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Before 2O13, Give Your Sales Force an Annual Checkup<

5 Dec, 2012 By: Troy Harrison, Salesforce Solutions imageSource

imageSource asked SalesForce Solutions president, Troy Harrison, for his insight on creating an “end of year” review on important objectives to consider meant to ramp up the quality of your sales initiatives before 2013 gets underway. Troy gets “up close and personal” with his timely suggestions.

Well, it’s the end of the year. What that really means is that it’s time to give your sales force an annual checkup. You do that for your own health – why not do it for your sales health, too? As a manager, you only have two variables to work with in order to generate results, and only two methods by which to maximize those variables.

The two variables are quantity of sales activity - and quality of sales activity. The basic equation looks like this:

(Quantity of sales activity)
(Quality of sales activity)
= Results

In other words, the more you do of something, and the better you do it, the better your results will be. Your job, as sales manager, is to maximize the number of activities performed in your sales funnel, as well as the quality of those activities.

To do this, you have two things to work with – your people and your processes. Your people should be working at the maximum reasonable effort, generating a high quantity of calls, appointments, proposals, and sales. They should also be skilled enough so that those calls are well done sales calls, thus maximizing your opportunities.

Evaluating Your People

The first thing to ask yourself, as part of your checkup, is: “How many of my people are capable of achieving my 2013 goals?” I like to rate my salespeople in three categories: Green, Yellow, and Red. This may be obvious, but let me explain:

Green salespeople are salespeople who either are currently meeting goals and that we expect to continue to do so, or who are properly ramping up to meet goals (in the case of new salespeople or salespeople who have been on a performance improvement plan). Your main task with these salespeople is to continue to develop their skills and work to retain them.

Yellow salespeople are in doubt. Their performance is not meeting goal, and you’re unsure if they are capable of meeting goal. You should be troubleshooting these people; in fact, any salesperson who is Yellow should currently be on a Performance Improvement (or Probationary) Plan. These could also be salespeople who are new.

Red salespeople aren’t going to make it. You’ve been working with them, and you realize that it’s simply not going to work out. If you have any of these people, let them go.

Ideally, your sales force will be at least 60% Green. At most, you’ll have 20% Yellow and 20% Red. For a sales force of 5 salespeople, you should have at least 3 in the Green category. Now it’s time to look at your sales reps individually. Are you doing an annual evaluation on your sales reps? If not, this you should. If your company doesn’t have an evaluation form, there are several available on the Internet for a free download; get one and tailor it to your needs.

In looking at each of your salespeople, evaluate their performance with our two variables – Quantity of activity and Quality of activity. You should have sales activity metrics in place; if not, I’ll discuss those momentarily when we talk about sales Processes.

Start with Quantity of activity. For each of your people, compare their activity numbers from 2012 with your activity metrics. Are they doing enough prospecting calls? Initial appointments? Proposals? If not, you know that there is untapped potential available simply by getting them up to standard. Don’t neglect this with your top performers. Instinct is to leave your top people alone. Remember that every call your top performers make is more valuable than your average performers, simply because it has a higher likelihood of turning into a sale. That’s what makes them your top performers. If they’re not maximizing their time, you are losing potential sales.

Evaluating their Quality of activity is tougher and more subjective, and it requires you to put in your time in making joint calls with your reps. For each rep, create a strength and weakness matrix. What are they especially good at? What do they struggle with? What can you do to improve their Quality of activity?

Again, don’t neglect strengths. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to build on a strength than to fix a weakness, especially if the weaknesses aren’t preventing them from hitting your goals. For Yellow salespeople, it’s a bit different; you’ll want to focus on fixing whatever weaknesses create a barrier to results.

Create a Professional Development Plan for each Green and Yellow rep. (remember, the plan for Red reps is termination). Make it part of the evaluation we discussed earlier and work toward achieving those goals on a consistent basis. Yellow reps should have a deadline for hitting goal and making the transition to Green.

Now, let’s take a look at your Processes. You should be re-evaluating your sales metrics at least once a year. If you don’t have these, the simple version is that sales metrics are the amounts of each activity that your sales rep performs in a given time period (I prefer to manage by the week). I like to keep it simple by using: Calls for Appointments; Initial Appointments; Proposals; and Sales (sold deals). These are the major points in the sales process. Work backward from the number of Sales needed in a given time period and then use your expected ratios to get your numbers.

For instance, if you need one Sale per week, figure up your closing ratio from Proposals to Sales. If it’s 50%, then you need two Proposals per week. How many Initial Appointments yield a Proposal? How many Calls get you an Appointment? It’s not tough to get these numbers with a little bit of study. This creates a road map for sales achievement, as performed by a competent salesperson.

If you have metrics, you should be re-validating them annually. Good metrics depend on accurate ratios. Ratios can change over time; for instance, when voice mail became prevalent, it took more calls to get an appointment because salespeople were able to contact fewer prospects by phone. Similarly, when the economic downturn happened, closing ratios on Proposals changed downward.

Once again, take the activity results of your Green salespeople only to re-validate the ratios and numbers. Are you seeing big changes in the ratios? It might be time to revise your metrics. Don’t use Yellow or Red salespeople in this; this will skew your ratios downward. What we want is to match the results of your successful people.

Don’t revise your metrics down, instead revise your goals up. For instance, if you’re finding that your closing ratio is improving, don’t allow your salespeople to perform less sales activity. That means that your results should get better.

After you’ve terminated Red salespeople, don’t worry about “the best time to hire.” The “best time” to hire is always NOW. Get your hiring processes started...then hit the ground running for the New Year having put the right steps in motion.

Troy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and the President of SalesForce Solutions, a sales training, consulting & recruiting firm. He’s a former national award winning Sales Manager in the Textile Services industry. For info on various business offerings or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail TroyHarrison@SalesForceSolutions.net or visit www.SalesForceSolutions.net

About the Author: Troy Harrison

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