There are many ways to support the sales function inside a company as it scales, but one of the best parts of sales is that it is the most measurable function as well – performance is trackable. The challenge for companies ends up being on whether they can use the tracked performance to manage effectively. Our experience points to performance management in sales revolving around three areas:
- Using one-on-one (1:1) individual coaching
- Implementing a metrics-based scorecard
- Laying out clear action plans.
We often see sales teams hold weekly team meetings that are primarily sales reps going around talking about their pipeline as a way of managing the team. While the team-spirit and sharing this enables are essential, this is one of the most common obstacles to establishing successful performance management. Our experience has been that weekly coaching calls have to be done 1:1, especially in fast-growing software companies in the earlier stages of their sales team growth. If a company has hundreds of sales reps, then the goal may be to hire and train sales reps that look and operate like each other. However, at earlier stages, each sales rep needs to be managed individually. 1:1s allow the sales leader to help tailor the messaging and coaching to the rep – some may struggle with opening new opportunities and leads while others may struggle moving deals through the pipeline.
In addition to conducting these sessions individually, we would encourage a few other best practices for 1:1 coaching meeting with your sales reps:
- Hold them at the same time and day every week
- Have them take place before the 1:1 between the CEO and sales leader
- Use a dial-in or video meeting, even if the meeting is taking place in person so that other members of the executive team can join in as listeners
- Having a dial-in is essential. It allows leaders in finance, product, technology, customer success, etc. to hear directly from the reps the challenges and opportunities from the front lines – as long as they announce themselves and remain silent listeners.
“The prep time is sometimes the hardest to carve out as there are always competing priorities that come up but being disciplined around the preparation enables some of the highest impacts in performance management.”
The centerpiece of coaching is the performance scorecard. Depending on the sales cycle, this may be a weekly scorecard or monthly scorecard, but it captures the sales rep’s key data and information to drive the coaching conversation. We typically see four components to the scorecards:
- Performance: How has the rep been performing?
- Performance data could include vs. quota, past performance, and stack rank amongst the reps.
- Pipeline: How will the rep perform?
- Pipeline data can include the pipeline by stage, days in stage, key pipeline movements, and win rates.
- Activities: Is the rep doing all of the things he/she needs to do to help grow the pipeline, move the deals through the pipeline, or meet performance expectations?
- Action Plan: Has the rep done the things he/she said they would do last week/month, and do they have a plan for what they plan to do next week/month that’s different
- Bonus: for higher velocity sales, we often include a compensation calculator that shows what 1, 3, or 5 more deals could mean from a commission basis.
These components all work together. If a rep is behind on performance, but the pipeline looks strong, and the activity is there, the sales leader may worry less about what’s coming ahead. Similarly, a rep who is hitting performance targets, but the pipeline looks light, may cause concerns about future performance. The key to successfully using the scorecard in 1:1 coaching is not merely sending it over to the sales rep. Instead, the sales leader should aim to carve out 0.5-1 day on reviewing the scorecards and CRM data in detail to prepare for the 1:1s. The prep time is sometimes the hardest to carve out as there are always competing priorities that come up but being disciplined around the preparation enables some of the highest impacts in performance management.
“Framing performance management in the spirit of its intention – individualized coaching to make everyone successful – makes it one of the most powerful tools in the sales toolkit to drive growth.”
The last piece of the 1:1 coaching meeting focuses on the action plan. The action plan is a critical component of performance management because it enables the rep to come up with a list of things that they will do differently or try differently. It may be as simple as a new tactic, hitting certain activity benchmarks, or targeting specific accounts in their territory. These action plans must be written by the rep vs. assigned by the sales leader as it creates an ownership mentality for the rep. Having the reps write their action plans helps differentiate will vs. skill in the reps. If the rep is developing action plans, executing against those, and committing to improvement, the will is there. If they are still not seeing results, it likely demonstrates the sales rep is simply in the wrong role/position for their skillset. As we discuss in sales hiring, the context for success is as important as innate skills.
Performance management is a term that is often thrown around as essential but commonly not practiced as it does require direct conversations. Framing performance management in the spirit of its intention – individualized coaching to make everyone successful – makes it one of the most powerful tools in the sales toolkit to drive growth.
Have a question for Prital or our Growth Team?