(Guest post by Jordan Wan, Founder/CEO of CloserIQ, the recruiting platform connecting top sales talent to tech companies.)
It doesn’t matter if you have a sales team of 1 or 100, performance reviews should be one of your top priorities as a sales manager. Even with a small team, having regular conversations about individual performance will be an important factor in reaching your team goals. Here are a few performance review tips that can be applied to all sales teams.
1. Set up a regular meeting cadence
By having a regular assessment cadence, difficult conversations about performance becomes routine. This can be a weekly one on one, or it could be every two weeks if you have a longer sales cycle. Not only are these meetings helpful as a manager to touch base with your reps, but when a rep is underperforming it provides a natural forum to talk about the issues.
2. Build trust and highlight alignment of incentives
I remind all of my reps that their quota is my quota and the incentives are aligned. A natural thought process for a struggling rep is that their manager will want to get rid of them. Building trust through being generally helpful and constantly reminding them of the shared goals will help you navigate through difficult conversations.
3. Know your rep’s area of weakness
At a high level, performance is driven by a rep’s ability and effort level. A helpful framework for me is to take each rep and quickly evaluate which quadrant they fit into along these dimensions (see below). This thought exercise gives you a structure for each conversation and help you prioritize whether you need to focus on training to improve a rep’s ability or motivation to combat lack of effort.
4. Start with the metrics and work backwards
Since sales abilities are largely qualitative, try to use metrics to illustrate your point of view. Start with objective numbers such as attainment to quota and activity levels and work back from there to find the root causes. Conversion rates within the sales process can help identify where additional training may be needed. If you find you have insufficient metrics and data to back up your view points, then you may need to talk to your sales operations team or reset expectations on CRM usage.
5. Dig deep with questions
To diagnose the cause of underperformance, you need to dig deep with your line of questioning. Take a collaborative tone (ex. ask why didn’t “we” hit that number instead of “you”) and keep an open mind on challenges a rep may be facing outside of their control. Don’t be afraid to admit responsibility for your failures as a manager as that can often help alleviate an intense line of questioning.
6. Provide theories to keep the conversation going
It’s great if your rep is reflective enough to offer their own theories about their underperformance. But often times you may need to rattle off a bunch of ideas to get the conversation started. Mix root causes that may be easier for a rep to admit (ex. too many non-selling responsibilities) with causes that may be construed as harsh criticism (ex. you need to stay later at work). By providing theories from both sides of the table, you are subtly showing them that you are just trying to help them figure out the issues and not about finger pointing whose fault it is.
7. Leave with an action plan
Action plans are crucial because they ensure everyone follows through after the meeting. If you don’t clearly state who will do what by when, it’s unlikely anything improvements will be made. Make sure both you and your rep hold each other accountable for following up on the action plan so it’s not a one-sided conversation.
Jordan Wan is Founder/CEO of CloserIQ. Previously, Jordan built critical sales infrastructure at ZocDoc and managed the build out of the North East sales teams. He began his career as a trading strategist at Bridgewater Associates, a global macro hedge fund with $169 billion AUM. He routinely writes about sales strategy and recruiting on CloserIQ’s blog.