Every CEO, VP of Sales and front-line sales manager knows that you need to regularly assess your team to know where you stand, how they are doing, and what needs to change in order to keep your company growing. But assessing your sales team is a highly personal - and often intensely political - task that most sales leaders loathe to address.
As a result, 'Did you make your quota?' becomes the default definition of sales 'assessment', even though quotas themselves are usually a completely arbitrary measure of individual performance. So, what are some things you can do to make your inside and outside sales assessment easier and more productive? Here are three keys:
1. Benchmark Your Team First, and Individuals Second
Benchmarking your sales team as a whole allows you to look outside your company and how other firms are practicing sales, and it also emphasizes the point that your sales team is all on one ship -- the ship that is your business. Where they steer that ship (and whether it stays afloat or starts sinking) is ultimately up to their efforts as a group.
For example, we all know that sometimes there is a personality mismatch between a given prospect and a particular salesperson. Do your sales staff hand opportunities off to a colleague when these situations arise? Are lead generation efforts and insights shared across the group? Are problems that arise in one part of the sales department discussed by the team in the context of continuous improvement.
2. Define Your Sales Process, then Assess Against It
It's hard to examine sales performance if you don't have a clearly defined sales process. You can't tell a salesperson that she or he is not effectively qualifying prospects if you haven't defined what a qualified prospect looks like. That means it's time to document your sales process clearly. If haven't done so already, then make sure to incorporate insights and feedback from the sales team itself in the process documentation, so that the new standard accurately reflects real-world insights and on-the-ground realities.
3. Remember that Assessment is Not the Same as Evaluation
We tend to think of employee evaluation as a pass/fail process in which employees hope simply to ensure that they don't have any 'black marks' against them. It's unfortunate that our business culture has encouraged or coalesced around this thinking, but in light of that reality, you need to think about - and position - sales assessment in a different light. Certainly, any assessment you perform with individual employees could have an ultimate impact on their performance evaluation, but at the end of the day these are two different and distinct activities.
Assessment is about continuous improvement measured regularly and applied to everyone (i.e. even the 'star' performer will have areas of improvement to work on), but evaluation - traditionally understood - is about verifying that a given employee is competent in his or her job, as determined through an annual (at best) event. That's why it is essential that you make inside and outside sales assessment a regular actvity - so that it becomes a positive and routine part of the professional development strategy for your sales team.
Benchmark your team; define your process; and assess rather than evaluate. These are three critical keys that can guide your inside and outside sales assessment efforts to ongoing success.
Image credit: NetEff @ Flickr (Creative Commons).