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.

Managing Poor Sales Performers

One of the most difficult task for a manag­er is managing poor sales  perform­ers. Hoping a salesperson will “self-correct” usually doesn’t get the job done. Perfor­mance prob­lems occur for specific rea­sons and they usual­ly don’t go away unless they are effective­ly addressed.

managing poor sales performers

When a salesperson’s performance begins to slips, you need to act quickly and positively. Remember, small performance problems are easier to resolve than large ones.

 As a manager, you have three management tools for cor­recting performance problems. They are:

  • Counseling
  • Probation
  • Termination

 We will examine each one separately in this article.


Counseling is your first option for correcting p­erformance problems. Counseling is used to address performance problems with any sales­person. Your goal is to bring the sales­per­son’s perfor­ma­nce up to the mini­mum stan­dard. This can be the salesp­erson’s overall performance or in a specific area (e.g. cold calling, negotiat­ing, closing, etc.).

The key to successful counseling is recog­nizing problems early and targeting them for corrective action. Often, a positive coun­seling meeting and regu­lar feedback are enough to boost a salespers­on’s performance. If this doesn’t work, your counsel­ing may need to become frequent.

If a salesperson repeatedly fails to respond to counseling, probation may be your next option. If the necessary corrections are not made during probation, termination may be the final solution.


Probation is a management tool that is de­signed as the last attempt to correct unaccept­able performance or behavior, prior to termina­tion. It is not an attempt to motivate, nor to punish.

Performance problems rarely go away by ignoring them. They must be recognized, given increased attention, and then appropriate action taken. Probation should be considered when:

  • All appropriate performance manage­ment actions have been tried.
  • The salesperson’s actions have failed to improve positively as a result.
  • If the terms of the probation are not met, you are ready and able to termi­nate.

Probation Guidelines 

If probation seems like the most appropriate action, there are several issues you should consider. The following guidelines are designed to help you address those issues:

1. If probation is warranted, check with man­agement or review company policy before proceeding.

2. The length of probation and its focus should be determined by the severity and duration of the problem, as well as the perfor­mance history of the sale­sper­son.

  •  Unacceptable performance. Proba­tion due to a failure to meet estab­lished per­for­mance standards should usually be 30 to 90 days in duration. New s­ales­peo­ple must be given an appropri­ate start up time.
  •  Breach of Company Policy. The pro­bation period will depend upon the seri­ous­ness and frequency of the in­fraction.

3. Written documentation during proba­tion is critical. Action plans and re­ports must be specified and fully com­pleted. De­tails of discussion should be careful­ly noted.

4. If a salesperson on probation decides to resign, ask for a letter of resigna­tion. If a letter is not forthcoming, a company letter, confirming the terms, should be sent to the individual as soon as possi­ble.


When it becomes apparent that a salesper­son on probation is unwilling or unable to perform the given tasks, termination is usually justi­fied. If you select this action, be sure to follow company policy.

Immediate termination, without a probation period can also be justified for a serious breach of company policy.

The objectives of termination are to formally end a salesperson’s affiliation with a company. This also includes communicating to the em­ployee the company’s responsibilities and commitments, such as back pay, benefits, time of departure, etc. At this time it is important to secure all com­pa­ny documents, equipment and other property that may in the individual’s hands.

Although it is a difficult and an uncomfort­able task, terminating unproductive or irrespon­sible per­sonnel is a necessary act; and should not be swept under the carpet. The conse­quences of not taking the appro­pri­ate action can create additional problems for you and the company, including the continua­tion of poor performance of the individual and the erosion of the organization’s suc­cess. Consider that your time and the time of others will be contin­ually wasted and the atti­tudes of other staff members could be in jeopar­dy.

On the other hand, termination often produc­es positive benefits to all concerned. Termina­tion allows the salesperson to move on to a career, company, or position that is more suited to his abilities. The sales staff can focus on their performance and you can hire a per­son more suited for the job.

Termination seldom comes as a surprise, especially if you have done your job effectively.  Salespeople on probation sometimes welcome termination because it disengages them from the uncomfortable situation of failing.


Your job is to get results through your peo­ple. Ideally, you hire and develop people who have the ability and willingness to perform the job.  When people fail to meet their perfor­ma­nce goals, you have three tools available to you: Counseling, Probation and Termina­tion. Using each tool effectively and in the appropri­ate situations should help when managing poor sales performers and to become a suc­cessful manager.

Sales Training:Six Tips for Success

sales trainingWill your next sales training event get rave reviews or be panned by a group of disappointed salespeople? Delivering successful sales training requires careful planning and preparation.The six tips described below will help make sure that you cover all the bases needed to succeed.

1. Assess Needs

The key to successful sales training is not just doing things right, but doing the right things. Training events should address an area where there is room to improve and where improvement will result in a payoff for the participant. Conducting a needs assessment prior to training ensures that your training is relevant and needed.

You can assess needs informally or formally. The key is to avoid designing training in a vacuum.

2. Establish Learning Objectives

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” This saying is particularly true for sales training events. Objectives help focus the participant and the trainer on achieving specific results. When determining learning objectives, remember that they should closely reflect the expected behavior participants do on the job.

3. Select the Appropriate Activities

Based on the experience and learning styles of the participants and on your own comfort with the material choose activities that best match your learning objectives. Select several types of activities to make sure you have variety and that you address all learning styles.

4. Develop An Agenda

Whether you are planning a one-hour training event or one that lasts three days, your event will benefit from a well-thought-out agenda. When developing your agenda, make sure you allow adequate time for each activity or topic, especially those with the highest priority. Also, sequence the activities logically and with consideration for how each activity relates to each other.

5. Make Arrangements for the Training Event

Successful sales training events, like successful sales calls, require adequate planning, preparation, and follow-up. Make sure you include the following in your preparation:

• Prepare Materials. Prepare all classroom materials (handouts, review sheets, etc.) in advance.

• Check the Equipment. If you need equipment such as flip charts, projector, lap top etc., make sure they are properly set up and working before the meeting begins.

• Check the Room. Check the room to make sure that particulars such as seating arrangements, lighting, room temperature, etc., all meet your requirements.

• Include Breaks. If your meeting agenda is more than a few hours, be sure to schedule adequate breaks. Remember: “The mind can absorb what the rear-end can endure.”

• Don’t Forget To Use Energizers. For longer programs, don’t forget to include energizers that involve physical movement. Consider using them after long sessions or before changing from one major topic to another.

• Plan The Evaluation. Determine how you’re going to evaluate the session. This can range from class evaluations to on-the job assignments. Decide before you conduct the training and tell the group why it’s important and how they will use the information.

• Prepare Yourself. Every training event is really three entities:the one you prepare, the one you deliver, and the one you evaluate when it’s over. The more you prepare, the better the other two entities are.

6. The Ultimate Test

The last and most important test for any training is, “Does it help salespeople make more sales?”

Depending upon your sales cycle, it may take several months before the results of this evaluation are in. However, bottom-line results are a powerful tool for motivating salespeople to change behavior, because they show a direct link between the training and enhanced results. An even stronger and immediate reinforcement for applying new skills is rewarding salespeople. Use intangible rewards (e.g., feedback, praise, recognition, etc.) or tangible (e.g., contests, prizes, rewards, etc.). The key is providing rewards that are meaningful to your people. Remember, well-planned, concerted effort to reinforce and reward participants for their efforts is your best opportunity to cultivate the behaviors you want participants to show in the long-term.

To make sure your next training event is well received and produces the expected results use the six steps outlined above.

For more information on successful sales training go to:


Sales Compensation Plans Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

    How effective is your sales compensation plan? Does it help you attract the  people you    need     and are you able to keep your top performers? If you’re not  satisfied with your compensation plan, you may have one or more of the following sales compensation plans pitfalls. As you review each one, think about your own sales  compensation plan.

1. One size fits all.

Having a uniform compensation plan may sound fair, but is rarely effective.  Unless all your salespeople enter your company with the same experience and do  exactly the same job, compensation becomes an issue. Such factors as size of the  territory, potential of the territory, types of accounts and experience of the  salesperson usually necessitates some adjustments in the compensation plan.

Tip: Make sure your compensation plan fits the various needs  and demands of your people, the job, and the company’s goals.

2. Punishing high performers.

Some companies have a philosophy of “how do we prevent our salespeople from  making too much money?” This approach de-motivates high performers. Basically,  the plan tells high performers “once you make this much, your income potential  stops… no matter how much extra revenue you could bring in for the  organization.” This doesn’t mean companies should give their people a blank  check. It means that if high performers can find ways to increase the company’s  revenues and profits, compensate them accordingly.

Tip: To maximize the potential of your sales force, give  worth-while incentives for your high performers. Give them a reason to  stretch

3. Subsidizing mediocrity. Many compensation plans set the  performance standard too low. Salespeople receive better than average  compensation for doing average performance. Plans that encourage salespeople to  “just make quota” settle for too little… and usually get it. High performing  organizations view quota as the minimal standard or starting point for achieving  financial success.

Tip: Make sure your plan is both challenging and  realistic.

4. Discouraging rookies. Most sales jobs take time to learn.  During this learning period, new salespeople usually produce less revenue and  make less than experienced salespeople. If the new salesperson can’t make enough  to live while learning the job, they will become discouraged and look for  another opportunity.

Tip: Create a compensation plan that helps salespeople make  the financial transition from rookie to an experienced salesperson.

5. Playing games with people’s paychecks. The quickest way  to destroy trust and de-motivate salespeople is to play games with their  paychecks. When any change, mistake, or adjustment to a paycheck happens handle  it quickly, accurately and with a proper explanation. If you change the pay  plan, make sure people understand it before rolling it out. If you miscalculated  a bonus or commission, correct it immediately. How you respond in these  situations is as important as what you actually do.

Tip: Be honest, direct and responsive in all actions that  impact salespeople’s actual paycheck.

6. Looking at compensation as a cost not an investment. The  goal of sales is to acquire customers. The goal of a compensation plan is to  motivate salespeople to acquire as many of the right type of customers as  possible. Managing compensation as a cost requires organizations to restrict it,  which in turn restricts the organization’s ability to acquire customers.  Managing compensation as an investment focuses on the return generated by the  compensation plan and not just the amount spent.

Tip: Develop a compensation plan that products the best  ROI.

7. Providing incentives for the urgent and not the  important. Why do so many companies experience peaks and valleys in  their sales? Often it’s because they only focus on short-term goals at the cost  of long-term growth. One company placed a premium on acquiring new business and  succeeded. However, they neglected their existing customer base and lost as many  existing customers as they gained new ones. Churning customers is a dangerous  and unprofitable practice. Remember, when you introduce an incentive for one  thing, something else suffers.

Tip: Before introducing an incentive, make sure you  understand its full impact.

8. Letting the compensation system manage performance.  Compensation plans give structure and incentives for the sales force. They  should support management’s goals and strategies, not replace effective  leadership and coaching. The compensation plan is a tool for managers to use  with other performance management tools and activities (i.e., performance  appraisals, forecasting, training, etc.) to maximize sales performance

Tip: Integrate the compensation plan with your other  performance management tools to maximize performance.

9. Failing to teach people how to win. One definition of  motivation is “winning is fun and losing isn’t.” If this is the case, a  manager’s job is to help his/her salespeople win. Since the compensation plan  provides the rules of the game, managers must show their people how to play and  win the game. This is particularly true when you introduce a new compensation  plan or for new people. Showing them how to win motivates and invites  loyalty.

Tip: Know how to win with your compensation plan and teach  your people how to do it.

10. Overlooking the power of psychic compensation. Money is  a strong motivator, but it’s not the only motivator. By leveraging such psychic  compensation as recognition, praise, feedback, teamwork etc., you can elevate  your sales organization’s performance to new levels.

Tip: Besides money, find out what winning is for each  salesperson. Then help them make their personal wins.

Summary How many of the pitfalls have you experienced? How  many are exist with your compensation plan? Developing the right compensation  plan requires a careful analysis of such factors as:

• The market

• Your work unit (region, office, etc.)

• The Company

• Your Personnel

• Your Goals

• The Resources / Tools Available

This analysis helps you develop a sales compensation plan tailored to your  needs. Take the time and effort required and both you and your people will be  justly rewarded.

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Sales Coaching : When Do You Step In on a Sales Call?

A common problem on coaching calls is the sales manager taking over the sales call or “stepping in”. Sales managers often ask “when is it appropriate to step in?” Some of the most common reasons given for stepping in are:

• The salesperson is really in trouble

• The salesperson has made a major mistake

• The salesperson is about to lose a sale

• It’s a very big sale

• The salesperson can’t handle the customer

Although all of these are very compelling reasons for stepping in, they are merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. If you have to step in on a coaching call, it’s a signal that you have failed as a coach on that call. Stepping in prevents the salesperson from developing his/her selling skills and it prevents you from being able to fully exercise your coaching skills. Once you step in, you are no longer an objective observer, but an active participant. This severally limits your ability to focus on what the salesperson is doing right or wrong. When you step in, you are telling the salesperson that this call is more important than his or her development.

If salespeople aren’t ready to make a call on their own, then make the call a joint call or a training call. But, if you agree that it’s a coaching call and salespeople are responsible for the outcome, then let them succeed or fail on their own merits. Your job at that point is to make sure your salespeople have learned from the experience.

Sales Management Strategies: Making Sales Calls with Your Reps

In today’s demanding marketplace sales managers must have strategies for increasing sales and developing people. Besides enhancing relationships with customers making calls is the best opportunity to do both. This article outlines strategies for making three different sales calls that will drive sales and develop your people. They are:

• Training
• Joint
• Coaching

Each has a different purpose, strategy and the roles for both you and the salesperson are also different.

Training calls teach the salesperson how to do a specific aspect of the job. Your make the presentation while the salesperson observes. The key to a success is for you to demonstrate proper selling skills and techniques. Your job is to give the salesperson an effective model and make sure the salesperson understands how to perform the aspect of the job you have demonstrated. Before the call, make sure the salesperson knows:

  • The objectives (both performance and development)
  • The skills or techniques you are demonstrating
  • His/her role

After, be sure to review the following:

  • Were the objectives achieved?
  • What helped?
  • What hindered?
  • How else could the call have been made?

Joint calls support a team approach. Both you and the salesperson have defined roles and responsibilities. Before, make sure you review the following:

  • The objectives (both performance and development)
  • The strategy
  • What role will each person play?
  • Who is responsible for each segment of the call?
  • How will you interact during the call?

After, you should discuss:

  • Were the objectives met?
  • What helped?
  • What hindered?
  • How could the call have been improved?
  • Who is responsible for following up on commitments made during the call (if any)?

Coaching calls are designed for you to observe and assess the salesperson’s performance. The salesperson’s role is to make the sales call. Your role is to observe and offer feedback after the call. Coaching calls are a true test of your listening and observing skills, not your selling skills. Before, be sure to cover:

  • The objectives (both performance and development)
  • The strategy
  • Responses to obstacles that may come up

After, discuss the following:

  • Were the objectives met?
  • What helped (what were the salesperson’s strengths)?
  • What hindered (what were the salesperson’s improvement opportunities)?
  • How could the call have been improved or handled differently?
  • What actions need to be taken next

Seating relative to the customer is important on each situation. The key is for you to situate yourself consistent with the agreed upon role and objectives. Use these guidelines:

Training calls-Position yourself closest to the customer so that the salesperson can observe easily. Also the proximity to the customer establishes that you are taking the lead.

Joint Calls-Sit side by side with the salesperson. This signals equality of your roles and makes it easy for “handing off” to each other.

Coaching calls– The salesperson should be closest to the customer making sure that you are out of the salesperson’s peripheral view. This positioning establishes the salesperson as the lead and helps prevent the salesperson from presenting to you instead of the customer.

To increase sales you need a well-trained and high performing sale force.Making sales calls with your salespeople gives you the greatest leverage points for developing them and making sales. To make sure you have successful call strategies set clear expectations and define roles.



Increase Sales with Curbside Coaching

To be a successful sales manager and increase sales you must learn how to  effectively perform curbside coaching.

Every sales call presents “lessons to be learned”. Salespeople who learn  these lessons best develop their capabilities and improve their performance.  Those who don’t or can’t learn the lessons find themselves doomed to mediocrity  or failure.

Your job as a manager is to make sure your salespeople benefit from each call  they make. The best way to do this is during the post-call coaching session,  sometimes called “curbside coaching.”

When to Do It?

The best time to give feedback is immediately after the  call. At this time, the details of the call are  still fresh in your mind and the mind of the salesperson.

However, there are times when you can’t immediately curbside coach. If this  is the case, be sure to jot your thoughts down on paper so you can discuss at a  later time.

What Should a Coaching Session Accomplish?

The obvious answers are for the salesperson to recognize what they right and  understand ways to improve. However, there are several other objectives that the  session should achieve.

Have the salesperson:

• Assess the extent the salesperson achieved the call objectives

• Recognize what factors favorably influenced the outcome of the call

• Recognize what factors negatively influenced the outcome of the call

• Identify other actions that could have made the call more effective

• Determine what follow up actions are needed

The coaching session should also enable you to:

• Assess the salesperson’s ability in planning, implementing and analyzing a  sales call

• Reinforce the salesperson’s strengths

• Identify areas for you to work with the salesperson

• Improve your relationship with the salesperson

• Gain insight into the types of issues your salesperson is confronting in  the field

Salespeople need coaching to be at the top of their game. Invest the time  after every call to develop your salespeople and increase sales with curbside  coaching.


Sales Training for Improving Sales Performance

improving sales performanceImproving sales performance is an ongoing challenge for sales executives and business owners. One tool available for accomplishing this goal is sales training. Sales training is an option if you need to change salespeople’s behavior or improve their skills. Ultimately, sales training must produce good performance to be worth the time and resources it takes to  accomplish.  Salespeople are successful if they do most of the right things most of the time.  Think of the 50%-70%-90% rule.

  • 50%ers People who perform only 50% of the right things 50% of the time are average to below
    average salespeople.  Their performance suffers because they consistently fail to take many of the steps necessary to be successful.  50%ers are either people who haven’t learned what to do, or experienced people who lack the motivation to do what they know how to do.
  • 70%ers People who perform only 70% of the right things 70% of the time are average to above average salespeople.  These salespeople use most of the skills most of the time, but they periodically skip a step or take short cuts.  During short periods of time, they may perform like top performers. But, in the long run, they skip enough steps to prevent them from rising to the top.
  • 90%ers People who perform 90% of the right things 90% of the time are top performing salespeople.  They attain uniformly high
    performance because they consistently apply the skills without skipping steps.

Your role as trainer/manager, is to identify and then to train and reinforce salespeople to do the right things more frequently.
This will lead them to do the right things more effectively.  Perhaps, improving sales performance in the long-term is the hardest part of the training process.  You must become aware of the importance that recognizing and rewarding good performance plays in building self-confidence and motivating salespeople to reach higher levels of effectiveness.  Practice the following simple guidelines for enhancing post-training performance through positive reinforcement:

  1. Give positive reinforcement in a timely manner, as close to the performance as possible.
  2. Give recognition that is meaningful to the salesperson.  Giving recognition that is not meaningful or that may even be viewed as a punishment by the salesperson will decrease performance.
  3. Be specific by pinpointing the exact behavior that you want to reinforce and explaining how the behavior benefits the salesperson.
  4. Don’t wait for outstanding performance before you recognize a salesperson.  Recognizing even small improvements will
    encourage salespeople to continue their efforts.  This is particularly important with new salespeople and your poor performers.
  5. Be honest and accurate.  Don’t use superlatives all the time or salespeople may view your efforts as insincere.

Training rarely produces long term performance impact unless it leads to changes in the salesperson’s behavior. This requires practice, reinforcement and commitment. If your goal is improving sales performance you must make a commitment to training.

The 10 Biggest Hiring Mistakes and What to Do About Them

Have you ever had to skip a step or two in the selec­tion process because time was working against you?

Have you ever been forced to hire someone be­cause the best candi­d­ates turned the job down?

Have you ever hired someone who looked perfect even though your in­stincts told you other­wise?

If you have experienced any of these dilemmas, you’re not alone. They are some of the most common mistakes made by managers when hiring.

Hiring the right person for any job is a challenging task, at best. Un­fortu­nate­ly, there are no magic wands or secret potions to help you mast this skill. But there are a num­ber of prov­en concepts, procedures, and tech­niques that can substantial­ly improve your chances of making the right hiring deci­sion.

Hiring the right person is impor­tant because your ultimate success as a manager depends on your ability to attract and select highly effective peo­ple. If you don’t have effective peo­ple, it’s next to impossi­ble to achieve supe­rior results.

This means that if you are to be a successful manager, you must mas­ter the skills of interviewing and se­lect­ing. Like the skills an airline pilot must mas­ter for crash-landing maneu­vers, these skills are not called upon that frequent­ly. But when they are, you and the pilot must perform flaw­lessly. If either of you don’t or can’t the results are about the same…you both crash and burn. To fully appreciate the value of making successful hires, let’s first look at the cost of making an unsuccessful hire.  The cost to an organization can be staggering. The most obvious costs in­clude wasted sala­ries and benefits, train­ing time and costs, lost time in the selection process, and reduced produc­tivity. Probably the most dra­matic figure is the one that mea­sures lost sales oppor­tunities.

Outstanding Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1500, 000 x 5 yrs. = $7,500,000

Average Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1,000,000 x 5 yrs. = $5,000,000   

DIFFERENCE                        $2,500,000

The example above demon­strates that the difference over five years be­tween an average salesper­son and an out­standing one can be as much as several million dollars. In fact, many com­panies see this kind of differ­ence in a single year. Com­panies can no lon­ger afford to hire salespeople who “just get by,” let alone fail.

Understanding the most com­mon mis­takes managers make dur­ing the selec­tion process should help you avoid them yourself. The ten most common mistakes are:

1. Skipping steps in the selec­tion process. Every step in the se­lec­tion process is designed to help you collect the data you need to make a sound decision. Skipping steps dramatically re­duces your chances of making a successful hire.

2. Not knowing the type of person you need. If you don’t know who you want, anyone can fill the posi­tion.

3. Not planning the interview.  Many managers “wing” inter­views.  As a result, they neglect to dis­cuss key areas, and then have a difficult time evaluating the candi­dates objective­ly.

4. Letting your biases affect your decision. It is all too easy to enter an interview with pre-exist­ing bias­es that become self-fulfill­ing proph­e­cies about candidates.  Biases severely limit your ability to see the real can­didate. For instance, re­sults have proven that the manager who says, “I never hire inexperienced people,” is just as likely to make hiring mistakes as the manager who says, “I always hire inexperienced people.”

5.  Talking too much and listen­ing too little. It’s difficult to learn much about a candidate when you are doing all the talking. If you’re not listening 80 percent of the time, you are probably talking too much.

6.  Allowing one job dimension to disproportionately influ­ence your judgment on other dimen­sions. Many managers have been “burned” by a candi­date who ap­peared so strong in one dimension that they over­looked several weak­nesses in other key dimensions.

7.  Failing to explore a job di­men­sion sufficiently so you can eval­uate it. If you don’t have enough information to evaluate a dimen­sion, you may have a time bomb waiting to ex­plode. Manag­ers often con­fess that the one area that led to a person’s failure was the very area they failed to fully explore. Remem­ber, what you don’t know about a candidate can hurt you!

8.  Making a decision before the interview is completed. Rely­ing on first impressions may lead you to spend the rest of the interview sub­tly justifying your possibly erro­neous initial reaction.

9.  Failing to evaluate the inter­view data in a systematic and objec­tive manner. If you don’t evalu­ate the interview data this way, you may as well flip a coin, be­cause you’re leav­ing the final decision to chance.

10. Allowing the pressure to fill the job to influence your deci­sion.  Hiring the best can­di­date available when the can­didate isn’t qualified usually com­pounds your problems, instead of solving them.

It won’t be possible to complete­ly eliminate these and other “hiring mis­takes.” However, you can re­duce them and minimize the im­pact of mistakes you do make.

To meet the challenge of select­ing individuals who will be success­ful, we have designed the Perfor­mance-Di­rect­ed Selection System. This is a com­prehensive, flexible, and prac­tical sys­tem designed to meet most comp­anies’ complex needs.

The system is designed around two basic concepts:

  • The best predictor of future job suc­cess is past perfor­ma­nce. With the system, you will be able to elicit and eval­uate ap­propriate perfor­mance data from candi­dates. Then you will be in a good position to match each candid­ate’s per­for­ma­nce data with the re­quire­ments of the job.
  • Successful selection has equal parts: Objective: Can the per­son do the job? And, Interpersonal: Can you man­age this per­son?

The Performance-Directed Se­lec­tion System will help you accom­plish three things:

1. It will help you insure that the final candidate have the skills, knowl­edge, and attrib­utes (Crit­i­cal Job Di­men­sions) that you are look­ing for.

2. It will help you establish the can­did­ate’s interest and moti­va­tion for the job.

3. It will help identify which can­di­date you are best suit­ed to man­age.

The real bottom line to this ap­pro­ach is that you will know what capa­bili­ties your potential employees have and what you need to develop them into high performers.

In order for your selection ef­forts to be as effective as possible, we rec­om­mend that you complete each step as it is outlined and in the order it is pre­sented.

Situational variables (timing, a­vail­ability, etc.) can make it difficult to always adhere to the system as it is designed. Here are the seven steps.

First, develop a profile of the ideal salesperson for your specific job. Interviews of existing salespeople and managers yield data on specific responsibilities. Further research in the field compares and contrasts high-performance reps with average performers. The research probes how sales were gained or lost, and may include interviews with cus­tomers and former customers. This information is quantified and as­sembled into a manageable set of critical job dimensions.

These job dimensions profile the ideal candidate, and are viewed in light of three characteristics:

  • Knowledge—what a salesperson must know for job success.
  • Skills-the talent to perform
  • Personal attributes—essential personal characteristics, such as values, attitudes, and behavior pat­terns.


Second, rank and analyze critical job dimensions. Once the job di­mensions are compiled, the man­ager evaluates their probable degree of influence on the success of the specific job. At this early stage, the manager also considers the future impact of a number of elements affecting the assignment, including:

  • Job factors—key responsibilities and environmental or logistical challenges, such as travel require­ments, the organization’s market position and product mix, labor pool, and time demands.


  • Organizational factors—compa­ny history and ownership, current priorities, and the dynamics of the existing sales force. A great sales­person can fail in a given position if he is wrong for that particular job.


  • Management factors—the man­ager’s personal style, needs, inter­ests, and       ability to sell, train, man­age, and motivate.



Third, plan the interview. Carefully sequenced, perfor­mance-directed questions provide the manager with a structured guide for determining how well a candi­date meets the critical job dimen­sions. This type interview planning allows for the flexibility to digress from the out­line and take advantage of the dy­namics of the interview. Yet it still provides a format that ensures con­sideration of all critical dimensions.

Forth, discover past performance. The interview itself is a mutual dis­covery process in which the sales manager collects data and evidence on the candidate’s past perfor­mance, and simultaneously sells the candidate on the open position. Because past performance usual­ly predicts future success, the most effective performance-directed in­terview moves in a chronological sequence to follow changes in criti­cal job dimension trends. Key di­mensions, such as independence, initiative, and judgment, must be sampled at different periods in the candidate’s career to establish trends.

Fifth, get behind the candidate’s facade. Let’s face it; all candidates put their best foot forward in an interview. Performance-Directed questions will propel the interview beyond this interviewing facade into a revealing discovery session.

The atmosphere for a significant interview is established through comfortable, rapport-building ice­breaker questions that build mutual trust. Discussion of factual data puts the candidate at ease, and serves as a springboard for obtain­ing more subjective, insightful in­formation.

Sales managers have the right to delve into candidates’ specific abili­ty to do the job. This means the manager focusses interview ques­tions to elicit proof of candidates’ knowledge, skills, and personal at­tributes.

When applicants indicate they have a specific quality, the manager is only truly informed by obtaining a revealing example of how that quality was exhibited. Insist upon specific examples of past successes. The burden of proof is upon the candidate, but it’s up to the manager to explore.

In every case, it’s far more satis­fying and definitely less expensive to truly learn about your candidates during the interview process than to have to repeat the entire cycle again—soon.

Sixth, evaluate and compare can­didates. Once interviews are com­pleted, the manager can compare each applicant with the profile of the ideal candidate. Each appli­cant’s profile is evaluated against three key tests of behavior:

Relevancy—was the candidate’s responses and performance data rel­evant to the critical job dimensions under discussion?

Currency        has the candidate’s performance data been validated through recent behavior or experi­ence?

Frequency—has the performance data been expressed frequently enough to exhibit a reliable behav­ior pattern?

Seventh, take an honest look at the success potential of managing and adapting. The manager’s “gut feel” of how well each potential rep would perform in the new job envi­ronment is substantiated with the evaluations. But there’s one more crucial factor: Of the qualified can­didates, which one has the greatest chance for success?

Remember, there is no substitute for good people. Improve your chances of hiring the best people using the Performance-Directed Selection Process. The seven steps outlined are designed to minimize risk when all seven are diligently pur­sued, without shortcuts. Doing so increases the odds hiring the right person—the first time around.

Are You Pursuing The Right Sales Opportunities?

Success in today’s competitive marketplace often comes down to pursuing the right sales opportunities. This article explains why this is important and how you can make sure that you do it effectively?

The Problem

Many sales forecasts are missed and sales careers sabotaged by salespeople spending their time pursing the wrong sales opportunities.  This usually occurs because the salesperson reacts to the marketplace instead of attacking it strategically.

The Solution

High performing salespeople are more strategic because they focus on what’s important.

What sets these high performers apart is their ability to employ clarity of purpose, consistent communication to the marketplace, commitment to taking right action and the discipline to execute. These salespeople achieve excellent results because they know:

  • Their clients and the pain they are experiencing.
  • How their product addresses the pain.
  • What message clients need to hear to make a decision.
  • How to move their clients from decision to implementation.
  • When they can’t win.

Because they have a clear and consistent strategy for approaching the marketplace, they are able to focus on important and winnable sales opportunities.  They don’t get distracted by periodic “road kills” that may litter the highway of a major sale.  They also don’t get seduced by the allure of landing the “big elephant” when their chances of winning are slim or none.  The quickest way to zap your time and income is to spend $1,000 in selling effort to land a $100 commission.

To make sure they are pursuing the right sales opportunities, they ask themselves:

  • Is there a fit between the client’s needs and my solution?
  • Can I win?
  • Is it worth pursuing?

By developing the discipline to ask these questions regularly, answer them honestly and then acting on the answers.  Successful salespeople are able to say “yes” to the right opportunities and “no” to the wrong ones.