Sales Execution – It’s more than sales performance management.

22 Jan

Sales execution is all about clarity of strategy and then simply (though not easily) following through.  However the larger the sales organization the more complex execution becomes.  Execution is driven by several variables but in effect we are really talking about defining what we want and then managing performance.  It’s simple but hazy.  Think it’s simple?  Then Google sales performance and see what you get.  Pages upon pages of SFA, CRM, incentive software and a lot of consulting organizations to help you implement your new enterprise solution.  I am a huge fan of MIS and information/data but sales performance is not about software.  Performance Management is about assessing a sales person’s past, present and future contributions, identifying gaps and then coaching them towards continuous improvement!  Software plays a leading role but the core of this lies in HQ leadership, field sales manager attention and ultimately the culture that develops because of action taken.

Essentially there are eight drivers of performance management and each is important but I am placing them in order of occurance:

  1. Goal Clarity – KISS.  The more goals you distribute and the more they are interwoven the harder it will be to determine what is expected and how to meet expectation.  All too frequently every product manager wants to ensure that their product is represented in the sales goals.  The strategy already calls for several variables; revenue, account size, new vs. current client expansion etc.  Integrating too many variables will make defining a tactical prescription for acheivement difficult.
  2. Tactical perscription for acheivement.  To ensure goal attainmment you need to define how you expect the job to be performed.  This is the step most often omitted and is the most common cause of performance failure.  You must be able to translate the goal into a tactical plan.  How many accounts need to be acquired?  Average account size?  What should the sales pipeline look like?  Without tactical plans and detailed performance metrics you are leaving it to each sales representative to create their own plan of action.
  3. Performance metrics.  If you have a simple set of goals then you should be able to reverse engineer them through your sales cycle closing ratio’s to define with precision what a typical sales pipeline should look like.  This is a CRITICAL step!  This benchmark is the tool that will allow field managers to identify gaps during battle and help people alter their approach.  If your metrics are poor then you will have to wait for outcomes before you know if your sales will hit target.  If your metrics are good you will always know where you are headed and will always have the ability to correct your course.
  4. SFA, CRM—essentially any automation tool that allows you to see data about sales activity, progress and prospect information sorted in any way necessary.  Whether you have your own system or use one of the many available online doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is that sales management has the information they need identify gaps and help each member of their team with on the spot coaching.
  5. Leadership Training and unified coaching approaches.  Most companies promote great sales people into field sales manager jobs.  Few companies provide any leadership training.  Great sales people can become great sales managers but they need a road map and every coach can use a coach.  Without training and coaching you are risking the loss of a great sales person and the eight to ten people they manage.
  6. Joint call activity level.  We expect so much of field sales management; overall production, margins, pipelines, forecasting, CRM adoption, resource utilization (cost of sales), turnover ratio’s, training participation etc.  It’s easy to see how field sales management can fall into the trap of reacting versus leading and coaching.  Joint calls are a critical activity and HQ leadership should ensure that they communicate this as a priority initiative.
  7. Performance Management Process.  World class sales organizations will find a routine method to regularly assess the performance of every contributor, team and regional units.  Essentially this is a process that will examine past contributions (previous quarterly results), current contributions (sales pipelines) and future results (skill levels).  Too many companies use annual performance evaluations.  Sales people are not like any other employee.  Annual performance evaluations are not good for the company and they are terrible feedback tools for sales people.
  8. Sales Culture – All of the above drivers will be recognized by members of the sales organization as guideposts of how seriously Senior Management takes sales performance.  Over time this perception will define the culture of your sales organization.  A high performance culture recognizes that management has high expectations, well defined paths of execution, a culture of coaching and self improvement and a laser like focus on meeting/exceeding expectations.

2 Responses to “Sales Execution – It’s more than sales performance management.”

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