In my line of work, I see the same stubborn issue rearing its head repeatedly. My conversation with sales leaders typically goes something like this:
Sales Manager: “My sales rep hasn’t closed a deal in 90 days. Should I let him go?”
Me: “Well, that depends. Does he know what’s expected of him?”
Sales Manager: “Well, I hired him with experience so I would assume he knows what to do.”
Me: “In my experience, even experienced reps need 3 things: 1) complete clarity in terms of what is expected of them, 2) to be held accountable to those expectations every week, and 3) consistent coaching from their next level manager to make it happen.”
Sales Manager: “Maybe I have some work to do before I give up on him…”
If you’ve encountered this scenario or dealing with this type of situation currently, make sure you can check YES to each of the following:
Your rep is trained to sell your company’s way
It’s not enough to have been through basic sales training and understand how to identify needs and overcome objections. Your rep needs to understand and articulate what makes your firm different.
Your rep’s incentive plan drives the desired behavior
Is the plan you set up for your rep 1) designed to take the business where you want to go, and 2) achievable? Unachievable goals demotivate a rep faster than he can say “I quit.”
Your rep knows exactly what he has to produce to achieve his quota
This requires analyzing your sales history and doing some math. You want your rep carrying a pipeline of qualified prospects with combined revenue potential large enough for him to exceed quota based on an average close rate. If you don’t know these numbers, set some activity benchmarks and start measuring them.
Your rep has a thoughtfully-constructed target account list
This doesn’t mean telling your rep to canvass the market for big logos and write some names down. Who is your firm’s ideal prospect? What does your current client list look like? What’s the profile of customer your firm is most successful with? What industries are growing in your market? What skills are in high demand that your company can service well? The decisions you make together before building a list is as important as the list itself. It all starts with a quality target account list.
Make sure you and your rep determine the high-payoff sales activities and establish minimum weekly activity metrics
Today more than ever, sales reps can waste a lot of time on activities that don’t produce results. It’s not just about dialing for dollars anymore (though make no mistake about it, cold-calling still works). Your rep must creatively use a variety of marketing tactics to get a prospect’s attention, and he must touch the contacts on his target account list frequently enough to be noticed and remembered when a staffing need arises. Calls, emails, social media, networking events, and face-to-face appointments spent discussing the client’s critical business issues are all tactics your rep should be focused on. Consistent, quality sales activity precedes consistent, quality sales success.
Make sure you have a tracking system in place to measure your rep’s progress
Whether your firm has the latest sales force automation tool integrated with the front-office system or your rep uses a simple spreadsheet, the key is to track his activity. As the Sales Manager, you must have visibility to his activity to coach him effectively.
Make sure you inspect what you expect regularly
What gets measured gets done. Enough said!
Make sure you are helping your rep overcome obstacles to success as they arise
Many Sales Managers admit to lacking the time or competencies to coach their reps to success. If this describes you, be honest with yourself and get some coaching from a third party to support the effort.
Make sure you are visible and accountable to your rep
“Do unto others” is a golden rule for a reason. Don’t ask your rep to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself. Managers who lead by example are those who garner respect, loyalty, and results from their direct reports.
Make sure the time you spend time with your rep is meaningful
Establish a routine schedule with your sales rep to include ride-alongs, joint sales calls, reviewing numbers, rewarding successes, and addressing frustrations by coaching in the moment. Consistency is the key here.
Remember, this process takes time. Ultimately, if your sales rep is struggling, make sure you’re effectively sales-managing before you give up on them.