In general, sales reps represent themselves as a pretty tough, resilient, independent bunch. I’m not so sure about that.

Virtually every time I work with a sales team to continuously improve its sales process, I run smack into a “they’re too delicate for that” problem. It’s never phrased that way. It’s always couched in terms of “not our leadership style” or “I don’t manage that way” or some other noble-sounding axiom. As soon as the metrics come out of the bag, though, the back-pedaling and wimping-out begins.

To illustrate, consider a simple situation where we’re using 3 metrics; one for results and the other two for process:

Rep
Sales
Funnel
Cycle
Amy 1,500
$4,200
30 days
Bill 1,100
$2,568
31 days
Chuck 1,000
$2,500
28 days
Doris 900
$2,604
33 days
Ed 500
$3,422
18 days

The immediate reaction to presentation of data like this is defensiveness from reps and protectionism from managers.  Ed says, “But, but, but…”  The manager says, “We can’t embarrass Ed by telling him he’s fifth of five in sales.”  Bull feathers! That’s totally missing the point.  Both reps and managers need to realize that the objective is continuous improvement.

If there’s no data, there’s no baseline of performance.  If there’s no baseline of performance, there’s no way to tell if things are getting better or worse or staying the same.  If there’s no way to tell if things are getting better or worse or staying the same, there’s no way to know if improvement is happening or not.  In other words, if there’s no data there’s no commitment to continuous improvement.

Everybody needs to understand that everybody’s goal is continuous improvement.  It’s not about embarrassment.  It not about beating up the reps.  It’s about clearly identifying your flaws, accepting them, embracing them and figuring out how to reduce them.  Ed needs to know he’s dead last in sales.  Chuck needs to know he’s dead last in value of identified opportunities in his funnel.  Doris needs to know she’s got the longest sell cycle.

That’s when the flip side kicks in.  Everybody also needs to know Ed’s got the shortest sell cycle.  Why?  How does he do it?  What techniques and tools does he use?  How can everyone else learn his tactics and apply them using their own personal style and spin?

Everyone needs to know that Amy’s really good at identifying opportunities.  Why?  How does she do it?  What techniques and tools does she use?  How can everyone else learn her tactics and apply them using their own personal style and spin?

Get it?  Demand data!  Know your flaws.  Announce you flaws to your teammates.  Enlist their help.  Stop being such a baby.  Improve continuously!

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