Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Would You Buy from This Salesperson?

Tags: sales performance, sales results, evaluating salespeople, managing salespeople

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Time for an Honest Assessment of Your Sales Team

There are many factors involved in the business of selling.  As any salesperson can attest, the sales process can be a complex and daunting experience fraught with obstacles like aggressive competition, tight markets, shrinking budgets and incumbent vendors.  While there are many obstacles like these that are outside a salesperson’s control, there are many others they can control.  So, as an effective sales manager, what do you need to do to understand how and why a salesperson is performing or not performing? 

The obvious metric to use to measure performance are the sales results of the individual. If they hit or exceed goal, all is good.  So, that takes care of about 10 to 15% of your sales force.  But how about the rest of them?  Sure, the results numbers tell you they are not performing but, as an effective sales manager, you need to find out why.  The only way to do that is to look at additional data points.

Data points that you must observe to measure performance:

  • Critical ratios in the success formula
    • Are they doing the right effort?  (dials, networking, LinkedIn)
    • How effective are they? What do the critical ratios tell you? (10% of the conversations turned into an appointment– that is an example of a critical ratio)
  • Observation
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the company sales steps/process?
    • Joint calls – Are they executing the fundamental sales skills…?
      • Asking enough questions
      • Asking the right questions
      • Using stories, analogies and metaphors to weave a story and be conversational
      • Effectively listening
      • Inquiring for further information to clearly understand the impact of problems described by the client
    • Role-playing
      • Do they understand the fundamentals of your sales steps/process?
      • Do they intellectually understand what you mean by consultative selling, challenger selling, and client-focused interviewing?
      • Do they demonstrate in the classroom what you expect them do to in the field?
    • Additional data
      • Pipeline data – Is the volume increasing? Is it becoming more reliable?
      • Stack ranking - Are the various quintiles in your organization performing better this quarter/year than last quarter/year?
      • Sales activity – Are they doing enough effort to give them enough at bats to be successful?

In particular, for this article, I want to share a thought on observing your people perform.  Either in role-play or in live selling situations, you immediately get a reaction when you observe your people perform.  My guess is that your reaction could fall into 1 of 4 categories:

  1. I would not buy from this person ever; in fact, I would love to compete against them.
  2. I would not buy from them right now based on what I just saw/heard.
  3. I’m on the fence post with them; I need more information or more time to make up my mind.
  4. I would buy from this person; they were compelling, they got me engaged, made me discover some things that bother me that I need to fix and got me to a point where I was thinking I could undo any current relationships, add a new relationship and spend money that I didn’t think I needed to spend.

I have a client that just had a sales meeting that included about an hour of role-play covering a very specific step in their sales process. One of the product line specialists/experts commented the following: “With the exception of 2 people that I observed, I don’t believe I would buy from anyone else that I saw in that one hour.”

Wow, what a courageous, honest assessment.

My comment or suggestion to the team is to go back and review all the video or audio recordings of the role-plays and grade them using the standards I suggested above. 

As a sales leader, effective performance management requires the following:

  • Supportive beliefs about what it takes to coach people and get them to perform. If you believe you can manage people better if they like you, then you’re in trouble.
  • Recovering from rejection – If you cannot recover from rejection or fear of rejection, then you probably won’t tell one of the salespeople you work with that you wouldn’t buy from them.
  • Knowledge of desire and commitment - If you believe that all of your people are trainable and coachable, then you will spend a great deal of time with the same people covering the same sales execution problems.
  • Data nutcase - If you don’t look at data, then you won’t be able to have any intentional coaching sessions.
  • Time allocation - If you don’t take time to do ride-a-longs or role-plays, then you are missing two important/non-negotiable data points.

These are just a few of the requirements of effective sales management, leadership and coaching.  The key point in the message though is to do an honest assessment of your talent and then have discussions with them about how you honestly feel about their performance.  Yes, it will be difficult.  Yes, you might lose somebody over this.  And, yes, you might actually get people to work harder at their craft.

Resources to help you improve performance management and intentional coaching:

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