Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products

Introduction

Craftsmen, artisans, factory workers, and artists use tools to create tangible things, i.e. products. The nature of their jobs and work environments makes it easy to see what their work products are. And it’s probably safe to say that if the craftsman produces multiple products, one brings more value to his customers, to his reputation, and to his income than the others.

For sales people it is not so obvious. Typically, we think the product of a sales person’s job is a ‘sale,’ and it is. But, there are many other things produced along the way toward the ‘sale’ and some of them have a higher degree of impact on sales results than others. Our system helps you as a sales leader focus on things that matter most: high value, high impact work products.

What are work products?

Work products are tangible things we create as part of our job: our output. Even though most of our work is done on computers, we can see our work in the form of reports, schedules, plans, etc. In addition, we can print them and hold them in our hands. They are products of our work.

Examples include:

For Sales Leaders, these might be things your manager expects from you:

  • Forecast reports
  • Sale Coaching meeting notes
  • Region Sales Strategy
  • Sales Team Development Plan
  • Key Account List
  • Written Communications

These might be things that you as the sales leader expect from your sales people

  • Pipeline Report
  • Opportunity Analysis
  • Account Management Plan
  • Weekly or monthly sales call schedule
  • Sales meeting notes in CRM
  • Sales Presentations
  • Customer Communications

There are many more work products produced in the course of daily work such as expense reports, travel schedules, etc. but we will focus our attention and effort on the most significant drivers of success.

Ideally, the top sales officer would begin this process by identifying the top 5 work products they require from their direct reports who in turn identify the top 5 from their direct reports and so on down through ranks. However, with or without the top sales leader’s participation, you can do this for your sales people.

Objectives

  1. To list all the tangible things you, as a sales leader, require from your sales people.
  2. To rank your sales people’s tangible work products according to their impact on your goals and their goals.
  3. To establish quality standards for the top 5 high impact high value work products.

Duration

You should be able to complete this step in under 1 hour.

Materials

Have a copy of the corporate sales strategy and your sales goals from Step 1 printed or written for reference. Also, have pencil and paper or your preferred note taking method available. A downloadable worksheet is available for your convenience as well.

Directions

  1. List all the tangible work products you require from your sales people.
  2. Rank the work products according to their impact on goal achievement. Number 1 on the list would have the highest impact on goal attainment. An example might be your sales person’s Opportunity Analysis and plan for closing deals.
  3. Identify the top 5 and verify that they support the sales strategy.
  4. Set quality standards for the top 5. No need to micro-manage – setting standards can be as simple as providing a positive and negative example, “It should look like this, not that.” But be very clear about your expectations.

Setting standards

As a sales leader, you can set standards for such criteria as performance, proficiency, accuracy, knowledge, or simply completion, depending on your top 5 high value, high impact work products.

Examples

Let’s return to the Step 1. Align Sales Goals with Sales Strategy example of moving into new markets by introducing and selling our New Product.

The sales leader might rank his sales person’s top 5 work products as follows and then set standards accordingly.

  1. The sales person’s prospect list – Possible standards:
    • New accounts within the sales person’s territory
    • New departments in an existing account
    • Fit our ideal customer profile for the New Product
    • Competition does not have a presence in the account
  2. New Product Presentation – Possible standards:
    • Positive example:
      • Uses approved marketing template, slide deck, and messaging
      • Target audience is decision making team
      • Includes an agenda and follow up actions
    • Negative example:
      • No winging it
      • Don’t use your own slide deck
      • Don’t show up and throw up
  3. New Product Demonstration – Possible standards:
    • Follow our established process
    • Know your audience in advance
    • Have an agenda
    • Establish follow up steps
  4. New Product knowledge – Possible standards:
    • Pass the New Product online course with a minimum of 80% proficiency
  5. Opportunity Analysis Report – Possible standards:
    • Identifies a specific sales objective
    • Lists all decision makers and their roles
    • Provides evidence of interest in the form of the customers’ words – no mind reading
    • Includes a schedule for next steps to move the opportunity forward

Accountability

When your sales people produce high quality work products acknowledge their work and effort. Most often proficiency in this area is simply expected as part of the job, after all, your sales people are professionals. But I can’t help but wonder how many opportunities have been lost due to lack of follow-up, a demonstration that missed the mark, or a poorly worded email.

Don’t ignore sloppy work. Address it one-on-one in a coaching meeting. Restate your expectations and show positive and negative examples. Ask questions to determine if it is the result of a process problem, lack of training or education, or a motivation issue. You may also want to include it as a development opportunity in your performance management program. And finally, schedule a follow-up coaching meeting to review progress.

Evaluation Method

Successful completion of this step is based on the following:

  • Agreement between you and your manager that you are focusing on the top 5 work products that enable sales goal achievement and support sales strategy execution.
  • You have a follow-up plan for:
    • Observing performance activities such as sales meetings, sales presentations, and demonstrations
    • Checking on training attendance and test results
    • Coaching for continuous improvement in advancing and closing deals

A New Approach

What I have described in this step may be business as usual for some sales leaders while for others it represents a new approach. Here are some reasons why I am so passionate about the Work Product exercise.

  1. If you are a sales leader promoted from within the ranks this ‘tangible things’ approach can help elevate you in the eyes of your team and reduce friction from personality issues.
  2. Focusing on the top 5 work products at each level in the sales organization ensures goal alignment and support for sales strategy execution.
  3. Work product performance and proficiency provides you with excellent diagnostic information. If a sales person’s work product is not up to standards, you will be quickly able to determine if it is a knowledge, capability, or process problem.
  4. This additional information provides a foundation and framework for coaching sessions and ensure you are working on the right end of the problem.

And finally look to your master craftsmen, your exemplary performers, for guidance on standards. They make it look easy, but by looking at their work products you may discover the artistry and finesse they so effortlessly employ. After all, sales is a performance art.