3 Ways to Refocus Underperforming Reps

March 7, 2017
| ByMike Ryan

More and more organizations are combining behavior-based (or qualitative) goals into their traditional sales contests. Why? The need to focus underperforming reps on the critical steps that make for successful selling has never been more paramount.

What’s at stake? Money, of course, and in that regard businesses have higher expectations. 92% of companies raised their revenue targets last year and they did so even after only a small majority of their salespeople hit quota. In fact, BPM Research and Fortune found that only about half of all salespeople contributed enough revenue to justify their existence. As the economy continues to strengthen, the competition for customers is intensifying. Without the right focus many more reps will continue to underperform.

What makes one salesperson better than another? Buyers say the best are empathic listeners. They work to understand their business which, in turn, allows them to position products and services as solutions. Managers will note that they use all of the support resources available to them with efficiency and purpose.

Both buyers and managers will agree that best reps consistently follow a sales process that they take a very disciplined and sequential approach to; gathering information, determining the user benefit and then shaping it across multiple buying agendas. Conversely, underperforming reps are known to skip steps. Fixing that is why we see smart, sales-driven businesses focusing on critical behaviors.

For some of the more traditional sales incentive planners, rewarding anything other than closed deals seems counter-intuitive. It goes against the results-driven culture they have cultivated. But know this: It is the discipline of good work habits matched to specific sales activities that results in more sales dollars coming through the door (often at higher margins).

Here are 3 ways to refocus underperforming reps:

1. Get them to map out the decision process

The proliferation of decision influencers within any client environment can represent daunting challenges for some salespeople. Most really don’t understand how customers buy and it impacts who they target and what they ask. That’s why identifying everyone in the decision process is considered a best practice among successful salespeople. By giving your front line sales managers the reward tools they need to reiterate the importance of categorizing key decision makers, you will be motivating underperforming reps to map out the buying process.

2. Encourage them to offer ideas

When it comes to sales, the early bird gets the worm. Salespeople that initiate a customer’s evaluation process get 30-50% of all deals—even those that go out to bid. There is a reason for that. Most salespeople enter the buying process late. They are not aligned with the customer’s preliminary thought process. Salespeople who proactively approach potential customers with conceptual proposals or ideas get more business. Give your managers the opportunity to reward that type of initiative and you will see more deals close.

3. Help them prepare SMEs

At some point in the sales cycle all reps will rely on subject matter experts. One of the things successful salespeople do better than others is to prepare them properly. They provide SMEs with the proper account background and situational context; they agree on roles during the meeting and set guidelines for future interactions. Underperforming reps universally need help in this regard. Here sales managers can gauge their reps’ roles in prepping and coordinating SME involvement or simply give SMEs the ability to judge the rep’s performance. Either way you bring that competency into focus for the reps that need it the most.

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