The Performance Conversation You NEED To Be Having With Your Sales Team

In good years and in bad, our business survives on its ability to drive top line revenue and manage bottom line performance.  As industry leaders, we focus on how we did vs. various metrics, such as same time last year, budget, forecast etc.  When we dig deeper into those comparisons, one of the places that we land is in the realm of our Sales Departments, where we look closely (or should !) at the performance of our individual Sales team members.  How did each do this month?  Did they achieve their goals?  Did they miss?  Do they (do we) understand the reasons why?

Let’s start with the fundamentals; first and foremost, how do you measure the performance of your salespeople?  It may seem overly basic to ask if we provide goals, but, let’s leave nothing to chance; do we provide goals? 

Assuming that the answer is in the affirmative, how do we measure performance against those goals?  Do we have an audited and reliable means to ensure that our performance measurements are accurate?  Once again assuming the positive, the next step is perhaps the most critical; what do we do with this information when we receive it?

A detailed review of a salesperson’s monthly/quarterly/annual booking results should be one of the most important administrative functions that leadership completes on a regular basis.  An assessment of the data, followed by a sit-down discussion with the salesperson, is crucial to that salesperson’s future success.  Let’s be clear here; the sit-down with the salesperson needs to take place whether that person has blown away their goals for the period, just made their numbers, or missed them altogether.  There is always something to be learned by having such a conversation, and these talks should most definitely NOT be reserved only for those times when our people miss their numbers.

Now, when you sit with your “disappointed-to-have-badly-missed” sales manager, what exactly is the conversation about?  Clearly, the miss vs. goal is the topic, but have we thought about how to address this in the context of this particular salesperson?  Here’s the point; there are many reasons why a salesperson may miss their period goals.  Some of those reasons include outright poor performance, but others include just-plain bad luck in the form of a new product launch that was suddenly cancelled due to lack of government approval, etc.  It’s crucial that in our evaluation of our salespeople, and in our critiquing of their performance, we dig deeply enough to understand the underlying reasons for the failure.  Clearly, there is a huge difference in how we handle a person who missed their goals because they simply ‘slacked off’ as opposed to a person who did everything properly, but still didn’t quite achieve their target.

Let’s turn for a moment to the conversation to be had with the salespeople who exceed their targets.  Hadn’t previously thought about the need for this conversation?  We have a responsibility to provide direction, support, and leadership to all of our colleagues, not just those who may have hit a bump in the road in their performance.  This conversation is an opportunity to express to the salesperson our appreciation for their achievement, and our absolute challenge to keep the pressure on, to never let up, and to clearly convey the importance of their contribution to the success of the entire property.   Think that most owners and GM’s make time on a regular basis to talk directly with their goal-exceeding salespeople?  Sadly not enough do. Dare to be different!

As Dr. Steven Covey espouses in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” it is essential to “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” It is crucial that we don’t lose sight of the fact that the word leader is not just title bestowed on someone.  Leadership demands that we take action to truly understand our colleagues so that we can move forward collectively toward a mutual goal. In the case of our salespeople, this direction must come in the form of understanding the issues that drive each individual, then tailoring our own management styles so that we can bring the best out in all of them.