As a sales leader, how many times have you sat down with one of your salespeople and been frustrated because they didn’t do what they were “supposed” to do? As you think back to the conversation, you clearly remember telling them that they need to “step their game up” and “make more sales”. You even told them how! It’s simple really. They need to “prospect more”, “make more outbound calls”, and “improve their discovery skills”. Why isn’t it working? You gave them the blueprint. You couldn’t have been more clear!
Well, not exactly.
In the last decade that I’ve spent building high-growth sales teams, I’ve seen this exact scenario play out more times than I’d like to admit. It’s common amongst new managers and even seasoned managers who are busy with too many things on their plate. They get bogged down, and suddenly, their communication becomes less clear. When this happens, it’s easy for reps to misunderstand what they should be doing, or worse yet, create their own expectations based on what they heard. When things don’t go well, they end up on a performance plan and they don’t understand why. Tempers flare, people get frustrated, and your Glassdoor account fills up with the inevitable rant.
Let’s fix that. Setting direct, clear expectations is one of the cornerstones of effective sales management, and it’s easier than most people think. It requires slowing down and thinking one step at a time. If you can build your communication style this way, you’re much more likely to communicate the end message very clearly and earn buy-in from your reps.
I break it down into five clear steps.
Step 1: What results are you looking for?
To begin managing people effectively, you need to first have a clear understanding of what results you need from each representative on your team. It seems like a very simple statement, but I see managers get it wrong all of the time. They often confuse the results with the behaviors that lead to those results.
For example, if you ask an SDR manager what results that he or she would like their SDRs to achieve, many would say something like, “make 50 dials per day, send 20 emails per day, and book 2 qualified demos per day.” That’s great, and while there are results baked into that statement, you’re mixing in behaviors that lead to those results. The desired result, in this case, is 2 qualified meetings per day (or 40 qualified meetings per month).
Remember, when you’re moving fast and overwhelmed at work, it’s critical that you pause and begin by isolating the results. If you don’t, you risk communicating poorly.
Once you have a clear understanding of what the desired results are, the next step is to understand the specific behaviors that will help your SDRs (in this example) achieve these results.
Step 2: What monitored behaviors will lead to this desired result?
Ok, so in this example, we know that the SDR needs to book 2 qualified demos per day or roughly 40 per month. Those expected results are clear. The next step is to move on and isolate the specific monitored behaviors that are likely to lead to those results. For an SDR it might be behaviors such as:
- Delivering a quarterly business plan on how to penetrate their account base
- Making a number of dials per day to targeted accounts
- Sending a number of emails per day to targeted accounts
- Researching and adding a number of new targeted accounts per day
These are just some example behaviors that would help lead to the desired results. In my experience, the more behaviors that you are enforcing and monitoring, the less likely someone is to perform well. It’s just human nature. Try and limit the behaviors you are measuring to 3–5 per salesperson for maximum performance.
Step 3: Check the historical metrics for behavioral gaps
To make this example more tangible, let’s talk about our example SDR, Sarah. Sarah has been at your company for 6 months, and has shown some promise early on, but has recently missed quota the last three months. It’s time to check the historical metrics for some clues on how to get back on track.
For the last three months, here are Sarah’s average performance metrics:
- Emails sent per month: 340
- Qualified decision-maker conversations: 93
- Qualified decision maker email replies: 38
- Qualified demos scheduled on calls per month: 23
- Qualified demos scheduled through emails per month: 9
- Total qualified demos scheduled per month: 32
Note: the purpose of this example is to show you how to best use metrics, not whether these are the “right” metrics or the metrics that you measure at your company.
She has been scheduling 32 qualified demos per month on a quota of 40. A miss of 8 qualified demos per month. Using some simple math we can figure out the behavioral gaps that keep Sarah from achieving the desired results. She converts ~10% of her dials to a qualified decision-maker conversation, and ~11% of her emails into qualified decision-maker replies. Once she has connected on the phone, she converts ~25% of her conversations into qualified demos and ~24% of her email replies into qualified demos. In order to schedule 8 more qualified demos, you can use the math to back into the desired result. Sarah could make roughly 200 more dials and send roughly 100 more emails to find the additional 8 qualified demos. You now have a gap plan.
Step 4: Stitch together desired results, monitored behaviors, and the gap metrics for a clear and concise communication plan
We now have an outline for communicating clear expectations to our SDR, Sarah. The conversation should sound very similar to the step-by-step approach that we took to arrive at our analysis. Here’s an example:
Manager: “ Hi Sarah. It’s important that this month you achieve your quota after missing the previous three months. The quota for this month is 40 qualified demos scheduled. Do you understand?”
Sarah: “ Yes, I understand.”
Manager: “ Great. Over the past three months, you’ve averaged 900 outbound dials per month. You’re converting those dials at 10% to 93 decision-makers conversations. Of those conversations, you’re converting 25% to qualified demos, which means you’ve scheduled, on average, 23 qualified demos per month over the phone.
You’ve also been sending 340 outbound emails per month, and converting those at 11% to 38 decision-maker replies. Of those replies, you’re converting 24% to qualified demos, which means that you’re scheduling, on average, 9 qualified demos per month through email. Do those numbers make sense?”
Manager: “ Excellent. To plan for this upcoming month, it’s best to assume that those numbers stay relatively constant, and understand what behaviors will help you achieve your quota. Based on your history, you’ll need to make 200 more dials this month for a total of 1,100 dials. You’ll also need to send an additional 100 emails, meaning the total number of outbound emails sent will need to be 440. By doing so, you’ll make up the gap of 8 qualified demos to end at 40 qualified demos scheduled. Sarah, do you understand the behaviors necessary to achieve quota this month?”
Sarah: “Yes, I need to make 1,100 dials this month and send 440 emails while maintaining consistent conversion rates.”
Manager: “ Exactly, Sarah.”
Step 5: Establishing check-in points
Once you’ve heard the salesperson repeat back the necessary behaviors and gap metrics, you can be sure there is a clear understanding of what results need to be achieved and what behaviors are most likely to lead to those results.
Now, it’s time to add the last step, which is establishing check-in points. Check-in points are meant to assess whether or not the sale representative is pacing to achieve the agreed-upon behaviors that were previously defined.
For a monthly quota, I’d recommend establishing a check-in point each week and do my best to establish a consistent day and time. You should communicate exactly what metrics you’ll be reviewing in the meeting. Let’s pick back up the example.
Sarah: “Yes, I’ll pull those reports and bring them each Monday.”
Manager: “Ok, it sounds like you and I are aligned on what behaviors will lead to the desired results. In order to make sure that you are trending towards achieving those results this month, you should expect to review the following with me every Monday at 4 pm: Number of dials made, number of emails sent, and the conversion rates we just discussed. Your goal should be to achieve a minimum of 25% of the desired behaviors each week so that you achieve 100% of them by months end. Please come prepared with those results and we can assess them together — does that sound like a good plan for achieving quota?”
Over the course of your management career, you’ll be responsible for delivering hundreds or thousands of directives. As we get busier, and the number of directives gets larger, we can easily slip into vague expectations. “We need to CRUSH it this month!” or “I need you to step up your game, Sarah!” won’t cut it as reps struggle to understand why they miss their quota.
This is a simple framework for communicating clear and concise expectations to your reps. Consider it the bare minimum., As you progress in your management experience, you’ll add behavioral & performance coaching which will focus on improving conversion rates, talk tracks, efficiencies, etc.
Take a personal temperature check: Do you hear yourself using vague expectations? Do you tell your reps to just “do better” or “get on your A-game this month!”.
If you do, it might be worth revisiting some of the basics.
Originally published at https://www.theofficialjustin.com on August 21, 2019.