Every CEO and sales leader worries the most about the middle. We know the top 10-20% of our performers will always figure things out and get to quota, where others will likely hit a wall. We also know we have the bottom 20% who may never hit their numbers. They may just be in the wrong role or not set up for success in a way that works for them. But did you know that a simple review of your sales metrics and reporting process can totally change everything?
Most Sales Reps Fall Into The “Middle” Category
What about the middle? The 60% or so – where every month is a battle? They give you hope for two months, and then make you frustrated for two months, and the wheel goes on and on. A percent will move to the top, a percent will move to the bottom and churn out, but many will live in this perpetual cycle forever at your company unless you fix it.
Your board is certainly curious as to how you are going to optimize the middle and get more reps hitting target on a consistent basis. It’s never a good look when you have 20-40% of your team consistently missing quota.
When I talk to sales leaders about how to get their mid to bottom performers performing at a higher level, they usually are a little stuck. They have tried one-off training, changing up the KPIs, and offsites with executive and mid-level leadership to try and come up with a master plan.
The Master Plan – Review Your Sales Metrics And Optimize The Reporting Process
Having worked with hundreds of sales organizations, CEOs, and sales leaders, we have found that there are four consistent metrics that can be implemented relatively quickly to improve rep performance.
Metric #1 – Opportunity Velocity by Stage: How Quick do We Move Deals Through Each Stage?
Your top performers usually close deals faster, but do you know why? They keep momentum going in the deal at each phase and typically that matters most in two stages. They move from to discovery to multiple stakeholders faster, and then they move from proposal to closing the win quickly. The issue arises that this can vary from rep to rep so you need to know and coach to the gaps in the way they create momentum today.
Metric #2 – Current Customer Analysis to Ensure Proper Territory Alignment
There are times that reps are missing because of you. In fact, in the early stages of territory development, I am almost certain that it is your fault because the territory analysis and TAM analysis conducted was for your board and not for reality.
“When a sales manager focuses on numbers alone, he or she can give reps the impression that all territories have equal potential.” – John Treace.
This means you have good sales people floundering in poor territories or verticals that you designed.
It happens but you have to fix it sooner than later. Many times the answer is to wait to map territories until you have enough customer data to know truly who your buyers are and who actually converts. Either way, do a real current customer analysis to really understand how equitable you have divided your world.
Metric #3 – Opportunity Size & Forecast Analysis
Middle and bottom performers are optimists (bless their soul). This usually means their forecast is full of opportunities that will never close. What we have seen with the middle as well is that they typically dream big and their opportunities are larger than whatever ends up closing.
There are ways to look at opportunity size conversion, then to go a level deeper and look at it by job title that they are working with, where you can see this in action. You have a sweet spot for deals and the middle is usually too liberal. The easy fix here is to actually, and don’t kill me for saying this, teach them how to pitch smaller. Walk them through the data and proposal drafting but make sure they don’t go too small either.
Remember they are the middle so they tend to move in herds. You don’t want the herd moving from too big of pitches to too little. But at the end of the day, it’s about accuracy. You have to analyze the data for each rep but look at the size bias as an easy spot to increase their close rate.
Metric #4 –Live Action Training and Role Plays
Trainings work when led by practitioners and when followed through by leadership. The issue with the middle is that they are tough to move away from old habits. This can get worse with more experience and the effect of continuous sales training can sometimes follow the law of diminishing returns.
How do you make it stick? Stop investing in sales trainers who are more motivational speakers than pure trainers, as it won’t work. Invest in proven training that incorporate real world situations and also drive adoption from the training group to leadership. It’s it not enough to train, you have to pick key elements for each participant that can be pulled through. Spend time identifying gaps for each person and then you can customize a follow through plan for that person.
Moving your bottom and middle performers requires you to know your data and then be able to understand where to look and what to do with it. As a sales leader or CEO, there is little else that can have as much impact on your bottom line than getting more out of the middle.
Happy to talk more @JakeTDunlap or snap me @jdunlapz!
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