Sales Reps: You don’t hire them for a service, you hire them for a ‘result’

As a CRM Vendor I often find myself not only selling software but offline solutions as well; mainly consultative services that help a business establish best practices in front of the keyboard and in front of the customer. It’s part of the value we have to offer in order to really help our customers improve their operations. After all, software alone isn’t the single solution that will save the day.

A natural part of providing solutions to your customer is discovering their philosophies and current processes. We do this so we can tailor a solution that complements and improves upon the workflow their already familiar with. Over the years we’ve had a chance to speak with thousands of people from a variety of industries to learn about sales needs and ultimately their sales process and find out what’s important to them in a CRM. While almost 95% of them had common needs in a CRM solution, like improved collaboration, calendar sharing, ease of use, mobility, tracking leads and opportunities, etc. we found the way CRM users are managing their sales teams and the metrics they were recording could be broken down into two categories; those who focus on their sales reps’ daily activities and those who focus on their accomplishments (usually on a monthly basis). In other words, micro sales management and macro sales management.

Why do we hire sales reps? Simple. To grow revenue. Growing your customer base and increase sales is the end result you’re looking for. Period. It doesn’t matter how they achieve that result either, by the way, as long as the results meet or surpass your expectations (and legal of course).

When you employ a sales rep, you hire them for a service; “Selling” and compensate them for a result; “Sales”. Lose sight of this and will cost you lost revenue, be an expensive mistake and could even bankrupt your business if not dealt with.

Sales can take time, and how much time all depends on your industry and where your prospects (or customers) are in their buying process. There are a variety of reasons (in fact too many to count) that can impact a company’s sales cycle. Far too often micro sales managers invest their time reviewing the wrong matrix. They get too lost in looking at their sales rep’s daily activity log an equating of the volume of activity with successful efforts. There’s a false feeling of comfort that can come from viewing activity analytics, like the number of calls made or emails sent during a given day. I’ve seen plenty of organizations in a variety of industries with sales reps who had greater sales results with fewer calls over a monthly period than their peers, mainly because they knew where and how to invest their time.  It’s true that sales is a numbers game and the more touch points you have, the more chances you have of closing a deal, but there is also a multitude of factors that are required to support that activity like experience, technique, personality, demand, price and so on. Setting expectations on HOW your sales rep sells boxes them into your process and not theirs. Sales is a talent, much like art. If a person had artistic abilities wouldn’t you let them work using their unique skills that make them successful rather than stand over their shoulder and instruct them on how to paint?

Keeping with the art analogy, you judge a painting on the end result, what the picture looks like when it’s completed, not how many brush strokes or colors it took to make it.

Volume of calls doesn’t necessarily mean quality calls.

On paper, Frank makes an average of 50 calls per day while Kelly only makes 10. A report like this offers a single dimension perspective and basically indicates that Frank makes more calls than Kelly and is probably a better sales rep. In reality, all of Frank’s calls may last an average of 2 minutes, while Kelly’s 10 calls could average 15 minutes. In this case, because Kelly is spending longer with her prospects on the phone, she’s actually advancing them further into the sales process by qualifying her prospects, determining their needs, identifying key decision makers, buying motives and so on. When you look at it from this perspective and understand the details, it becomes a little clearer that sometimes less can be more. But even in this example, the details in the duration of the calls are irrelevant from a sales management perspective because Frank and Kelly need to be measured on their results, not the details of their conversations. Face it, sometimes those details could be exaggerated and thus makes the details irrelevant to measuring their success. They need to be measured on one single criteria; the revenue they generate for your business. The number of closed deals, actual sales that they make in a given time period. Successful sales managers focus on the big picture; the results of their sales reps.

The Devil is in the details.

The details are still important, but usually best observed in postmortem to help you identify why someone is either more successful or less successful in their sales activity. They should be used to uncover relevant symptoms that can lead to an accurate diagnosis. Remember, there is a multitude of reasons why one sales rep can outperform others in your organization; experience, specialty, territory, technique, approach, product knowledge, geography, lead sources, number of existing customer relationships, just to name a few. Understanding the details by analyzing your business intelligence through reports and KPIs will give you a broader perspective of why and where you are seeing success and help you standardize these elements throughout your organization where and when possible. For some, finding the formula that works best could take years. This is particularly common in startups.

Measure your reps monthly, but keep on top of their weekly progress. Familiarize yourself with the activity they have in their pipeline and work towards closing those deals as well as growing your sales funnel. Give your sales team the flexibility they need to deliver the results you expect and make sure they have the support they need to succeed. Don’t get lost in reporting micro details that are insignificant values, stay on track with the big picture and keep your eye on the ball; making sure your monthly, quarterly and annual revenue goals are being met. Set your expectation on revenue, not activities. If you expect call quotas to be met, you’ll achieve call quotas. If you expect revenue goals to be met, you’ll achieve your revenue goals.

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