Enviornment - Recorded webinar featuring Walt Gerano

Grade Your Sales Team's Level of Achievement - Short Survey with immediate feedback








Tags: sales management, performance management