Should sales managers focus on results?
Absolutely, but problems with sales teams arise when sales managers focus ONLY on results rather than observing and improving the inputs of the sales process.
Sales results are an inescapable metric of the sales profession. But sales managers who want their teams to improve results have to pay attention not just to that outcome but to the factors or inputs that produce the results: training, attitudes, behaviors, and so on.
This difference between monitoring results and improving inputs can be compared to what a golf coach goes through with a client. Suppose all a golf coach does is look at someone’s scorecard. They’d be able to tell whether the golfer ended up over or under par and which holes gave them problems, but that information doesn’t help the coach identify how the golfer can improve.
Berating a salesperson for a poor month is the same as looking at a scorecard after the game is over. Nothing you can say at that point will improve the result.
Worse, in sales the “score” isn’t generated until weeks or even months AFTER the salesperson has done their work. No matter whether the result (score) is good or bad, it is too far disconnected from what the sales rep did to have an impact.
Another problem with a results-only orientation is that you might be able to discern how much activity a salesperson produces, but not the quality of that work. The golf scorecard is a helpful analogy here as well: it gives you a good approximation of how many swings the golfer took (not counting any misses!), but doesn’t tell you how far each ball went, whether it went straight down the fairway or skewed to one side, or really anything about what the golfer did correctly or incorrectly.
So even if a results-orientation helps you track the activity of your salespeople, you’re only going to know quantity not quality. Wouldn’t you rather have a salesperson make 10 high quality sales calls than 50 calls that were a waste of time? Yes, sometimes poor results can come from a low activity level (such as not enough prospecting), so the advice “make more calls” would make sense. But if the sales rep’s problem is the quality of the calls they are making, then doing more of the same isn’t going to get better sales results.
To help a golfer improve, the coach would need to observe what the golfer was doing and how they got to where they are: What were they taught? Are they applying what they learned? What equipment are they using? How is their approach, their swing? Can they read the green? What skills have they mastered? What do they still need to work on?
Like a golf coach, sales managers need to pay attention to what processes, methods, and tools their salespeople are using.
To see for yourself how paying attention to process and inputs rather than just results works, make an appointment within the next week to observe one of your salespeople in action. That could mean listening in on a sales conference call or Zoom or going along for an in-person meeting with a prospect. Ahead of time, ask the salesperson two questions:
1) How far along is this particular customer in their buying process? (What steps have they taken so far?)
2) If the deal is to move forward, what would the customer need to do next?
Sit in on the meeting, take notes on what the salesperson does and doesn’t do well. Did they succeed in getting the customer to agree to the next step?
Then talk with the salesperson afterwards to debrief. Have them tell you what they think they did well and where they could improve, then share your own ideas.
If you do this regularly with all of your salespeople, you’ll have a much better understanding of what each salesperson needs to improve in order to close more and bigger deals. And that’s the best way to improve sales results!
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