I had a conversation with a very strong sales manager yesterday. We were discussing a couple of his salespeople and their nuances. He understands the importance of metrics and helping those new salespeople focus on the things they can control, having confidence that if the salespeople do the right things, then the sales numbers will follow. He has gone through the process of having other salespeople create an action plan of what they are going to do each week, so that he can help change their behavior.
As we were talking about one of his really strong salespeople, he revealed that he had not done the same structured process of helping this salesperson calculate his metrics. He had not calculated how many first exploratory meetings were necessary to get enough opportunities in the door to ultimately meet his sales goal. His reasoning was sound as he said “I am not concerned about Mark at all. He will do what is necessary to get the deals.” So I explained that it was important to go through this process with under performers, questionable performers and solid performers alike.
How to Help Under Performers and Questionable Performers
For the under performers and questionable performers it is obvious why you go through this exercise. Help them develop a specific action plan of what they are going to do every week with measurements of those activities. That way it makes your job easier as a sales manager to inspect their progress and monitor their success. You can help them correct course quickly as well. Remember that your salespeople cannot control anything that happens in the sales process other than the activities that they embark on every day. So make life simple and have them set a plan of attack of what they are going to do to get those first exploratory conversations. Help them calculate how many of those they need to have, based on their closing percentages, to have success in reaching their goals.
Don’t Ignore Solid Performers and Over-Achievers
However, I find that sales managers frequently leave solid performers or over-achievers alone and don’t establish the same discipline with them. Continuing on with my conversation from yesterday, I suggested to the sales manager that he should do the same with Mark, his solid performer. Not because we are concerned about him, now, but, because it will relieve some stress from Mark if he actually goes through the process of setting his goals and a plan to achieve them. The way to do this is to break down those goals into an understanding of how many sales he needs to close each month, then calculate how many opportunities need to be in the hopper to generate those sales based on his closing ratios. Next, he can calculate how many first exploratory conversations he needs to have each week which is an easy goal to focus in on. Once he determines the number of first conversations he needs he can determine what the appropriate activities are to get those appointments.
By going through this process the solid performer will know you care about his or her success. The individual will be able to set an action plan of attack which will relieve stress. And, it will help him know what to do every single day to maintain his solid performance, but it may even propel him to overachievement once he has an easy to follow action plan. An ancillary benefit is that this process tends to help people focus on the important items rather than waste time on the tasks that take away from selling.
What we also have to remember is that it is possible that the solid performer gets distracted and something bad happens in his life that causes him to be less effective or motivated. What then? Will it be awkward if you have never focused on his activities before and now you are paying attention because his performance goes down? It could create additional stress and anxiety for him and for you, since it is unusual. By setting the same discipline with these solid performers and over achievers you will help reduce their stress and will help them focus on the right activities. Furthermore, you will able to act in a true coaching capacity to them. And, you won’t have to change your behavior if their performance changes. You will already be in a good discipline to help them through any slumps. The reasons to create this discipline with these folks may be different than the under-performing group but it is just as important. If you want some easy-to-use tools for this discipline you may download my Sales Leadership Toolkit.
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