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Herding Cats – Managing Sales Performance

Every business is dependent upon its ability to attract, secure and retain its customers. Yet managing the sales performance of yourself or your company remains one of the most challenging parts of any business growth story.

To help in this area, its important to start by understanding a little more about the makeup of a sales person. Having worked with over 2 million people who are responsible for the sales of an organization; it has been the similarities in people that have surprised me more than the differences. I found that sales people are hugely competitive people, often highly strung, perhaps a little egotistical, sometimes lacking true confidence and have the behavioural trait to be outspoken or overcommunicate.

Sales people are notoriously difficult to manage and it is common that if you try and control them too much, they revolt and feel constrained. Give them too much time, too much freedom, and they’ll exploit you, become lazy, lose focus and their performance will suffer. Finding the balance gives you the ability to create someone self-sufficient, committed, hungry for growth and driven to receiving the recognition that only you can provide for them.

If you want to get more from your sales department, then consider what you can learn from these 5 tips:

1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression

From the very start it is imperative that you set rules. The clearer you create the objective the easier it becomes for your superstar to excel within the lines. Cover everything from company culture to dress code, personal grooming, time keeping, consequences of under performance and exactly how recognition is rewarded. Let them know what success looks like to you and give them the clarity of how they can outperform your expectation. If you failed to do this in the past – don’t worry, start again right now and be certain you are all on the same page.

2. Sales people are creatures of habit

You need to show them what success looks like. They’ll need to see it for themselves for them to be able to follow it, replicate it, and maybe surpass it. People do two things in business – what they enjoy doing or what they get checked on. My advice for sales people is to make as much of the job fun as you possibly can. Celebrate the successes, whoop and holler at the good times and let them want to enjoy more of that. Give them the opportunity to role model and observe the success you want them to emalute in others and stay connected to that vision.

Regular meetings keep the focus front of mind and be certain to pick your meeting tmes to support the outcome you are looking for.

Know that sales people do not generally take well to change. If your existing routine is not working and you’re going to change something, be very conscious of the fact they’re likely to resist it. Make changes purposefully and drive those changes through by creating a new routine that makes adoption of the change non-negotiable. The sales professional’s mind never stops and is selling all the time – sometimes to your customers, sometimes to your potential customers and sometimes selling to you!

If you are convinced that the new plan will work better for you and for them, help them see it, hold their hand and let them experience the improvements in realtime, so that they can realize for themselves the benefit of the changes.

3.Play to their ego

Give them a fine reputation to live up to. Great sales people are competitive, and although they’re often employed by your business, the most demanding boss in the world typically manages them – him/herself.

Remember, however, that although your sales staff may seem thick skinned, they’re often very emotional and can have very fragile egos, so it’s essential that any praise that you give is loud, is specific, and it’s in public.

Any genuine criticism or performance issue should be treated differently. Public embarrassment can sabotage the success of a sales person so take any performance management conversations to a private conversation and allow them the opportunity to save face.. You must protect their ego. Their ego is remarkably valuable to you, and a sales person lacking confidence and lacking self-belief will always under perform.

4. Measure and monitor their performance

What we’re looking to do is to manage the results yet measure their activity. Whether this is you managing others or yourself, set your stall out in terms of the activity levels you’re going to be following, not just the results that you want. Quantity will always bleed a quality of outcome and once you can track acrivity to outcome then only at that point can you manage performance. You might be measuring the number of calls you make in order to win appointments or the number of face-to-face appointments and the results that they bring. By chunking it down to the activity, you can find out which part of the machine may require attention.

The thing with measuring activity is activity doesn’t lie; yet the results themselves can be influenced from so many different variables. So, record the results of your efforts. Make sure that you’re keeping statistics on the activity levels and patterns will occur. Ratios soon start to appear and you can understand exactly what it takes to get the results that you’re looking for, as well as understand the scenarios where the ratios don’t fit the pattern. This allows you to reward effort, not just results, and allows you to manage complacency where people might be getting great results but only put in minimal levels of effort. Because of the fact they’re above average and better skilled than maybe somebody else in your team, you know that they can achieve a great deal more for you. Identifying those development opportunities allows you to find out which parts need to be improved in your sales team and how you can then provide them the skills to grow in that specific area.

5. Have huge respect from your sales team

One of the only ways to get respect from sales people is to earn it. Far too many business owners and business leaders expect respect yet a sales person is always looking to see if their leader has what it takes to lead them. In my past I was a very young leader of sales teams, I found myself in sales roles running large teams of people, all of which were far more experienced in their roles then me. One particular example I remember was at 20 years of age, running a sales team where the youngest person in the team was nearly 15 years older than me. They’d all been doing the job for 5 years or more, so the chances of me being able to have any impact on them initially was challenged by their internal bias of my ability. They’d also already decided there was nothing they can learn from me. When this happens, it helps to be able to adopt a principle that I call “let me show you”. This means having the ability to roll your sleeves up and not just tell somebody what to do but be prepared to show them how they’re going to get a result.

This can mean you show up on appointments with them and demonstrate exactly what success looks like, perhaps you pick up the phone and show them how to win appointments for themselves or you get involved in a conversation around a customer that previously had said no to you and bring them back into a yes environment. Showing them what can be done is your one way of instantly getting them to see you in a new light. The more that you can show people what they’re capable of and what is possible, the more it will empower them to do the same and the more it will allow you to demand more of sales team.

So with these new insights into how to get more out of your sales department you should feel equipped to start further improving your sales success.