Rating Systems: Do they Improve Performance?

Rating systems have been relied upon for years to improve performance. Often times a person’s career, pay raise or job is in the balance.

How effective is your performance management rating system?

A  study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology sheds a not too flattering light on rating systems and what they really measure.

“The most comprehensive research on what ratings actually measure was conducted by professors Mount, Scullen, and Goff. In their study, 4,492 individuals were rated on a number of different performance dimensions by two bosses, two peers and two subordinates, who combined to produce almost half a million ratings. The researchers then analyzed these ratings and discovered that 54% of the variance in the ratings could be accounted for by “idiosyncratic rater effects”—namely the peculiarities of each individual rater’s perception. Only 21% of the variance in ratings could be explained by the ratee’s actual performance. All of which led the researchers to the following conclusion:

“Although it is implicitly assumed that the ratings measure the performance of the ratee, most of what is being measured by the ratings is the unique rating tendencies of the rater. Thus ratings reveal more about the rater than they do about the ratee.”

Scullen, S., Mount, M., & Goff, M. (2000). Understanding the latent structure of job performance ratings. J Appl Psychol., 85(6), 956–70.

What’s your experience been with rating systems in your organization? Do you feel they are worth the time and effort?

Developing Salespeople: Creating a Coaching Budget

Developing salespeople is like saving for retirement. If you don’t create  a realistic plan and invest accordingly you’ll be disappointed when you retire. Salespeople need a plan and an investment of time and energy in order to help them realize their full potential. Too often training and developing salespeople becomes a “round to it” for sales managers because they have other more pressideveloping salespeopleng things to do…like paper work and meetings. This is a mistake you can’t afford to make.

Another mistake sales managers make is treating every salesperson the same. This article will help develop salespeople while getting the most from each salesperson and your time.

Developing Salespeople

Each salesperson will require different approaches and need varying amounts of time.  Since you can’t be all things to all people, you must assess where your management time will bring its greatest return.  This means you must allocate your coaching time to make sure the people who have the greatest need and potential receives the most time.  The people who have the least need and represent the smallest potential for improvement receive the least time.

To make sure that you effectively allocate your time properly you’ll need to take the following actions:

      Create a Coaching Budget — To help you determine how much time you have available to spend with your people. For example if there are 240 work days and you want to spend 60% of your time coaching salespeople then your budget is 144 days. The results you get from developing salespeople are determined by how you spend your coaching budget.

      Assess each salesperson — When assessing salespeople you want to focus on their skills, knowledge and attitude. Make sure that you assess for  both the needs and potential of your people.  This will help you to spend the most time where the need and potential is greatest.

      Allocation of Coaching Days — Based on your assessment you now must commit your time to ensures that each salesperson gets an optimal amount of coaching time.  The key to setting priorities in this situation is to ask these questions “What will happen to performance if I don’t spend time with the salespeople?” and, “What will happen if I do?”

      Coaching Calendar — This formalizes your allocation of coaching time.  Since coaching time is the most important activity you can perform schedule it in your weekly and monthly plans first.  Then schedule other activities around your allocated coaching days.  Doing so will help prevent you from getting bogged down doing unimportant but urgent tasks instead of spending time with your people.

Developing salespeople won’t happen unless you make the time to do it. There are always going to be activities waiting to steal your time and distract you from your most important responsibility. If you want your salespeople to be peak performers then create your coaching budget and stick with it. Committing your budget to your calendar helps create the necessary discipline to make it happen.

If you’d like more information on creating a coaching budget and developing salespeople check out my eBook “Coaching for Peak Performance”. 

Developing Salespeople with Effective Coaching

Developing salespeople doesn’t happen automatically. Many sales manager never invest the time and attention to do so and end up paying the price in turnover and poor sales. Developing salespeople requires you to understand and apply a simple yet powerful coaching process.  This process involves three steps. They are:developing salespeople

1.    Recognize coachable moments. Coachable mo­ments are specific opportunities where coaching is most likely to make an impact. Coachable mo­ments fall into three ar­eas:

  • When sales­people perform well;
  • When sales­people fail to per­form; and
  • When salespeople seek help.

2.    Engage. This means taking the coach­-able mo­ments and turning them into performance discus­sions. These performance discus­sions should be brief, very fo­cused, and viewed as helpful by salespeople. These are great  opportunities for developing salespeople.

3.    Mobilize. To effect change, man­agers must con­vert the perfor­mance discussions into actions. These actions can be comprehen­sive (e.g., devel­op­ing a key ac­count plan) or focused (e.g., use visuals during a presentation). Developing salespeople requires that you monitor your salespeople’s progress with the actions you assign.

Coachable Moments

In order to get peak performance from your salespeople you have to use every opportunity to develop their effectiveness. You as a coach must recognize and respond to coaching opportunities as they present themselves. This means using a different approach with each coachable moment. We’ll discuss each one separately.

When salespeople perform well.  Your objective in this situation is to reinforce the salesperson’s positive behavior. This coachable moment is often overlooked because many managers feel that salespeo­ple don’t need positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, this is a faulty assumption. Reinforcing positive behavior increases the frequency of the behavior. If you fail to reinforce positive behavior, it will occur less often.

When you want to reinforce or praise the perfor­mance of a salesperson, use the BIT Model.

B= Behavior Describe what the salesperson is doing that is positive.

I= Impact Describe why the salesperson’s perfor­mance is important and how it contributes to the organiza­tion.

T= Thank You Deliver a specific expression of appreciation.

An example of giving a BIT would be: “Making those extra calls this month has really paid off. Your 20 percent over budget really helped us get over the top this month. I really appreciate the extra effort you’ve put in. Keep up the great work!

When salespeople fail to perform. Your objective for this coachable moment is to give feedback and help salespeople improve a specific area of their performance. Giving negative feedback is not always easy, but it is necessary for improvement. To mini­mize the potential of causing salespeople to become defensive and not motivated, make sure your feedback is specific, focuses on behavior, and helpful. Using the BIEC Model should help you do so effectively.

B=  Behavior-Describe what his/her behavior is doing or not doing that needs improvement.

I= Impact-Describe how the behavior is impact­ing performance.

E=  Expectation-Explain what you expect the salesperson to do or not do to change.

C=Consequence-Explain what will happen if the salesperson changes or the consequences if the behav­ior continues.

He­re’s an exam­ple of the BIEC Model:  “Mary, this is the fourth time this month you’ve submitted sales orders with incomplete or inaccurate informa­tion. When you do this, the order has to be re-written and reprocessed. This adds to our costs and delays the order from being pro­cessed. Delays in orders can lead to lost sales and dissatisfied custom­ers. From now on, I expect your orders to be submit­ted with all the information complete and accurate. Doing so will make it easier to process your orders and keep your customers happy. Also, we can’t afford to jeopardize business because of poor paper­work. If there are future prob­lems, we’ll have to review your account list”.

When your salespeople seek help in solving a problem or maximizing an opportunity. Too often, managers solve their people’s problem instead of managing the problem-solving process. Managers take this approach because it seems the most expedient. In the short run, it probably is. But in the long run, the approach creates salespeople who are dependent on their managers. If you want to develop salespeople who take initiative, accept responsibility, and hold themselves accountable, then remember, the goal of this coachable moment is to support their efforts, not solve their problems.

Using the CEAC Model will help you draw your salespeople out and identify how you can best support their efforts.

C= Clarify the problem or opportunity.

E= Engage in a discussion of what options are available to address the issue.

A= Agree on actions to be taken with deadlines (What, by when and by whom).

C= Commit your support to the initiative.

Summary

Developing salespeople with effective coaching is an investment that requires both time and effort. A few minutes before and after a sales call or while a salesperson is developing a proposal can pay huge dividends.  Therefore,you must view coachable moments as opportunities to make a difference, not a distraction from your job.  Remember, sales managers who are constantly looking for oppor­tunities to make a difference, generally do. So, don’t let your coachable moments go unful­filled.

Developing Salespeople with the OREO Model

Developing salespeople is easy when you can understand and apply three basic concepts:

1.  “Winning is fun, losing isn’t!”

2.  “Winning is different for every person!”developing salespeople

3.  “Your job as a manager is to help your people win everyday!”

When you discover what winning is for your people, then you are well on your way to helping them succeed. The quickest way to help salespeople win is to have a clear description of where they want to go or what they want. This is called an outcome. Using their outcomes to achieve business goals is an effective method of getting results and developing salespeople.

One way to organize a plan for achieving an outcome is the OREO Method developed by corporate trainer, Gerry Schmidt.

  •  Outcome: What is the desired result?
  • Reality: What is the current situation, including the resources available and the resources that are needed to change the  current situation?
  • Evidence: What evidence will be used to demonstrate that the outcome has been achieved?
  • Operations: What will the salesperson do to achieve the desired outcome?

Here are some important guidelines for Applying OREO while developing salespeople:

1.    Key to successful coaching is having a clearly stated and well-formed outcome. To discover someone’s outcome ask, “What do you want?”

To ensure that the person’s outcome is well-formed, make sure that it is:

•      Stated in the positive (describe what the person wants and not what the person doesn’t want).

•      Within the person’s control. The actions that will lead to the desired outcome must be within the person’s control.

•      Actions must be small enough and specific enough to facilitate immediate action.

•      Actions must have time frames.

•      Achieving the outcome will produce or lead to achieving a larger goal or outcome.

To determine the larger goal or outcome ask, “What will ________________ (insert desired outcome) get you or allow you to do?

2.    The next step is to assess the person’s current reality and compare it to the desired outcome. To assess a person’s reality, ask the following questions:

•      Compared to your desired outcome, where are you now?

•      What stops you from having the desired outcome now?

•      What are you doing that is keeping you from having the desired outcome?

•      What resources are available?

•      What resources are needed?

3.    Evidence defines how people will know that their outcome has been achieved. To determine a person’s evidence ask, “How will you know when you have achieved this outcome?”

To help clarify the evidence, ask the following:

•      What will other people see, hear, and feel when you achieve your outcome?

•      What will be the first indications that you’re making progress towards your outcome?

•      What other benchmarks will you use?

•      What will be the long-term impact of achieving the outcome?

•      How will achieving this outcome impact other areas of your life?

4.    Operations outline the person’s plan of attack. To discover a person’s operation, ask “What will you do to achieve this outcome?”  To make the plan as practical and effective as possible, ask the following questions:

•      How else can you achieve the outcome?

•      What are you going to do first?

•      Specifically, when are you going to do it?

•      What could get in the way of your success?

•      What support do you need to be successful?

•      How certain are you that you will carry out the agreed upon actions? (Use a scale of 1-10, with 10 being absolutely certain.) If the rating is less than an 8, find a new outcome or a new plan of action.

When salespeople do things for their reasons they are far more motivated than if they were doing things for yours.  Using the OREO model for developing salespeople helps you keep them focused on activities that produce meaningful results.

Sales Process: The Key to Growing Sales, Profits and Customer Loyalty

sales processThe sales process is one of the most overlooked assets a small business has for growing sales, profits and customer loyalty. If you want to grow your business this is one of the first places to look for dramatic results. I’ll explain why and what you can do to get the most out of yours.

A sales process is a series of documented steps salespeople follow to move prospects from first contact to purchase. It should include:

  • Each specific step a prospects take
  • Knowledge prospects need to move to the next step
  • Resources you can provide to help prospects move forward
  • Length of time a prospects need at each step
  • Metrics that measure conversion rates (the percentage of prospects that move from one step to the next) for each step

With a documented sales process, you have a powerful tool that enables you to:

  • Sell more efficiently
  • Create more accurate sales and revenue reports
  • Estimate the revenue and return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns
  • See which stages take the most time and find ways to move prospects forward
  • Create better literature and tools
  • Improve your campaigns
  • Minimize time your reps spend on estimates and forecasts

Unfortunately, with all the benefits of a defined sales process 70% of companies don’t require their salespeople to comply with a standardized, documented set of sales processes.*(*ES Research Group)

Not getting  compliance may be caused by any number of factors including:  the process is poorly designed, or it’s not understood or it’s not supported by the organization. For whatever reason, allowing salespeople to “wing it” is a very expensive business strategy. Without a defined sales process resources can’t be effectively allocated, revenues can’t be accurately forecasted and customers may not get the information they need when they need it. All these factors contribute to lost sales, lower profits and diminished customer loyalty.

Even if your company has a defined sales process, that doesn’t guarantee success. Your next challenge is to make sure that your sales process aligns with your customers’ buying process. Starting the sales relationship just after a customer purchased from a competitor is far more challenging than starting when the customer first becomes aware of a need or want. When do you want your salespeople to start allocating selling time and company resources? Aligning your sales process with your customers’  buying process ensures your selling efforts begin as early in the buying process as possible. Thus giving you the best chance to influence the sales outcome.

Does your sales process make sure that you use the right selling effort supported by the right resources to make sure that sales are made in the shortest time with the fewest resources? If your answer is not a definite yes then you have a great opportunity for growing your business without adding costs. Improving your sales process doesn’t add costs because it’s simply directing your selling effort more effectively. The sooner you start the sooner you’ll start seeing bottom line results.

Sales Message: Is Yours Positioning You to Win?

Sales MessageIs your sales message positioning you win, draw or lose? The answer depends on several factors including if your sales message is  heard, who is hearing it and how effective it is.

Having your message heard is a role of the media, message, timing, frequency and delivery. A recent LinkedIn survey revealed the number-one challenge on the minds of sales professionals was “getting the attention of prospects”. Customers are bombarded with information, so much so everything begins to sound like “Blah, Blah, Blah”. Making matters more challenging is only 3% of your target market is in the buying mode at a given time. If they aren’t buying they aren’t listening.  Getting your sales message to your customers too early, too late or without impact is a waste of time, money and energy.

In the communication jungle, there are just too many products, too many companies, and too much marketing noise. The mind, as a defense against the huge volume of today’s communications, screens and rejects much of the information it’s offered. The only hope to deliver your sales message is to be selective and to focus on narrow targets. In a word: “positioning.”

According to John Foley CEO of Interlink One,“This is a one-on-one world…you have to really be more relevant with the marketing channel and the media you use to the people you’re trying to reach and not only relevant in those channels or media, but also the content, messaging, timing, and even how they’ll respond.”

To effectively position your your products and services you must find out:

  • How the marketplace sees your company
  • How your ideal or target customers see your company and what they value
  • What you know about your own company and the customer value it creates

Positioning your sales message should be a foundation for action to design, manage and defend your brand. It should inform everything you do, including:

  • What  customer value you create
  • What you value
  • What’s your sustainable competitive advantage
  • How you conduct your business
  • How you communicate and interact with customers

Business consultant and CEO of Grow My Revenue Ian Altman worked with a health insurance company who was getting a 1% response rate to their cold calling efforts. Sales were down and morale was even lower. Altman helped the company change their generic sales message to one that highlighted what the company did best and appealed to a large segment of the market. Selling the same products with the same salespeople, the company saw its response rate increase to 30%. Achieving such a dramatic increase was accomplished by simply delivering a better sales message.

You must view your sales and marketing messaging as an asset that  you can quickly leverage into increased sales and profits.

Take a close look at your sales message and ask yourself: How does it help your ideal customers  clearly understand how your solution uniquely satisfies their buying criteria and emotional needs; and is it delivered when it most influences the buying decision in your favor? If you answered no to either one you’ve got some work to do. Improve your sales message and watch sales grow.

Stop Customer Churn by Managing Moments of Truth

Is customer churn draining the energy, profits and brand equity out of your company? If it is then you need to stop the customer customer churnchurn immediately. Committing your company’s resources to acquiring customers only to see them leave during the next buying cycle is a prescription for failure. Stopping churn requires you to examine you relationship with your customers throughout the customer experience.

In any relationship, whether it is a marriage, a frien­dship, or a sales relation­ship, there are phases when problems or conflicts are apt to arise. If such dilem­mas are not confronted and resolved early on, the pre­mature dissolution of a partnership may result. In the case of a customer part­nership, there are phases when the buyer’s expecta­tions of your prod­uct or service are tested. During these times you must prove to your customers that your product or ser­vice is their best alternative. Such confron­tations are called Mo­ments of Truth, and how you handle them will deter­mine the longevi­ty of the rela­tionship.

Moments of Truth are the real acid tests of long-term part­nerships. If your product or service per­f­orms as intend­ed and de­livers the benefits the cus­tomer is seek­ing, ev­ery­one is happy and the rela­tion­ship is se­cure. On the other hand, if the product or service fails to per­form or deliver the expected benefits, the custom­er is unhappy and the rela­tion­ship is in jeopar­dy. This is the starting point for customer churn.

A Moment of Truth can occur at any time, in a vari­ety of situa­tions. However, to best under­stand these mo­ments, it is helpful to focus on the six most common sales situations that constitute Moments of Truth. Because of their frequency and potential impact on the sales relationship you must master the skills demanded by each of these six Mo­ments of Truth:

  1. When you’re making the sale.
  2. When the product is delivered or the service begins.
  3. When you discover a problem.
  4. When the customer complains.
  5. When the competition puts on the pressure.
  6. When you make your regular customer retention contacts.

To ensure that you handle each Moment of Truth successfully you’ll need to develop a specific plan for each one. Having a well developed plan increases your chances of solidifying the customer relationship and in stopping the cause of customer churn.

How to Retain Customers on a Regular Basis

how to retain customers How to retain customers on a regular basis is an important step for increasing sales, profits and customer loyalty. Here are three reasons why.

  • Most (68%) customers stop doing business with a company because of indifference.
  • Existing customers are more profitable long-term than new customers.
  • It costs 5-6 times more to gain new customer than it does to keep an existing customer satisfied.

That’s why one of the cardinal sins of selling in the New Economy is taking your customers for granted. Failing to communicate or stay in regular contact leaves the door open for prob­lems to arise and temptations (the competition)to enter the picture. If the lines of communication aren’t open, the cus­tom­er may not remember you or won’t think to notify you if a problem occurs or a reorder is desired.

As a salesperson and as a company it’s important to have programs in place on how to retain customers that is effective and efficient. This will maximize selling efforts and deliver the best bottom line results.

In the New economy it’s not enough to just stay in touch. Staying in touch is important but it’s only half the battle. Once contact is made, you must use the opportunity to the maximum advantage. This means that when you make customer  retention calls they must be:

Unique. Each call should have its own unique reason for existence (follow-up on a new product, information on company inno­vations or changes and new incen­tives).  Provide the customer with new information, ask additional questions, tackle varied topics.  Your customer does not want to rehash old information or waste time.

Memorable. Make each call count by making a lasting impression on the custom­er.  Customer retention calls are a personal­ly deliv­ered commercial for your product or service.  Offer your customers “food for thought”, make them laugh or give them something to remember the call. If you don’t do something to stand out in the “sea of sameness” your message will forgotten soon after you leave the call.

Personalize. Since most sales are emotional decisions supported by logic you must use theses call to connect with your customers on an emotional level. Helping your customers emotionally identify with you. your product and your company is an essential step in building customer loyalty.

Many salespeople view customer retention calls as perfunctory at best and occasionally a waste of time. Miscalculating the importance these calls usually leads to the deterioration of a relationship and ultimately lost sales.

How to retain customers on a regular basis must become a priority if you want to protect your most important asset, your customers. Remember the saying, “If you don’t take care of your customers someone else will!” Put a customer retention plan in place today.

To learn how your customer retention plans stacks up take the Growth Positioning Survey now.

How to Retain Customers in the New Economy

Learning how to retain customers is essential for surviving in the New Economy. Without customers you have no bushow to retain customersiness so caring for them and nurturing relationships with them seems like an obvious strategy. Think again. Poor customer service is the number one reason customers stop doing business with their current supplier/provider. In fact according to a Harris Interactive study 86% of consumers stop doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

Companies spend huge amount of their budget attracting customers to their business only to lose them due to the customer experience they deliver. Trying to grow your business without a solid customer service program in place is like trying to fill a bucket with water that has gaping holes in it. Unless you fill the holes you’ll never fill the bucket.

What holes should you fill first? It depends on your business but to a Right Now study the top three customer service problems were:

  • 73% Rude staff
  • 55% Issues weren’t resolve in a timely manner
  • 51% untrained staff

Also according to the US Small Business Administration 68% of customers stops doing business with a company due to indifference. This means if you want to drive your customers away in droves you should ignore them,treat them rudely, serve them with uninformed staff and make them wait for issues to be resolved.  This is an obvious recipe for disaster.

Most businesses know that it costs 5 to 6 times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep an existing one and that existing customers are more profitable than new customers. So why don’t more companies do a better job learning how to retain customers? Lack of focus, training and follow up are the likely culprits. Many businesses seem to be saying, “I don’t have time to take care of my existing customers because I too busy chasing new ones!” If this is you or your business, STOP IT!!!

If you want to survive in the challenging times we live in you must fill the four biggest holes in your customer retention bucket. Put these simple, proven and powerful strategies in place starting today.

1. Pay attention to your customer. Don’t ignore them or take them for granted. Use whatever means available to you to cultivate a relationship with each and every customer.

2. Don’t hire rude employees and fire the ones who are. Companies like Zappos and Southwest Airlines take great care to hire people who are wired to give great service. If they are rude to anyone during the interviewing process they are rejected.

3. Train your people to effectively address your customers’ issues. Investing in the training of your front line staff is like making direct deposits in your customer relationships.

4. Resolve issues quickly, effectively and personally. Everybody makes a mistake. Admit it, resolve it and move on. 92% of customers who leave due to poor service would come back if they get and apology, receive a discount or get an invitation to observe improvement in customer service.

Implementing effective strategies in these four areas will give you a fighting chance to survive in a competitive marketplace.

If you want to thrive in the New Economy then you’ll need to up your customer service game and learn how to retain customers at whole new level. According to Peppers and Rogers Group 81% of the companies who excel in delivering customer experience are outperforming their competition. Customer  service excellence is a formidable competitive advantage. How does your company’s customer experience delivery stack up with your competitors?

To learn how well your company’s customer service initiative are contributing to your success take the Growth Positioning Survey.

Developing Salespeople While Coaching on the Run

One of the biggest casualties in the battle to “do more with less” is developing salespeople. With fiercer competition, shorter deadlines, and the urgent replac­ing the important, sales managers are starting to view developing salespeople as a luxury they just can’t developing peopleafford.

Although common, this approach to manage­ment is short-sighted and can lead to long-term disaster. Even with more demands on your time you must realize that developing salespeople isn’t something you do instead of your job. It is your job!

This means finding opportunities to make a difference as they present themselves.

The key to coaching on the run is the “hand in the bucket” test. When you put your hand in a bucket of water, the water level rises.  This is the case when a you spend time with a sales­person. While you are present, the sales­person’s level of perfor­mance is elevated.  The real test for developing salespeople occurs when you are no longer present. Does the salesperson’s performance return to the previous level, or does it stay elevat­ed?  In other words, did you leave something with the salesperson to make a real and lasting difference?

Before we discuss some of the specific aspects and techniques for coaching on the run, let’s review what it takes for salespeople to perform at their optimal level. Use the checklist below to determine if you’re giving your salespeople what they need to win.

Coaching Checklist for Developing Salespeople

  • Do your people have a clear understanding of what they are expected to do?
  • Do your people have clear standards for ac­ceptable performance?
  • Do your people have the authority and re­sourc­es to perform effectively?
  • Do your people encounter little task interfer­ence (e.g., conflicting goals, objectives, procedures,   etc?)
  • Do your people receive timely and accurate feedback on their performance?
  • Do your people receive positive conse­quences and reinforcement for performing the job as it’s supposed to be done?
  • Do your people experience negative conse­quences when they fail to perform?

These guidelines apply to performance in general, as well as specifics tasks and assignments. Use the questions to assess your coaching abilities and to analyze performance problems.

Each “no” represents a potential performance problem for developing salespeople. Taking action to convert your “no” respons­es to “yes” will go a long way toward improving your people’s performance.