Sales leaders and managers are always going to worry about field sales teams. Most rarely meet them in-person. Often, field sales teams book their own meetings and report back via a CRM, emails, calls, and occasional meetings at head office or on the road.
For most companies, sales teams are earning more — when commission/bonuses, expenses, fuel allowances or travel costs are factored in — than some senior managers and directors. Sales teams are a big investment, and those in the field have more costs to cover than internal sales functions.
Companies expect a return on this investment, of course. Hence the consistent use of sales goals/quotas and other revenue-based KPIs.
However, not everyone in your field sales team is going to be successful. Not everyone is going to hit those goals.
How to spot sales performance warning signs?
Firstly, one of the biggest indicators that someone is an inconsistent, or simply not very good sales person, is their CV and LinkedIn profiles.
High-performance salespeople are worth their weight in gold. Companies keep them. Promote them. Reward them.
Salespeople who aren’t at that level rarely stay in the same role for very long. A clear warning sign is someone who’s jumped from role to role, one year in each company. Those who jump from job to job: one year here, one year there, they’re usually the ones who’ve consistently struggled to hit targets.
An even more sure warning sign is the time when people make a career move. It’s usually the back-end of the year when the cracks in performance start to become more pronounced, when the results continue to fail to materialize, and then the leap to another company usually happens early in the new year.
Everyone who under-performs struggles in different ways, of course. You aren’t ever going to get universally clear and uniform warning signs. People are going to have good months and bad months. Good weeks and bad. One quarter might be decent, another might be terrible. When performance is purely measured on outcomes, the underlying indicators of trouble are easier to hide.
What sales leaders and managers need to know is how to identify poor performance before the signs become obvious and revenue suffers.
How to spot a struggling salesperson sooner?
We worked out, on average, when you factor every cost in, such as related overheads and car allowances, or the lease of a vehicle, field sales staff require a minimum investment of around £80,000 a year.
So a bad week, month or quarter is something companies can’t put up with for too long.
The challenge is, when managers focus on outputs and the state of the pipeline, a salespersons performance might appear sufficient on the surface. They might not be breaking any records, but if they’re not obviously at the bottom of the scoreboard then what they’re doing might be enough. Providing they keep landing deals.
Missing target is the clearest sign that someone isn’t doing very well. But that isn’t a warning sign. It is an outcome of poor performance; a symptom, not the cause.
Middle-of-the-league performers keep the numbers steady. Managers can be confident that although James may never hit the top of the table, he will consistently bring in 10 deals a month, sometimes a bit more. Usually — in a good month — hitting target.
In a slow-growth economy, barely covering costs is no longer good enough.
Businesses need to spot the signs of weak performance early on, to either implement training and improvements, or support someone finding another role.
Here are some indicators to watch out for:
- A focus on small to mid-sized deals. Very few big deals on their score chart. Someone failing and hiding in plain sight will go for easier deals that take less time.
- Lots of repeat visits to clients that only involve limited travel time. Most field sales agents only visit 50% of their allocated accounts. Again, taking the path of least resistance.
- More revenue from account management than new business. This also places an over reliance on a handful of clients.
- Time spent “prospecting”, “researching”, “doing admin” and other activities that don’t involve making calls, sending emails, or meeting clients and prospects. Busy work, basically. Not something that will help them to hit target.
- Reactive instead of proactive. Taking a reactive approach means they are always on the back foot. Trying to fill a calendar. Struggling to reach decision makers.
- Poor pipeline management: Vague answers on the prospect, team and deal. Poor performers aren’t as good at listening and asking the right questions. Poor performers don’t know because they don’t ask.
Sales managers can’t afford weaker performers on the team. Know how to spot the signs and hopefully get them the training they need to improve.
SalesVisits: Powered by i-snapshot. Improve the performance of your sales team. Our real-time sales visits analytics increases field sales team productivity 21%, with 20 million and counting sales visits recorded so far. Contact us to find out more.
Want more articles like this? Signup to our Newsletter.