While there is a lot of emphasis on sales coaching and sales leadership, the most fundamental skill that a sales manager needs to develop—managing sales performance—is often overlooked. Perhaps that is because many organizations take for granted that their managers know how to effectively manage performance.
Unfortunately, that is a huge mistake. While many sales managers may have been able to produce very good results themselves in their prior roles as sales reps, this doesn’t necessarily translate into the ability to get their sales teams to consistently generate great results.
Behaviors vs. Results
The inherent problem lies in the focus on results as opposed to the sales behaviors that drive results. This is especially true today because current CRM systems provide real-time measurement and reporting of results. While it is helpful to monitor this information, it is important to note that it is rearview-looking information. These metrics are based on results that have already occurred, as opposed to the underlying behaviors (leading indicators) that drive results.
A good analogy that demonstrates this point is weight loss. Someone who wants to lose weight cannot simply get on a scale daily and record their weight. While there is likely to be some fluctuation day to day, the results are not meaningful unless they are taking specific behaviors (such as modified diet and exercise) that impact these results.
Going back to sales results, sales organizations need to carefully think through the key results they want to monitor, and then determine what behaviors will drive those results. The key distinction being that results (lagging indicators) should be monitored and behaviors (leading indicators) should be monitored and managed.
In the example below, if the desired result is new customer acquisition then the following key behaviors would apply:
Desired Result: New Customer Acquisition
- Developing a territory plan including comprehensive list of prospective customers.
- Creating account plans that map the key decision makers and influencers.
- Setting first time meetings with prospective customers.
- Adding new opportunities to sales pipeline.
An important aspect of this exercise is limiting the number of key results you want to monitor, because this could lead to an exponential number of behaviors. As an example, if a sales organization decided to monitor 10 results, this could potentially lead to as many as 40 behaviors managers would need to monitor and manage.
From a practical standpoint, it is best to focus on two to three most important results, and then manage the corresponding eight to 12 behaviors that drive those results.
Managing a High Performing Team
Once these results and corresponding behaviors have been identified, then managers can turn their attention to truly managing performance by following the following four steps:
- Communicate performance expectations.
- Monitor and manage specific behaviors.
- Monitor results.
- Provide regular feedback.
Going back to our example on new customer acquisition, a manager can now communicate the number of new customers they would like the salesperson to acquire, the specific behaviors that will lead to those results, and the timeframe for completion.
Most importantly, they need to make sure that they are providing ongoing feedback. This should include providing encouragement based on achievement of key behaviors (Think:, "set 10 first time appointments last week"), and proactively discuss any performance gaps they are seeing (Think: "I thought you were going to submit your account plans last Friday and I haven’t seen them yet") while there is still time to course correct.
Ultimately, sales managers live in a results-based world but their ability to achieve those results is driven by managing behaviors.
If you would like more insights on how to improve sales management skills, I encourage you to get a free copy of this whitepaper on Developing Great Frontline Sales Managers.