Leadership Perspectives | 06.09.21
Performance Management Begins With Setting Standards
At some point, most sales managers have asked themselves why their relationship managers aren’t selling. Clearly, there are many factors involved in the business of selling and there is not always an easy way to determine the problem areas.
Likewise, as anyone in sales can attest, the sales process can be a complex and daunting experience, fraught with obstacles like aggressive competition, tight economic environments, shrinking budgets, and incumbent vendors. While there are many obstacles like these that are outside of our control, there are many others that we can control—like number of phone calls and appointments made, good selling techniques, and personal discipline. Our goal in this series of articles is to provide some new framework for the controllable factors, and consequently, give hope and clarity to frustrated sales managers.
There are many possible reasons that a specific group of salespeople may not be selling, but there are some predominant dysfunctions that organizations can positively and dramatically effect if done properly. An energetic and dedicated sales manager can significantly impact the results of their sales team if they consistently implement the directions that follow.
In order to address these issues, we must first acknowledge that the sales management activities being performed today are creating the results being achieved. Many or few, consistent or irregular, planned or impromptu—the behaviors and activities that we, as sales managers, use to motivate, train, and hold our sales team accountable are at least partly responsible for the success of those we manage. You must ask yourself: what activities are you, or your sales manager, doing now that are creating your current unsatisfactory results?
The old adage, “If you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten” comes to mind. It is up to you as sales leader to set higher standards for the behaviors and activities and hold others accountable to achieve better results.
In the interest of bettering your sales people, I hope you will approach the following discussion with an open mind. A characteristic of truly successful individuals is that they welcome the opportunity to explore and implement new ideas and practices. Even if some of the territory that we will explore does not seem to apply directly to what is going on in your company, recognize that you cannot achieve different results until you are receptive and welcoming of analysis. You may find some unexpected value in the following information that will positively affect your team’s sales as we focus on the most common issues. We will show you how to build a framework that will help you make a most dramatic difference in your business results.
Setting Standards & Developing Strong Accountability Processes
Two areas that must be addressed to achieve more effective performance include:
- Setting Standards that are higher than the current ones, and
- Developing Strong Accountability Processes that allow no room for excuses.
These performance management issues are interwoven, but we will address them separately to provide better clarity and a plan of action for each.
Setting Standards: Most companies set annual standards for sales teams and sales people. Certainly goals are established and communicated, and are probably tracked and inspected on a somewhat regular basis. Typically, the process for setting goals is part of an annual business planning process, usually an arduous ordeal in which the sales team has little say. Thus, it is neither enjoyed, nor embraced by those who are actually responsible for the goals and the activities that support these goals.
However, if this process is approached with the right attitude and the goal of helping the relationship manager make more money, this annual business and goal planning process can be a positive experience that will truly motivate individual salespeople (According to The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly) and bring sales teams together.
Align Your Thinking: An Exercise
The following exercise will help you align your thinking, and thus, your expectations regarding acceptable sales performance. In this case, you will use the table below to analyze and set standards for your entire teams’ annual gross sales number, but you should use this exercise with individual sales people as well. You can change the annual gross sales number to any other metric you might wish to identify and set (i.e., the number of prospecting calls, the number of first meetings, new loans, etc.).
- Step 1: Write your current annual gross sales number goal in the box next to “GOOD.” This is what is expected for the current year. Achieving any number less than this will be considered poor performance.
- Step 2: Pick the annual gross sales number of an average year from the past, but choose one when your team did not achieve its assigned goal. Choose a year when your team worked hard and put forth great effort, but did not quite reach the assigned number. Write the actual number achieved in the box next to “POOR.” Understand that this number is poor because your team did not reach the set goal. If you frame the year as pretty good, i.e. “we almost made it,” you have communicated that you will accept less than “GOOD,” thus eroding the new standards you are trying to set.
- Step 3: Select a number that would be unacceptable for your team and write this in the “FAILING” box.
- Step 4: Select a number that would make an extremely good year, one in which your team exceeded the goal. Write this number next to the “EXCELLENT” box.
- Step 5: Select a number that would make a truly amazing year that would go beyond expectations, far surpassing the current sales goal. Write this number in the box beside “EXTRAORDINARY.”
Now, you have clearly identified and raised the standards. This newly-defined level of standards will become your communication platform for setting extraordinary expectations with your team.
You can also download Tony Cole’s eBook: The Extraordinary Manager. Visit Tony Cole’s blog or https://anthonycoletraining.com/ for more information related to sales management and leadership.