February 04. 2011 2:00AM - Last modified: March 14. 2012 4:17PM

Numbers don't lie


By Phil Mydlach

I recently started working with a client to increase the effectiveness of its sales force. The main problem was that most team members were coasting and in maintenance mode. They weren't working hard enough to add clients and grow sales.

>One salesperson in particular stood out: a 26-year old whom I'll call Kelly. Kelly is what's known in the sales world as a farmer. That is, she maintains relationships with existing clients and takes orders. In her position, the goal is to strengthen and deepen those existing client relationships, while bringing on new clients. But sales under Kelly hadn't budged from where they were before she joined the company (2.5 years earlier). Despite this fact, Kelly frequently complained about not making enough money.

As part of my work with this company, I sit in on weekly one-on-one meetings (as needed) between the sales manager and each sales rep. My role is to help move the sales ball forward, which is to say I am there to assist in helping develop and focus both the sales manager and the sales reps on the things that drive performance.

Going into this meeting I knew Kelly's performance was poor. I also knew she had a poor work ethic and a poor attitude (bad combo).

So imagine my surprise when Kelly turned to me and said, "Phil, I don't know if anyone's told you, but I need to make more money."

While I didn't expect her to bring up this topic at our first one-on-one, I was thrilled she did. This gave me the opportunity to model the behavior that I advocate for all of my clients and this sales manager in particular.

Let the facts speak for themselves

I calmly replied that everyone wanted Kelly to make more money. Her eyes became as big as saucers. I said that I wanted that for her, her manager wanted that for her, and the owner of the company wanted that for her. I really had her attention now.

Then I asked her to help me better understand what a typical work week looks like for her. I asked a couple questions:

  • On average, how many sales calls do you go on in a typical week? Drawing from my experience as a salesman, I knew that it was possible, given her territory, to go on ten to twelve appointments each week. She reported that she did about five.

Then I followed up with this question:

  • In a typical week, how much time do you spend on the phone with prospects or clients, inbound or outbound, where the calls lasted for more than two minutes (greater than two minutes implies she is past the receptionist)? She had no idea.

In advance of this meeting, and in preparation for this particular discussion, I had asked the sales manager to generate a report showing the answer to this question. It turns out that Kelly averaged about 58 minutes on the phone each week for the past eleven months … ouch.

Figuring in time spent on research, emails and other sales related activities, we concluded that she was putting in about two full days of work each week – for about $60,000 a year. A pretty fair sum for what amounted to part-time work.

Kelly was put on a performance improvement plan stating that her work ethic, attitude and ultimately her performance had to improve. There were no emotions or protests to deal with because we were dealing with data and facts.

The sales manager learned a valuable lesson that day. When you use data and facts to support a calm and objective performance evaluation, it will wring most, if not all, the emotion out of the interaction.



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