Getting Salespeople to Overachieve: Top 10 Contributing Factors

Updated: November 18, 2010

Goals - I'm talking "raise the bar, stretch, out of the comfort zone, more than the typical 15% increase in sales" type goals here. You must raise expectations in order to celebrate superior performance. Don't forget two things: (1) that a forecast and plan come from the goals; not the other way around; and (2) goals are derived, not from the company, but from the individual's income requirements, based on the bills that accompany life's obligations and desires.

Incentives - including compensation, contests, commissions, awards and prizes. Incentives bridge the gap between corporate carrots and the personal goals we just discussed. If an individual has the goals but the company's compensation isn't designed to reward superior achievement, the incentive to perform can not be maintained. If the company has a rock-solid compensation plan but the goals are wouldn't excite Dr Phil, the personal incentive to perform will be AWOL.

Managing the Pipeline - a visual pipeline makes it significantly easier to manage the pipeline but the key to managing the pipeline effectively is working with your critical ratios. Think monthly goal, closing percentage, average sale and length of the sell cycle. Let's say that your salesperson has a six month sell cycle, a $100,000 monthly goal, a $20,000 average sale and a 25% closing percentage. Effectively managing the pipeline requires that your salesperson places 20 (5 $20,000 sales x 4 at 25% closing) new opportunities worth of total of $400,000 (25% of $100,000) into the pipeline 6 months in advance of the monthly goal (if the goal is for July then the opportunities must enter the pipeline in February). Get that to work and the outcomes are all but guaranteed.

Accountability - This is such an important factor in over achievement. You must hold each salesperson accountable to something measurable (like the number of conversations required to book the number of sales calls required to identify those 20 new opportunities) every day. Even more importantly, you must have consequences for failure to meet those requirements and consistently follow through whenever necessary. Develop the nerve for full accountability and you're nearly there!

Motivation - This is the combination of Goals and Incentives. In essence, does the salesperson have a strong enough desire and commitment to do whatever it takes - every day - to reach the goals? When they don't, it's your job to motivate them by knowing what each salesperson's goals are. I'm not talking income requirements or gross sales here, I'm talking planes, boats and cars; big houses, vacation homes, golf trips, world travel, home theaters, fantasy camps, exclusive events, etc.

Self Starter - Last week I posted an article that discussed what it takes for salespeople to succeed in a remote location. Those factors, whether salespeople are more effective when working independently or as part of a team; and whether they require supervision or can work without it; help to determine whether they are self-starters. If not, you must start them up every day, twice daily or as often as it takes. If you have self-starters, you are one lucky manager.

Skills - The more the better, but let's focus on the most important skill sets for overachieving. Your salespeople must be able to hunt for new opportunities, identify the most qualified and be able to close them. Anything else they can do is a bonus!

Urgency - I wrote about closing urgency in January. Your salespeople must have enough urgency to get their opportunities closed, when they become closable, even when their prospects are trying to put them off.

Weaknesses - Unfortunately, there are weaknesses that will neutralize all of the previous 8 factors. There can be dozens of weaknesses that could impact performance but none are so powerful as these five: Non Supportive Buy Cycle, Need for Approval, Tendency to Become Emotionally Involved,Money Issues, Self-Limiting Record Collection.

Coaching and Training - Your coaching must support any training initiative and help salespeople overcome their weaknesses, develop skills and master the selling process. While most training will be conducted by sales development experts from outside your firm, the coaching absolutely takes place from within. Pre-call strategizing and post-call debriefing, with every salesperson, every day.

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