Bad Performance Management “Inconvenient Truths”

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As the founder of top-level consultancy High-Yield Methods in Minneapolis, Dick Lee has worked as a sales and customer process guru for over three decades, doing VP- and C-level consulting with companies like Boeing, 3M, and Microsoft.

In an outstanding article entitled “Sales Lead Programs—Another Inconvenient Truth,” Dick tears apart bad lead management practices with a metaphorical sledgehammer, but in the process brings up a just-as-critical side effect: “We now have and have had innumerable clients dying to hire good, experienced salespeople, but the well has about run dry.”

Sales people get paid a lot of money, and perform “hard, essential work,” but in Dick’s mind are often treated as “Joy Riders. Parasites. Necessary Evils.” Sales is the “corporate whipping boy,” he states, because “anyone having that much fun deserves to be punished, eh?” If the well is running dry, it’s because professional sales reps are “treated so badly that most up-and-coming business professionals won’t put up with those levels of disrespect.”

And one of the worst forms of the sales “whipping boy” mentality is bad performance management—the “Conveniently Un-true” disconnect between what sales management says they want, and the way they implement the sales process.

Think about it: how many sales management teams chant the “more sales” mantra, but don’t bother with lead management, or measuring the end-to-end buying cycle to track lead source effectiveness—making it rare for reps to get truly qualified leads?

How many companies spend thousands of dollars a month on Web marketing, SEO, and pay-per-click—but then wait 2-3 days to hand off incoming inquiries, dramatically reducing an agent’s probability of making contact (all this assuming that they respond at all, since research consistently shows that 35-45 percent of companies don’t even make a single contact attempt to new Web-generated leads)?

How many sales VPs expect reps to compete in aggressive markets, but don’t give them the productivity tools to increase sales calls, manage follow-ups, nurture leads, and automate their processes?

Instead of doing weekly training and mentoring, how many organizations throw reps into a once-every-six-months training seminar, then wonder why presentation and closing skills are still sub-par?

How many times do CxOs set unrealistically high quotas—then wonder why the company is hemorrhaging clients because reps are forced to close every prospect they can, regardless of “fit” or actual lifetime customer value?

Sometimes sales aren’t happening because a company is simply in the wrong market, and as soon as the strategic direction gets fixed, performance increases. But never forget that reps’ levels of motivation play a huge part in sales success, and one of the fastest ways to “dam success,” demotivate the sales team, and kill deals is to claim you want a specific outcome, and then set up a “bass ackwards” process to achieve it.

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