We continue the discussion, why we need to adapt our appraisal, development and reward processes to retain and develop sales talent we need to remain competitive, into an uncertain future.

In the last sales blog – Is there a better approach to sales development?, we focussed on whether your approach to sales enablement, development and training is working. More important, will it be enough to keep your business competitive in the new world of sales.

In this sales blog, we focus on what you need to anticipate now that will keep, and attract, both experienced and raw sales talent. When the Covid-19 crisis nears its end, you must have and be implementing a plan how you will deal with the challenges and obstacles ahead; to competitively develop, reward and attract the salespeople and the raw sales talent you need to remain competitive.

How do you deal with your top performing and average salespeople?

How do you deal with your top performing and average salespeople?

Investing in and developing your average sales performers rather than merely accommodating them must become a priority and strategic business concern.

Companies are recognising; they need to focus on how they keep their good people and eliminate those who undermine change and drive employees and prospective employees away.

Disruptive employees can undermine a company achieving its longer-term growth objectives. These employees are often dissatisfied or do not want the status quo to change. It is a thorny topic forward-thinking companies are recognising and managing.

Consider your own sales team quota target and commission plans. What else do you include within these plans to develop your sales teams’ selling skills, and guide their behaviour and collaborative skills?

You need to guide developing your sales team and managers’ behaviour to balance achieving their short-term sales revenue quota goals and foster the behaviour and actions required to deliver your longer-term company value growth.

Developing your sales teams’ selling skills and behaviour is often an afterthought because all focus is given to achieving the short-term quota plan. I discuss this further in the sales guide – 7 Sales Performance Management risks, and how to avoid them, Risk No. 7 – Not driving value growth and sustainable profits.

Is your reward and development decisions undermining your business growth?

Is your reward and development decisions undermining your business growth?

Another consideration is what do you do if one of your top-performing salespeople is consistently achieving quota target and being disruptive. Do you ignore their disruptive, maybe even destructive behaviour within your company?

Or, are you dealing with it, and facing up to the immediate quota goal disruption, to ensure your company can achieve its longer-term business value growth and aspirations?

Your quota plan and rewards will influence your answer and behaviour. It is unlikely you would address someone else’s behaviour to safeguard your company achieving its longer-term goals, if it placed achieving your own short-term quota goals at risk.

All reward systems and processes influence behaviour. If you are a senior manager or leader, you have a responsibility and are accountable for the impact your existing systems and processes have on your company’s employee behaviour and actions.

Your challenge is how to redress a broken reward system, which you too benefit.

Most sales managers acknowledge they must deal with disruptive behaviour but the pressure to deliver their rollup number means they will accommodate it.

It is unreasonable for senior managers and leaders to expect their sales managers to act otherwise. Ultimately, it is the top management and leaders’ responsibility to put in place the tools, systems, processes, development and training that encourages the right behaviour required for long-term growth.

However, what about achieving your short-term goals? The answer is to steer a balanced focus on short-term achievement and the behaviour required to achieve longer-term business value growth.

That balance mustn’t release managers and salespeople from being accountable for achieving their short-term quota targets.

The sales manager’s and leader’s dilemma

Consider your inconsistent salespeople in the middle of your sales team achievement ranking, that you are probably accommodating.

You know they may have the talent to become a top performer if only you had the time to guide them to consistently achieve their sales quota targets and forecast accurately.

The other dilemma sales managers deal with is not being convinced their team’s sales pipeline contains sales leads that value what they have to offer and have the money to pay them.

During regular deal reviews and quarterly business reviews, emotions can run high. You may also have experienced this frustration yourself, especially when no one can explain to you or understands why a deal is lost or is slipping in a forecast.

Your salespeople will share this frustration because they were so convinced the deal would close when forecast.

Pressure increases as the quarter closure loom ever closer and frustrations may spill into a confrontation.

You know your inconsistent sales performers have potential, they work hard, are committed, but their erratic and unpredictable performance creates a risk – so, what do you do?

Do you put them on training? Probably not at this late stage because it will make the situation worse, taking valuable selling time away from them to sell.

Do you spend more time with them? Yes, but the window of opportunity to act and avoid the loss or slip has passed.

You need a warning system that they are struggling, or a problem will occur. Finding out a salesperson will miss their sales forecast at the end of a quarter is too late. You need those warning indicators, what is often called a leading indicator, allowing you to focus and better coach them achieve their sales quota target and become the best versions of themselves.

So, you settle for mediocracy and accommodate the risk because they have previously pulled in a deal during the next quarter, possibly the following quarter.

In the sales blog – Is there a better approach to sales development? I introduced guidance Socrates and his student, Plato, who is credited with saying, “Human behaviour flows from three main sources desire, emotion, and knowledge.”

Let us return briefly to Socrates and what he said 2,300 years ago.

  1. All living things aim for their perceived good; and therefore
  2. If anyone does not know what is good, he cannot do what is good – because he will always aim for a mistaken target; but
  3. If someone knows what is good, he will do what is good, because he will aim for what is good.

If your training and development is not guiding your salespeople and managers to know what good is, they will continue as they have before. It is the reason why we developed the Sales Pipeline Development Platform to show and guide what good salesmanship is within the new world of sales.

I discuss this further in the sales blog –Investing in your sales team development.

Stop accommodating mediocracy

Stop accommodating mediocracy

If a salesperson is consistently not delivering and struggling, what do you do?

Most managers would consider a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) working with HR. Problem with many PIPs, they require you to invest more time than you have, to manage the PIP.

Many sales managers are concerned a PIP will do more to accelerate their sales team’s attrition than develop struggling sales talent. So, they hold back from contacting HR.

Many businesses improvement programs fail because the issues that cause poor sales performance can’t be solved by management intervention using their current PIP process.

These are challenging questions you need to ask within your company when reviewing and overhauling your appraisal, development and reward systems and processes.

However, the silver bullet you have up your sleeve is surprisingly simple. Invest in sales tools that adapt to your managers and salespeople’s work regime rather than disrupting them.

Stop accommodating mediocracy – Your silver bullet is changing how you manage your inconsistent and struggling sales performers.

Don’t stop celebrating your top performers, if their behaviour warrants it, they deserve to be celebrated. At the same time, focus on investing in, developing and celebrating your inconsistent performers, guiding them on how to become consistent top performers.

Pulling it all together

Pulling it all together

Considering up to 70% of a sales team are typically made up of inconsistent performers. Focusing on developing the sales talent in this group to achieve say a 5% improvement, will deliver a significant and better short-term bottom line revenue than focusing only on developing and rewarding your consistent top performers.

A more balanced approach to investing in your sales teams’ development is required. Doing so, and you will foster the behaviour needed to achieve your longer-term business value growth objectives.

In our next sales blog – Investing in your sales team development ( URL link ), I discuss how in five steps using the Sales Pipeline Development Platform you can achieve this balance and strengthen your sales pipeline.

About the Author

Treve Wearne is the founder of Nazca Services Limited. Treve supports businesses and sales teams positioning themselves and increasing sales revenues. Improving sales forecasts, talent development and retention in the most challenging business environments.

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