Sales performance management Part II

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Question: I’ve made efforts to create change and increase performance. Just about the time I get more involved and set specific goals, I can feel resistance.

Answer: In the last column, in the March 7 issue of SBT, the first four points of sales performance management were reviewed. Those points are: taking an inventory, creating a vision, reengineering the sales process and benchmarking performance indicators.
The remaining six points will take you from goals to outcomes and back again.

5. Set individual goals – This is the line in the sand for a no-excuses performance culture. Set mutually agreed upon "SMART" goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) relative to the sales process and the individual’s vision, role, developmental level and strengths.
A no-excuses performance culture is about accountability. Start with smaller goals. Focus on reaching them as you foster a renewed belief in a new level of performance. You can always make them bigger.
Practice the no-excuses rule. If you say you’re going to do something or set a goal and don’t follow through, you’re only excuse to the other person or yourself should be to say "It just wasn’t a priority." Learn how to say no and make your "yes" count.

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6. Agree on a management style – This is tricky. Much of the unproductive tension in relationships at work or at home is caused by communication styles, misunderstandings, pride, defensiveness and ego. Agreeing on a management style can be difficult if you don’t understand how you see each other. Have the courage to discover your strengths and weakness. You’ll find better ways to communicate, motivate and reduce misunderstandings. Annual 360-degree assessments can be a powerful tool.
Pay attention to developmental levels. When people are learning something new, adopting a more directive approach is usually more effective. As a skill or task is learned, people tend to respond better with a more supportive, less directive style. Then learn to let them fly. Let them run the show when accompanying them on a sales call. Bite your lip if you need to. They need to do it – to learn it. Debrief afterward.

7. Educate and train – Knowledge builds confidence and belief in one’s ability to make a difference. Provide product, market and competitive intelligence on an ongoing basis. Enlist the support of other sales reps, upper management, sales engineers, channel partners and anyone else in the know, including customers.
Doing is the common denominator for top-performing sales forces. Sales performance training focuses on the difference between knowing and doing – helping people do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

8. Action – A goal without an action plan is a mirage in the desert. Do you have a plan for every day? A former boss of mine always would say, "Nothing happens until you’re on the phone or in front of someone who can buy. Set the goal, create the plan, understand the difference between urgent and important; then do it.

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9. Monitor and measure – Are you in the field with sales reps on a regular basis? Do your sales reps have a system to monitor, measure and see their sales pipeline? Sales performance is measured by the ability to go from one step of the sales process to the next until the invoice is paid. Measure outcomes beyond just sales.
Break things down so you can measure the smaller steps in the sales process relative to the goals that have been set. Use ratios between important steps to determine what needs fixed. Give feedback in between the steps of the sales process.

10. Feedback and recognition – Give ongoing, objective feedback. Focus on behaviors and outcomes. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Agree in advance on what will happen if minimum expectations are not met. This will help people feel listened to, understood and respected, while helping you to hold people accountable. There should be no surprises at appraisal time.
Recognize and reward desired behavior. Do you know what motivates your people? How do you know for sure? Have you asked? Have you tested it? Everyone is different. Some respond strongly to explicit motivation like awards. Others may respond better to implicit motivation like being reminded they are a valuable part of the team. How many times do you catch people doing something right?

Bruce Webster is the president of Business Development Partners, a Milwaukee-based sales training, executive search and performance management consulting firm. He is the author and presenter of StopSelling Sales Performance. He can be reached at 414-476-3161, e-mail

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April 4, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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