“What isn’t measured, isn’t managed.” We have all heard something similar, usually attributed to Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking. We know it to be true, so how well is measuring being done in your organization?
The great part of managing a sales team is that very clear metrics for success exist. Did they close enough deals or not? At the highest level of accountability and results-based management, that is all that matters. However, even if a sales team is winning every day, month, or quarter, there will always be sales reps who aren’t. The most challenging part of managing a sales team is that it is full of humans. The job itself requires them to be mentally capable, physically present, and emotionally focused.
Who’s Analyzing the Data?
The HR person might assume the person in charge of the sales team is tracking all the critical metrics, with a watchful eye to negative performance trends and a goal of implementing proactive coaching to ensure all the individuals stay on the right path.
In my experience, that assumption is generally incorrect. Most sales managers are great at working with their team, keeping them motivated, solving problems on the sales floor, and getting stuck deals to move forward. They shouldn’t be the only ones pouring over data and analyzing where issues will come from.
What Should You Track?
Speaking as a prior sales manager and leader of sales managers, one of the best values you can provide from the HR role is utilizing technology to aid in the analysis of data that leads to necessary action. The company’s CRM should do most of the heavy lifting, but your HR Information System is there to take the data and track it relative to the individual performance.
While every company is different, and your sales KPIs will differ slightly, here is a list of the most common metrics to track:
• New Leads Received (inbound calls, web form fills, walk-ins)
• Closed Sales
• Closing Percentage (How many leads did it take to close one sale?)
• Average Number of Days to Close
• Average Cost, or Revenue, Per Deal
• Cost Per Acquisition (How much did the leads cost that the rep took to close that one sale? If you don’t know the Cost Per Lead, check with marketing)
• Cancellation/Return Percentage (Number of customers who cancel or return their purchase relative to the rep’s number of closed deals in a similar period)
• Net Promoter Score, or any relevant customer satisfaction or compliance data
[Note: If the sales team takes inbound leads from multiple sources, ensure the organization is also tracking a Closing Effectiveness for each lead source, with a weighted Cost Per Acquisition for all its sales. If unsure how to calculate that, email me.]
Your Data Means Nothing
With this data, you can now produce a score card for each rep. One challenge is determining the time frame for tracking and analyzing these metrics. Should it be daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly? If the time frame is too short, it could appear that a given rep is either performing amazingly or failing terribly. Ensure that you select the right time frames for decision making.
Like money, data, by itself, is useless. It means nothing. (Yes, money is useful, but only if someone will exchange what they have for it, otherwise it’s just paper/coins) The key is what you do with the data. With a scorecard in place, create a set of rules for determining whether the rep is performing, and then what action needs to be taken. Performance Improvement Plans, Coaching Plans, or whatever you want to label them, must be triggered based on the metrics.
Supporting Your Sales Manager
Here is where the sales manager needs HR’s help the most. They are analyzing the data at some level. Because they are in the trenches with the team, even without data, a good sales manager knows who is doing well and who is struggling. But organizations still require that you translate the data into action steps to go from feelings and hopes that reps will improve to documented accountability and progression plans.
The best thing you can do from your HR role is use your HRIS to trigger when some level of additional coaching or management must occur with a given rep (or even the sales manager themselves) and produce the needed documents for the sales manager. Do not tell them Johnny is failing to hit the required metrics, so action is needed. Instead, produce the required documentation the sales manager needs for coaching and counseling the rep; then ensure it is signed by all parties involved and returned to you for the rep’s file.
Next, use your HRIS to trigger workflow alerts to:
• Ensure the documentation is returned and signed by the required date
• Follow up on rep metrics during the performance-improvement period
• Trigger a determination at the end of the period for the next action step to take
• Produce the follow-up documents needed
• Ensure the process is completed, and that the rep is either released from their performance improvement plan and back to work as normal, put onto a new plan, or removed from the team
Most organizations have good intentions of managing a sales team, holding reps accountable, and documenting everything to ensure the company is covered from a legal standpoint. However, somewhere in that process things often follow apart.
The key is not to rely on individuals to manage the process, or for sales managers to take action. Leverage technology (HRIS, CRM) to ensure the system works the same way every time. While they might resist it at first, your sales managers will eventually appreciate your handling the admin portion of that process.