As a sales manager, here’s an easy concept to get your head around: sales performance improves when sales managers set clear expectations with each salesperson.
Think about it, when sellers know what to do—and managers establish performance tracking metrics and leading indicators to monitor progress—life becomes easier for all involved.
Simply put, when life is easier for a salesperson, they perform at a higher level.
Why Is Setting Clear Expectations So Difficult?
In theory, this is an easy concept, but for many managers setting clear expectations is a challenge. Here are some reasons why:
1. Unclear Expectations From the Executive Team
It's assumed that exceeding revenue goals is a desired outcome for all organizations; however, many at the executive level don't add clarity to expectations—and many sales managers do not seek clarity. Having a vague expectation like “exceed your goal” is as worthless as not having any expectations at all.
It's important that sales managers get clarity of expectations from their executive team. Clarity will help establish performance tracking metrics and leading indicators. Here are some common metrics:
- Goal performance
- Growth of current top accounts (also known as key accounts)
- New business revenue (also known as target accounts)
- Year to year performance
- Sales activity (appointments set, proposals presented/closed)
At the end of the day, exceeding revenue goals is the name of the game; however, having a short list of metrics attached to a standardized sales process to keep sellers on track is the best path to follow.
2. Too Many Expectations
More is not better when it comes to expectations. A short, concise list of 3 to 5 expectations will deliver better results than a laundry list of 10 to 15. Too many expectations will cause fatigue and tends to blur the target.
A great way to determine a short list of expectations is to brainstorm a long list, then create a filter to evaluate expectations. The filter will allow the best expectations to pass thru and create the final list of expectations.
3. Expectations As A Moving Target
Constantly changing expectations confuses salespeople. Confused salespeople underperform and sell less. Changing expectations should happen rarely. A good rule of thumb is this; if you add an expectation, you should remove an expectation.
Other Things That Impact Expectations
Hold the phone, there are more things that impact expectations:
Limited Talent of the Salesperson
It's important that sales managers and sellers have the talents required to perform at a high level. Having these sales talents will help all involved:
- Discipline—structured and organized
- Competition—fiercely competitive, scorekeepers
Unfortunately, one size does not fit all when it comes to expectations and salespeople. It's important to note, that individualizing expectations to a seller’s talents is extremely important.
We sometimes communicate so poorly that George Bernard Shaw was led to observe that,
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Having a communication plan that details how expectations will be communicated and how often is often overlooked. This is an easy fix—don’t overthink it. Keep your communication plan simple and use it!
Lack of Scoreboards and Reports
Having systems to report and track performance metrics is important. Customizing a billing system to create the required reports tied to your expectations is an easy fix.
Lack of a Standardized Sales Process
As sales process is a set of repeatable steps that your sales team takes to covert a prospect into a customer. Having a standardized sales process makes selling easier. Here's a look at the sales process we teach at The Center for Sales Strategy.
Step 1: Identify
This first step is all about selecting high potential accounts.
Step 2: Connect
Use insights to develop a valid business reason (VBR) and make a connection.
Step 3: Discover
Lead with insights and uncover desired business results.
Step 4: Advise
Recommend the best solution to deliver desired business results.
Step 5: Close
Gain final agreement with your no-surprise proposal.
Step 6: Grow
Keep your promises, sell success, and grow the account.
Simply put, salespeople do what you pay them to do. Your compensation plan should be aligned with your expectations. A quick look at your comp plan will tell you if it is or not.
How to Fix This Problem
Review this list item by item. Be honest with yourself to determine what items are preventing you from setting and using clear expectations. After you identify these items, use the ideas in this post to fix the problem or use the brainpower of your team (above and below) to create solutions and make the required changes.