The end of the first quarter means it's time for salesperson evaluations. Last week one of my clients and I were discussing the finish of Q1, salesperson performance, and next steps in their business strategy. The conversation led me to suggest the following steps for evaluating sales performance for each member of their sales team. I thought this advice might be helpful to a broader audience as well.
The first step in evaluating rep performance is to place each member into one of the following categories:
Stars: How do we keep them?
Learners: Do we have a plan to train?
Solid Performers: How do we maintain?
Followers: Good for now, but what about next year?
Deadwood: Can we do better?
Once you have classified your sales team members, the next step is to develop a plan to review each person and set a learning path for them. We recommend that performance evaluations become a formal procedure between the sales manager and each salesperson that occurs at least twice a year. We use a salesperson development tool from our Sales Manager's Tool Kit.
There are three critical areas to focus on during a performance review:
Skills: What needs work, and what's strong?
Development: What learning actions will be taken, and when?
Obstacles: What problems stand in the way of success, and how will we mitigate them?
This session between sales manager and rep allows both individuals an opportunity to honestly discuss career aspirations, personal goals, and skill development. By using this three-pronged agenda, the manager can fully coach the salesperson to the next level.
Now let’s provide you a few examples of possible performance recommendations, based upon the five sales categories above.
Stars: Provide them added responsibility, and let them plan and/or run a few sales training meetings. Ask them to coach new hires.
Learners: Schedule them for training. Register them for a sales class or assign them books to read and report on to the entire team. Provide a technical resource to coach them on the various product/service solutions your company sells.
Solid Performers: Ask them to build a six-month plan with metrics they will share with the team. This will help underperformers see what solid performers do to achieve their goals.
Followers: Monitor them closely. Schedule a bi-weekly team meeting with all followers to discuss activities and assist them in developing sales strategies on new opportunities. Observe who responds, and who does not.
Deadwood: Spend very little time with them. Many sales managers waste time and brain power trying to “save” these individuals. Start recruiting.
Regularly “inspecting what you expect” will increase your sales team's professionalism and drive performance.