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You can’t manage Who you can’t measure.
Successful Sales leaders, namely those taking up a management role for the first time, know how to shift from a business maker to an impactful management role. They instinctively focus on the attributes that most likely drive performance.
Selling still matters of course. However, rather than checking compliance to the sales process and jumping into deal to demonstrate their negotiation skills, they know that their contribution is rather around strategic thinking and coaching.
Their in-depth understanding of customer needs and priorities, their market and industry knowledge, their relentless focus on providing customers a unique experience do no longer count as individual skills. They should be leveraged to coach reps into asserting control and driving an effective sales process.
On top of strong analytical skills used to maximize territory potential or spot business trends, they are supposed to build great teams,, implement a wining culture, and innovate to find new ways to position their set of products and services.
One may add executive presence to this long list, an outstanding trait of successful sales leaders, which includes:
- The ability to build trust and relationship with the C-suite: this is where you get what you need after all.
- The ability to leverage internal networks to reach their goal. The more you climb the corporate ladder, the less you are likely to win alone.
Some may ask: what about adaptability, or change management, agility, or integrity. All these skills matter of course. The problem is that you may know be able to measure them. And this is precisely the point of performance evaluation: telling without hesitation who your most valuable sales leader is.
Leaders assessment: less is more.
B2B companies are great at setting goals and measuring progress. Metrics are leveraged to trigger the right discussions about what has been done well and what needs corrective actions.
So, how come no or few objective measures are defined to assess sales leaders’ performance and agree on coaching needs?
It is not unusual to see annual appraisal based only on numbers, with few facts or descriptive feedback supporting managers judgment on key achievement or failures. It is not unusual to hear quarterly coaching sessions turning into a nice – or not so nice – discussions, skewed by emotional bias, that end up in an incomplete or unfair assessment.
Conversely, some companies take performance assessment so seriously that they have implemented detailed questionnaires. Quarterly assessments are conducted through a bunch of 100 questions touching on various skills such as initiative, agility, thought leadership, collaboration, accountability, execution, command, resilience, communication, self-awareness, talent management and so on. Two main problems arise:
- This “360 feedback like” approach is a full-time job. It requires leaving the appraisal system open so that illustrative or critical events can be described, objective comments can be tracked immediately and referred to when discussions happen.
- Questionnaires are useless if they include elusive skills like “Acts with customer in mind” that leaves room for interpretation and do not rely on a solid scoring system. Unreliable scales such as seldom, frequently or always will not help in our quest for accuracy.
Measure the true performance of your leaders.
If we have worked together on evaluating your sales team performance, you know what it takes to go beyond numbers and factor attitude, skills, activities and knowledge. Just like for sales individual contributors, a fair judgment of your sales leaders’ performance drives much more than bonuses and awards. Commitment and retention are at stake. Commitment and retention are at stake.
Our advice? Apply to appraisals the same precision you put into your corporate execution.
- 1) Adopt a quarterly or bi-annual cadence depending on the seniority and the level of hierarchy of your sales leader.
- 2) Separate continuous coaching and feedback from the 1:1 in depth conversation. Set up a distinct session for compensation and bonuses.
- 3) Just like you would for your V2MOM or OKRs, don’t indulge in superficial discussions that do not focus on tangible results and drive the desired behavior or change.
- 4) Limit the number of criteria and metrics to 10 and make sure they reflect your current business situation. Do not overemphasize on strategic thinking if the role is heavily focused on execution and sales discipline. If you use our success factor approach for hiring, leverage the critical success factors and scoring you have implemented.
- 5) Implement a bottom-up approach. Involving sales leaders to chime in will foster motivation, cohesiveness and consensus on whether what you measure does really matter.
- 6) Stay consistent but flexible: adopt a single assessment framework for your entire team and over a 12 months’ period. Adapt your rating and scoring to the personal and local challenges of your reports.
One of the simple frameworks we have implemented for one of our clients consists of the 3 success factors combined with simple measurable and indisputable KPIs.
Business maker: business first.
- Overall plan attainment,
- Win ratio,
- Average Discount rate
- Competitive deal won,
- Number of deals won including multiple products,
- Multiyear customer engagement,
- Productivity vs. FTEs and contributing non quota carrying resources.
Investor: hiring, growing, and retaining talents.
- Number of new hires against plan,
- Average productivity ration and ramp up time,
- Numbers of reps exceeding quotas,
- Reps’ turnover, including regretted ones,
- Number of ramped reps who passed the sales certification program,
- Direct reports NPS score.
Connector: leadership and customer focus
- Numbers of customer at risk retained,
- Number of corporate initiatives led,
- Number of cross functional initiatives led,
- Extended team NPS score,
- Customers NPS score.
There are many more competencies you may want to add. You may be more creative or look for a more complete list of traits and attributes. Just keep in in mind that, just like with OKRs, every criterion should be clear, meaningful, motivating, and measurable.
Hopefully, taking this path will help you conduct a more objective assessment on your sales leaders.
For further information on sales leaders’ performance assessment, please contact us.
Think. Good selling.
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