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The Biggest ‘Miss’ that Sales Leaders Make - Are You Making It?

Sales leaders are extremely busy people; no one is arguing that. They are often running around, putting out fires, strategizing deals, figuring out what the CEO is asking for, and so on and so forth. That means they don't have a lot of time and often they are looking for things to cut. Unfortunately, they tend to cut time from some of the most impactful things such as one-on-one meetings, ride-a-long opportunities, and spending opportunities on making the team better. We want you to understand the importance of not cutting the one-on-one meeting and ways you can make that meeting most valuable.

When we ask sales leaders, "How often do you do one-on-ones with your salespeople? We often hear: "I talk to all salespeople all the time – multiple times a day" or "I don't need to do one-on-ones – I have an open-door policy. "Does that sound familiar? Or perhaps it sounds like something that you've also said?

If you rely on this open-door policy, let me throw curve a ball at you with this question, how often do your bottom performers ask for help because they are struggling? More times than not, we hear the response "That seldom happens."

Alright, then we dig a little deeper with the sales manager and ask; how often do you meet with your salespeople to specifically talk about their performance? This is not a one-on-one to review pipelines or talk about deals or issues, but focus the session on their activity levels, their close rate, their deal size, which target client they focus on, etc. We call this performance management discussion.

What do you think the most common answer is? Monthly? Weekly? Annually?

If you guessed annually, you would be correct. Sales leaders frequently answer that question with "We don't do that a lot," or "We address that during their annual performance review."

Performance Management Discussions are vital to the flow of your performance management. A formal structured, sit down session, with your salesperson lets you get to know what challenges they are facing, what they need clarity on, and what areas you can help.

In this formal meeting the best sales leaders:

  • Review their leading and lagging metrics against your expectations to diagnose any issues
  • Coach and guide them to see what areas they need to improve upon
  • Provide feedback on the actions that they can do to enhance numbers

Questions like "Do you have enough activity to fill your pipeline?" or "Why do you think your close rate is lower than expectations" will lead to great conversation and get the salesperson focused on targeted actions that they can address to improve their own numbers. Think about how your individual salespeople would respond to those questions.

The key behind these performance management discussions is that the manager isn't doing the work. If this is working correctly, then the salesperson should be showing up and presenting their numbers to you such as the number of new opportunities this week vs. wins, sales numbers for the month vs. goal, close rate vs. intent, etc. Your role is to encourage, listen, give feedback, and reward them when they are doing the right things. If they are missing expectations, ask insightful questions, so they come to their own conclusions on the things they need to work on or do differently.  Then document their commitments and hold the salesperson to them.

When it comes to these meetings, don't mesh performance with pipeline review or deal strategizing.  These conversations happen all the time anyway or can be done in a different session.  Use this time to see how the salesperson is doing against expectations, work on skill development, and manage performance. These are coaching opportunities just ripe for the picking.

Despite all of the benefits that come from these discussions, sales leaders still ask the question, "When am I going to find the time?" The truth is, this does sound like a lot more meetings, but if done right, it gives you more time in the end. When you meet for the weekly performance management discussion, salespeople become more guided on what to do with their actions and thus "urgent/reactive" situations tend to go away, they get more accurate and frequent communication from you which means they need to come to you less.

So it may seem like more meetings at first, but in time it pays off. Your salespeople become far more self-reliant and consistent with how they communicate with you. By having you setting expectations and leading these performance management discussions, you make them a better salesperson, and in turn, you will free up your time. We've seen this happen in as little as 30 days.

About Gary Braun

Gary is a founder and co-owner of Pivotal Advisors. He has worked for 20+ years as a salesperson and sales leader. Gary has been a guest speaker for many groups such as Vistage, Allied Executives, CEO Roundtable, Sales Management Association, and more. If you want to find out more about Gary check out his profile here.
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