Managing Sales Performance

Managing the performance of a sales team is about establishing a shared understanding of what is to be achieved at every level within the sales team to deliver the organisational goals. It’s about aligning the goals of the team and the individuals in a way that will allow each team member to achieve their respective goals while making the necessary contribution to the overall team performance.

“Your performance depends on your people. Select the best, train them and back them. When errors occur, give sharper guidance. If errors persist or if the fit feels wrong, help them move on…”
Donald Rumsfeld, American politician and businessman.

While there has been much ‘robust discussion’ in recent times as to the benefit of employee performance management and, specifically relating to sales, the use of automated sales performance management, managing the performance of your team and the individuals in your team remains an essential part of sales management.

It’s up to you, the sales manager, to inspire and enable the best possible performance of each member of your team. The performance of each individual is dependent on a complex set of variables that will be unique to each salesperson. These variables include ‘hard’ abilities such as job knowledge, skills and expertise; as well as ‘soft’ capacities such as social and emotional intelligences, attitudes and self-esteem, behaviours and habits.

Adopting a well-defined performance management process enables you to systemically fulfil your role as the team’s ‘performance supervisor’.

In the past, performance management was seen to be about extracting the most from each individual, not necessarily the best from each individual – there was over-emphasis on activity measurement. Sadly, for many a salesperson in the past, this bordered on bullying and did little to provide a development path. Fortunately, just as we’ve seen a maturing of sales processes and methodologies, so to have we seen performance management become more collaborative and developmental.

Good managers understand they will get the best results from a high performance team and create a culture of high performance through their leadership. They restrict their direct intervention to when and where needed, and deliver this in a manner most appropriate to individuals and specific situations. Creating a high performance culture requires the sales manager to:

  • have an effective management system that reflects team and individual goals
  • create an environment of trust and accountability
  • offer visible and accessible leadership
  • be client focussed
  • create and maintain an environment of clear communication and collaboration
  • offer sincere and appropriate commentary on performance
  • provide suitable and timely development guidance and training.

Good sales managers have a well-defined and transparent performance management process that offers the team opportunity for full participation and should include:

  • Defining Roles and Responsibilities
  • Defining Key Performance Areas
  • Defining Key Performance Indicators
  • Developing Individual Performance Plans
  • Conducting Performance Appraisals

Good salespeople are always looking to improve so performance management must offer this. You must provide regular and honest feedback, guidance, understanding and recognition. Good sales managers also manage performance by looking through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror. It is better to help your team plan how to be successful rather than just look for where they went wrong. Helping your team develop personal performance plans affords you the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the individual and how you can best help them make a positive contribution to the team’s performance. An individual performance plan should include the team member’s roles and responsibilities, including their role in shared leadership, their targets and KPIs.

“I have yet to find a man, however exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism”
Charles Schwab, American businessman and investor

Performance management is no longer about ‘catching out’ and punishing the poor performers; it is about driving and encouraging results through participation, motivation and development. This does not mean your sales team are not to be held accountable, but it does mean your emphasis should be on the positive, not the negative. You need to ensure there is a clear understanding and agreement on how results will be measured and reported, and both the positive and negative impacts of over or under-achievement.

This article by Wayne Moloney was originally posted on Linked In