I see this every month – perhaps you do too…

With about seven days to go, sales managers can’t schedule a meeting and won’t come to the phone.  They suspend coaching their salespeople and holding them accountable because something much more important is taking place.  Understand that this is crunch time – they are down to the wire and attempting to salvage or make their monthly, quarterly or year-end numbers.  They are expected to provide some last minute heroics and once in a while they actually do.  But do you think that this was how the sales plan was designed?

“Sales Plan: Have salespeople and their managers perform as they normally would for weeks 1-3 and then, beginning with week 4, have everyone to work twice as hard, twice as long and with ten times the feeling of desperation.  Have them call on all current opportunities and offer incentives to close in the next 7 days.  If that doesn’t work, have their managers make the calls. When that doesn’t work, offer larger incentives.  Team up. Bring in somebody even higher up in the company.  If that doesn’t work….”

You get the picture.

Nothing about this practice makes sense:

  • It wears people out
  • It empties the pipeline
  • It devalues the product/service
  • It trains customers/clients/prospects to wait for last minute discounts
  • It emphasizes terrible sales practices
  • It trains salespeople to not follow your structured sales process
  • It trains salespeople that it IS all about price, even after you’ve trained them to sell value
  • It puts more unnecessary emphasis on closing despite the fact that closing is a natural outcome of a structured sales process
  • It takes the emphasis off of consistency and discipline
  • It takes the emphasis off of filling the pipeline and moving opportunities through the pipeline

The truth is that a company needs to have three things in place:

  • a well designed and optimized sales process (not one that is home grown);
  • a staged, criteria-based, visual pipeline (see my previous article – How to Predict and Prevent Sales Turnover);
  • the correct metrics to keep the pipeline filled and drive revenue;

After these three important pieces of infrastructure have been developed and you have retained or selected motivated, disciplined, strong, skilled salespeople, the results are a by-product of consistency, not heroics.   “A” Players simply follow their plan each day, with discipline and consistency, and their sales managers hold them accountable to that plan, and coach to the opportunities.

The plan? That is simply performing according to the metrics that drive revenue.  Those metrics can change over time but they must always be measurable and must always drive revenue.  If you are focused on building the pipeline, the metrics should support prospecting achievements.  If you are focused on moving opportunities through the pipeline or sales process, your metrics should support that.

No “A” Players?  No excuse.  If you aren’t willing to invest the money to professionally develop your underachieving salespeople, replace them with “A” Players.  If you aren’t willing or able to pay the price for “A” Players, you were probably trained as an accountant, not an executive or sales leader.

Get over it!

Lousy salespeople are a line item.  Great salespeople are an investment.