Today's blog is by Lisa Wicklman. She is the senior vice president of Global Accounts at Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm. Lisa has more than 20 years of experience in sales leadership and management, sales coaching, sales training, customer experience, sales consulting, and sales culture transformation. Sign up or Vantage Point’s newsletter to stay up to date with the latest sales manager research and best practices.
When sales organizations turn in mediocre performances, there are always lots of reasons why. A couple of big deals that were expected to close are still hanging out there. A top producer left the company. A competitor rolled out a lower-cost solution.
While things like these certainly may be contributing factors, I have found that the root cause of consistently sub-par performance is often none of these. It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. It’s dread.
Here’s what I mean. We know from our most recent research into world-class sales organizations that a key strategy for improving sales results is getting more sales reps to quota. We also know that three-quarters of sales managers today have less than half of their team at quota. But what’s really interesting is that half of all the sales managers in our study were hitting 99 percent of their target – but doing so on the backs of a few superstars pulling their teams across the finish line. In contrast, the top quartile of managers (as measured by revenue goal achievement) bring along 65 percent of their reps to quota and, as a result, each manager generates $3.5 million more in revenue than their ineffective counterparts in the bottom quartile.
How are these top performing sales managers getting more of their sales reps to quota? By following a defined sales management process.
Your sales managers are the critical lever for getting your salespeople performing optimally. But, left to their own devices, most managers will spend their time putting out fires, jumping in to “save” late-stage deals, and other reactive activities that can yield some results but do little to develop individual sellers. Top-performing sales managers, on the other hand, rely on a sales management process they can use in a very practical, proactive way to bring along their entire team. A solid process helps these star managers establish an effective rhythm for regularly conducting the activities proven to elevate individual performance, such as one-on-one coaching conversations.
And here’s where things get dicey and dread begins to creep in. Implementing a sales management process requires change. And change – especially when it comes to the sales force – can be daunting.
I find that most sales leaders are intellectually aligned with our research and its findings, namely:
- Bringing more reps to quota leads to significant performance improvement
- Sales managers are the lynchpin of individual performance improvement
- Improving a sales manager’s ability to elevate a team’s performance requires an effective and intentional sales management process.
But that’s right about when the leader’s subconscious starts wondering (and dreading): What if my top managers don’t like the process and they leave? What if they take our best reps with them? I really don’t have the time to deal with unrest in my sales force; can’t I just leave well enough alone?
There’s a cost to inaction. When only 48 percent of reps are making quota, it means more than half the reps aren’t earning their keep – which means their managers aren’t doing their jobs. And it means the loss of one or two top performers will have a measurable negative impact on results. And, as I mentioned earlier, it can cost as much as $3.5 million in unrealized revenues for just one ineffective sales manager. Weigh these costs against changing the status quo, and which are you more willing to accept?
Don’t let fear and dread keep you from realizing the potential sales growth that can be achieved through better, more consistent sales management practices. Don’t let anxiety about the frustration of a few keep you from elevating the performance of the many. It’s just basic change management, right? When approached that way, you minimize the negative impact while driving toward improved performance across the board.
Let’s face it: you know what sales managers should be doing – getting a solid majority of their reps to quota through ongoing, targeted coaching and growth. And you realize that a solid sales management process is the proper foundation to getting there and sustaining it across your entire sales organization. Now it’s time to step over the line and make the change. Now is the time to suppress that voice in your head and do something different. Because only by doing something different will you reap the radically different results you’ve been looking for.