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Why End-of-Year Reviews Don’t Work

end-of-year review

This time of the year, sales leaders will get with their salesperson to go over their end-of-year review. The purpose of an end-of-year review should be to assess your teams' achievements against their goals and competencies, celebrate their successes, and document the progress they've made on their development plan. But the problem with this is most sales leaders don't do that type of review; instead, they often use a standard form that they got from Human Resources.

Often those forms are used across the company and measure things like whether they abide by the company policy, did they have a good work ethic, did they show up on time, do they support company values, etc. This standard form addresses important actions, but isn't specific to any one department or person. It rarely has anything to do with sales results or sales skills. So why do sales leaders even use them if they aren't personalized? First, that’s the only form they have. Second, most of the time, sales leaders only do a review because someone told them they should do it.

Sadly, the review becomes more about what that salesperson and sales leader can remember from the past 30 – 90 days vs. the whole year. Then when it's time to chat about goals for next year, those are written down and never looked at again. In fact, according to a study done by Deloitte Insights, only 8% of companies believe their performance management process is highly effective in driving business value, while 58% say it's not an effective use of time.

According to research by TruQu at least 76% of employees would like to have feedback at least 12 times a year, not just once or twice, which goes to show that reviews should be an ongoing process. One tool we use at Pivotal Advisors is our Personal Coaching Report to help evaluate skill capabilities and progress.

Coaching Report Tool

This tool can help you evaluate specific sales skills and help you, the sales leader to have an honest conversation about where your salespeople are. The example above shows a large list of skills, but we would suggest narrowing that list down to the handful of things that apply to your organization. Discuss with your salesperson and pick one or two things for them to improve on for each quarter. You'll want to strategize ways or projects for that salesperson to do to improve. The tool allows you to track the status of the things they’ve done to develop in each area as well as your assessment of their proficiency in each and helps them move from 1 to 2 or from 3 to 4. 

Make sure to explain that regardless of how much experience a salesperson may have coming into the company, everyone starts as a 1 in every category because they don't know how this particular company does things. Sure, their expertise may help them move across faster but, a new person is still just learning things like how the company differentiates, who their ideal client is, how to best present solutions, etc. when they enter any new company.

Keep tracking regularly, so the salesperson knows how they are doing throughout the year. Ask your team members if are they getting the results? Are they improving their skills? We can have all the skills in the world, but if we aren't getting the results, then that's not a good thing. The same can be said the other way around if we are getting results despite sales skills not being good, that's not great either.

Have an open conversation where you talk about all of this once a quarter. Then, at the end of the year when HR tells you that you need to do a performance review, the process becomes much easier.  What your salesperson has been doing throughout the year will be recognized. If you have been having these conversations frequently, you have been tracking, and you have been asking the right questions, then the results at the end-of-year review shouldn't be a surprise to you or the salesperson.

End-of-year reviews shouldn't be just once a year, but informal reviews and discussions should be carried throughout the whole year. Using a progress tracking tool can help you identify certain weak spots and target areas of need. It's nearly impossible to remember specific tasks someone did at the beginning of the year, but tracking on an ongoing basis will help with that.

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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