What do you expect from your sales people? The short answer to that question is typically, “I want them to hit their numbers.” Yes, that is an easy one and an important one. But what other expectations do you have of your team? What are the things that they do or don’t do that drive you crazy? When we ask some sales leaders, we hear things like:
- They don’t put their notes in CRM
- They are terrible at forecasting
- They never turn in their expense reports
- They don’t get deep enough into accounts or ask enough questions
I could probably list another dozen, but regardless of company size or industry, these complaints remain pretty consistent. So is the world just full of lazy sales people. Is it truly a case of “you can’t herd cats?” I don’t believe that for a second. There are several reasons that reps don’t do what we want them to do. I can break them down into the following areas:
- Leaders are often poor at setting direction. When I hear things like “They don’t put their stuff in CRM,” my immediate question is “What is your expectation about what goes in and what doesn’t?” After talking to hundreds of sales managers, the response ranges from “Just put in the opportunities so I can forecast and after that, I don’t care” to “Every interaction with the client should go into the system – even if it’s just a note saying you left a message.” So ask yourself, have you been clear on what you want, when you want it, which fields are critical, what level of conversations should be input? The answer for an overwhelming amount of sales leaders is a resounding “no.”
- Sales people often don’t know how to do what we ask of them. We see a wide variety of approaches when it comes to sales people forecasting. There are the eternal optimists – “I had a good phone call with them, so they are going on the forecast.” These people almost always overstate what they will actually sell. Then there are the sandbaggers – “I’m not putting anything on the forecast until I am sure it will close.” This often results on a mad scramble to deliver on an order because the company didn’t know it was coming. Then there are probability people – “I give it a 60% chance of closing.” How in the world do I forecast 60% of a $100,000 deal? I am certainly not forecasting $60K based on that. Now think about how you set expectations around forecasting. What did you tell them should go on the forecast? What criteria should be met before it counts? Should all opportunities be included or just the ones at stage x or later? How have you trained them to establish close dates? Without the sales leader training them on good forecasting practices, you are at the mercy of their undeveloped skills.
- Your expectations are not realistic. We once had a boss tell us that his expectation was that his inside sales people would make 150 calls per day. Compare that with most companies who set the expectation between 30 and 60 and you wonder how in the world they came up with that number. When we asked how many people hit the goal, the boss told us that nobody has ever hit it, but “We want a stretch goal.” True story. Evaluate whether your expectations are achievable. Do your salespeople have the time, tools and resources to achieve them?
- The salespeople may not be motivated to meet your expectations. We constantly hear complaints from managers and owners who say their salespeople are “comfortable” and they are not motivated to do what you want. I would challenge these people that maybe they are not providing the proper consequences (good or bad) for actually meeting expectations. Let’s go back to the CRM example. If you are clear about what you want from CRM and they do it, is there a reward? I’m not talking about money, but what’s in it for them? In many cases, it can just be a verbal “Thanks for keeping your stuff up to date” or recognition in a public meeting. In other cases, it might mean that your 1 on 1 meeting this week will be really quick because you have all the information you need. If somebody does the right thing and feels like nobody notices or recognizes their performance, their motivation to continue performing goes away. The sales leader’s role it to recognize and reward when people meet expectations as well as address issues when expectations are not met.
So next time you are really frustrated with a rep, refer to these four areas. I can almost promise you that the issue will be related to one or more of these areas.