As we approach year end, it’s a great time to reflect on sales performance – good and bad. We want to review to ensure the sales techniques and presentations we’ve been using are still effective. What worked ? What needs work? It is a good time to celebrate our successes and learn from our failures. A simple review is a fantastic sales training exercise that will teach us a ton, sharpen our sales skills, and keep us motivated. What’s the best approach to a sales performance review?
Performance can be broken into two main components: the effort put into one’s job, and the skill used in applying that effort. We should address both these areas. Effort is often enhanced by working smarter (e.g., finding better times to apply maximum effort). Skill improvement is very broad, and can include prospecting, telelphone sales skills, closing skills…etc. Let’s look at the various ways we can review our sales performance to enhance both these areas.
The best approach to a sales performance review is a proactive one. Good sales techniques call for tracking performance throughout the year, which provides the information for continued success, and the trends for a very effective review. However, many sales professionals avoid tracking their performance. Perhaps they’re afraid of looking at the hard truth. Perhaps they feel it’s unnecessary because things seem to be working great. Perhaps their just waiting for someone else to do it for them. Whatever the reason, it’s bad business. Successful business owners take stock. Professional athletes don’t simply try harder; they study what works and what doesn’t. We need to do the same. If we don’t know where we are, objectively, how can we know where we’re going?
The actual review process is quite varied. Following are five methods that will provide insight into one’s selling techniques, successes and failures. This is by no means exhaustive, and the sales review process can actually combine all five of these and many more, including significant details. The object here is to help us find proactive methods that “we” (not bosses or management) can actually use, right now.
1) Friendly Review: this type of sales review can be as simple as an honest conversation with another sales professional about our selling experiences over the past year. With the right person, these talks produce new ideas and sales techniques that can be instantly put into practice. Find someone you work closely with, or that you have daily interactions with. The conversation may be a chat over a beer, or a couple hours in a conference room taking notes. Just be sure that it’s actually a “review” that’s positive, focused, and productive. Avoid war stories and negativity. These reviews can help identify issues that may be effecting your overall selling success.
2) Journaling: another approach is to journal throughout the year. This provides a great opportunity to capture sales techniques real time. We can then review with another sales professional what we can do different, and what we can expand upon. The great thing about journaling is that, if done honestly, you can catch bad sales practices right away and correct them on the fly – it’s essentially daily sales training that can eliminate the need for exhaustive reviews.
3) Peer Review: letting another sales representative take a hard look and actually judge one’s sales performance is bold and effective. Done correctly, it pays dividends. Done poorly, one can end up bitter and resentful. The goals and expectations should be clear at the outset, and the appropriate “reviewer” is critical.
4) Detailed Review: and in-depth analysis of activities and numbers may be appealing and/or necessary for some. Simple questions can reveal a lot and take your sales career to new levels. Example questions may be along the lines of: What were the buying trends, and how can you capitalize on them? What problems repeatedly occurred, and how can you remedy/avoid them? Did professional conventions help your sales, and by how much? What months did you hit/not hit goals and why? What’s your close rate via telephone versus email…etc?
5) Whiteboard: my personal favorite is to use a whiteboard. I put a stick figure all the way on the left side and a dollar symbol all the way over on the right. I then fill in the middle with things I can control, and things I can’t. I essentially create the forest that occurred over the past year and find my way through. It’s a quick and dirty way to visualize obstacles (internal and external), trends and opportunities, as well as the path to success.
Sales performance reviews are meant to help us grow. So, how will we take charge in the new year? We should be thinking about these things now. By being proactive, we can set ourselves up for success. Have we continued our own sales training efforts to ensure we’re on our game. Have we identified our goals and targets? Do we know our customer’s pain points. Have we scheduled calls, meetings, and presentations with prospects. What about networking? Are we using LinkedIn, FaceBook, and Twitter to our advantage. There’s no end to things we can do to prepare for a successful new year, but will we do them? Will we, like so many sales guys, just continue on the same path and expect different results?
Take stock. If necessary, pick up a sales book, read some blog posts or receive SalesGrail RSS posts – sales tips and techniques will come directly to your email. Start the new year preparation now. Sales training never ends. We want to stretch outside our comfort zone, try new sales techniques, and learn from other sales experts. To a great new year!
What do you think? Is a sales performance review an important component of Sales Training?