Although Step 5 is the last step in our system, it represents the beginning of on-going performance improvement and people development initiatives for your sales organization. But first, let’s take a look at where we are and how we got here.
- You have listed and aligned your sales goals with the sales strategy.
- You have determined the high value and high impact work products required from your sales people and set quality standards for each.
- You have taken inventory of the processes your team uses, fixed the ones you can, and developed a plan for others.
- You have prioritized tasks with strategy specific tasks at the top of the list
So now we turn our attention to your sales people. Do they have the knowledge, motivation, and skills to execute the sales strategy? This step will help you assess skills and motivation and seek appropriate solutions.
- To ensure the sales team possesses the knowledge, motivation, and skills to execute the sales strategy
- To place each sales person on the Performance Assessment Grid in the position that corresponds to their current skills and motivation levels
- To identify sales team skills and motivation needs and solutions
- To provide solutions and improve performance
- To implement a regular coaching meeting cadence for sales team
Completing the Performance Assessment Grid exercise should require no more that 5 minutes per sales person. The training, education, and professional development initiatives are on-going.
This Example Performance Assessment Grid provides guidance for this activity. Notice the descriptors of typical performers in each quadrant and their potential needs.
Where are your sales people currently?
What are their development needs?
The goal is to move everyone incrementally toward the upper right quadrant.
FYI, I include knowledge with skills in this exercise because performing skills proficiently requires the requisite knowledge.
Assessing skills is fairly straight-forward and can typically be accomplished by observation and testing. Work Products provide clues to skill deficiencies as well. Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products dealt with this issue. For example, If your sales people are producing poor quality work products it makes sense to determine if it is due to lack of training and education or is the result of something else such as poorly defined processes.
Motivation, on the other hand, is a little trickier. Daniel Goleman, best selling author of Emotional Intelligence, offers some guidance for assessing motivation. He says:
People who are highly motivated by the drive to achieve rather than for external rewards for the work have a passion for the work itself – they seek out challenges, love to learn, and take pride in a job well-done. They may question the status quo and seek new, better and more creative ways to accomplish things. It stands to reason then that highly motivated people like to track progress, their own, their team’s, their company’s whereas people low in motivation to achieve are often fuzzy about results. Those with high motivation to achieve want to “keep score” by tracking hard measures such as profitability or market share. And finally, highly motivated people demonstrate commitment to the organization because it is the organization that provides the work, the job, they love.
- Print the Performance Assessment Grid. You will need a copy for yourself and one for each sales person.
- Think about each sales person. Typically, it is easy to identify the top and bottom performers. It’s a little more difficult to sort out those in the middle which is where the Performance Assessment Grid comes in handy.
- Place each sales person on your grid where you think they are currently. This gives you a snapshot of your team at a glance. Be careful not to show individuals your team snapshot.
- Use the standard graphing method of plotting the X axis then the Y axis. Think over then up. Put a marker, such as their initials on the appropriate location.
- Schedule a coaching meeting with each sales person and give them a blank Performance Assessment Grid.
- Ask them to place themselves on the grid and share reasons for that location.
- Share where you place them and why. Most likely you will be close in your assessments. Your sales people are likely more critical of themselves than you might be. If your assessments are out of alignment then discuss.
- Make adjustments if needed and agree on a position as a starting point. The position is a reference point for measuring progress, future coaching sessions, and formal performance reviews.
- Identify needs and potential solutions. Typically, skill needs are met with training and education while motivation needs are met through coaching.
- Review each sales person’s Performance Assessment Grid mid-year and year-end. Document progress by adding updated grid positions throughout the year (leave the initial position in place for reference).
We have been using the example of a company whose sales strategy is to enter new markets by selling a recently launched product. In this case, the sales leader needs to ensure his team is up to speed in its product knowledge, customer benefits, competitive advantage, and sales skills in order to execute the strategy. But people development doesn’t end there.
Ultimately, your goal is to move everyone incrementally to the upper right, High Performer, quadrant. High Performers possess unquantifiable qualities and characteristics. I find it helpful to describe their attributes in terms of activities. Here is a sample list to get you started:
- Regularly achieves sales quota
- Regarded as trusted advisor by customers
- Proficient at demonstrating and explaining products and services
- Comfortable and confident presenting to customers, both internal and external
- Disciplined about updating account, contact, and opportunity records
- Volunteers to help On-board new sales representatives
Both the sales leader and the sales person are accountable for Step 5 success. Sales leaders are accountable for creating an environment of trust, identifying needs, monitoring progress, and coaching for success.
On the other hand, sales people must be held accountable for raising their hand when they need help or support, requesting training, education, and coaching. Sales people should also be held accountable for practicing skills and reporting back on progress. In other words, they must be proactive participants in the coach/player dynamic.
Evaluation for Step 5 will be on-going as you continually identify needs, provide training, education, and coaching. But, without doubt, this is the most interesting, challenging, and rewarding part of being a sales leader. You will know you are successful as you move your sales people step by step upward to the right on the Performance Assessment Grid.
Finally, promote a culture of performance, trust, and accountability and your team will go above and beyond to exceed your expectations.