Sales is naturally a high-pressure job, which is the thrill for most sales people. The pressure comes from the fact that firms always need money (and more money) and only the sales function brings in cash into the company’s coffers. To get this permanently in motion, reps are given targets (a.k.a. quotas). However, in any given month, sales managers’ experience is that someone is doing less than the set sales objectives.
Even the best salespeople have bad months or quarters. But if and when you have a rep or your team underperforming and/or in a prolonged slump, here are eight things you can do to help get them (and yourself) back on track and above quota.
Conduct a review to identify the important numbers
Start with a bottoms-up review of their daily activities – planning and its implementation, use of available resources, quality and quantity of calls, pipeline; and be as empirical as you can. You can start with customer historical performance, engagement with healthcare professionals, etc., Work back through pending opportunities, and continue to get more granular and tactical until you find a specific area for deep dive and improvement. At the end of the day, only one to three metrics will be important.
My list: Daily call rate/effectiveness, self-drive/passion and skills like detailing, relationship building, asking for money, focus.
Focus on what is within your control
No doubt, a large number of factors and issues affect sales effectiveness. But at this point, it is unproductive to complain about government policies, depth and spread of product offering, frequency of NMA strike, market conditions, outdated detail-aid, inadequate corporate support or any of the very many factors outside of your and the rep’s control. Instead, focus on what they can control, starting immediately, medium-term and every day. Activity volume, outbound calls, quantity and quality of presentation, building and developing relationships of inconsistent distributors, awakening old customers, following-up with healthcare professionals and the trade, improving coverage, prospecting etc. There are always things and issues firmly within the control of the rep and the manager that can significantly improve sales.
Compare current and previous habits and performance measures
Perhaps, it has not always been like this for the rep. Maybe he or she was better than this. In circumstances like this, we can borrow from a practice by sportspeople: athletes in a slump review video of themselves when they were “in a fire zone” to identify what they were doing particularly well (and may have stopped doing or adjusted since then).
Salespeople should do the same thing with your help as the manager. Look at their performance habits, productivity and motivation when they were at the top of their game. Not just activity figures but attendance records, follow-up rates, presentation close rates, networking, relationships, coverage etc. Figure out the right mix of measures for your business and sales floor, and look for what’s changed. Use this to develop a plan of action to return to the winning ways.
Joint calls and peer shadowing
The first option is your first-hand evidence on how the rep works, his skills, his attitudes. This you achieve by making a joint-call with the rep concerned. This is not for judgement but to see how to help the rep. The second option is to have a trusted colleague/successful rep shadow the rep for a few hours, spread over three to four days and covering customer types that you suspect might be an issue – doctors, retailers, distributors, etc. Watch their activity, listen to their calls, and sit in on a new presentation. It’s often difficult to personally pinpoint what we’re doing wrong, but someone else (who isn’t living it minute-to-minute) can often spot these things quickly – especially when they’re filling a similar role next to you.
Evaluate effort, attitude and drive
Even though we assess reps on outcomes such as sales and collection, the fact is that these are consequences of effort, attitude and drive. For instance, 50 per cent of the rep’s work is “showing up”. Is he making the calls? Has he been talking with the relevant people? Has he been passing the right message?
Great salespeople go through slumps. But there’s a difference between someone who’s giving it everything they’ve got and those who are nailing it in. Look for signs that your reps might have a decline in motivation, initiative or passion for what they’re doing. The source of this could be inside or outside the organisation; but either way it’s affecting their performance. Help identify and resolve any issues as best you can.
Check your leadership style
It is often said the rot starts from the head. To paraphrase Socrates, “A group of donkeys led by a lion will defeat a group of lions led by a donkey.” When a significant number of reps under a manager are underperforming, the manager needs to look at himself: communications, level of even-handedness, leadership skills and style, supervision effectiveness, skills and knowledge, interpersonal skills and understanding of each member of the team, etc. are areas for introspective analysis. If you can’t find a handle to it, you may engage a personal life sales coach (by the way, Ekini White Tulip Consulting offers such services).
Institute rewards at your level
Your company most probably has an incentive and reward system. Most managers seem to be unaware about their power to create additional reward system within their own team – for examples, rep of the month, specific product rep of the month/quarter, rep with highest sales, rep with highest collection, etc. This does not need to cost you much. It could be open recognition at your meetings, emails (copying your supervisor/company), digital certificate, a plaque, gift, etc. By the way, it is not out of place to use part of the manager’s incentives for this purpose! It is your investment to get a higher level of incentive, promotion and recognition by your company. Trust me, it works!
Check for personal issues.
It is a lie to say you can separate completely the world of work and the world of “non-work”. How much do you know your reps? The poor performance and slump you see in performance often has its root outside the world of work: personal finance issues, personal and family health issues, marital issues, spiritual matters, personal demons/bad habits, etc. are issues that we all consider outside the world of work but often impact negatively on performance and effort. And until they are dealt with, all sales management and leadership strategies will fail! Get involved if you can.
Put them on a PIP
When nothing else seem to work, the last resort is to put the rep on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). PIP is “shape up or ship out” or “wake up jolt” plan within a 60 to 90-day frame. It contains specific objectives, activities and outcomes the rep must achieve with clear milestones and consequences. Consequences may be demotion, loss of income/salary, transfer but usually termination, if things do not change significantly. There is a junior version of PIP, which is “performance query”.
The advent of COVID-19 has had huge impact on business in Nigeria and indeed the world. Ekini White Tulip Consulting has also been impacted such that we suspended our open training programs since March. Now that we are entering “Post COVID-19”, White Tulip Consulting is back and you can view/download our 2H 2020 open programs here https://web.facebook.com/EkiniWhiteTulipConsulting
Tunde Oyeniran, a Sales/Marketing Strategist, Selling/Sales Management Trainer and Personal Sales Coach is the Lead Consultant, Ekini White Tulip Consulting Limited, Lagos. Feedback Channels 080-2960-6103 (SMS/WhatsApp) /firstname.lastname@example.org or check https://fb.me/EkiniWhiteTulipConsulting