Welcome to Performance Clinic, a new series from Clear Review. We’ll be answering questions from colleagues, customers and anyone with a performance or engagement conundrum. If you have a burning question you’d like to put to our board of experts — including our founder, CEO and the former HR Director at Sony Music Stuart Hearn; our Head of Performance and Change Expertise Amira Kohler; and our Head of Product Ali Hussein — then get in touch with us on Twitter, Linkedin or by email. We’ll keep all questions anonymous, naturally.
Question: How do I persuade my salespeople, who know they’re judged primarily on their financial targets, that they need to take performance management seriously?
Answer: Sadly, this isn’t an uncommon question and it’s not confined to salespeople, although they may be the group we hear about most frequently.
This specific question was asked by a customer at a relatively small company. We asked for a little more info to try to pin the challenge down.
It turns out that, in this particular case, the sales director says he is perfectly happy for his team to be judged solely on the basis of their numbers in the CRM system. So it may be sensible to speak directly to the team members you think will be most receptive and argue your case.
How do you do that? We asked our Head of Performance and Change Expertise, Amira Kohler, for her advice.
“Every organization has recalcitrant managers. The challenge with sales teams is that they’re judged in a very specific way. As long as they hit their targets, the business is going to defend them — and rightly so. You could start with the salespeople you believe will be more progressive in their thinking, and explaining that good performance management will offer them more in terms of career development. Yes, salespeople who sell will always be successful, but salespeople who understand the importance of constructive feedback or personal development objectives (for example) may have the edge when they’re competing for a promotion.
“Then there’s the training and development angle. This ties into the work we’re doing on engagement: good performance management (tied to engagement) is about uncovering the obstacles to sustainable high performance. What learning opportunities do people need? What relationships need to be developed for them to be more effective?
“The point of good performance management is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all tool. We work with many organizations that have employees in diverse working groups and need inherent flexibility in the way they do performance management. Local councils are a great example: they have office workers; municipal workers; education professionals. Performance management needs to work in slightly different ways for all of these, yet still do the job of developing them. For some salespeople, it may be that the focus is on personal development objectives rather than organisational goals. That way, you still have something to measure but the “what’s in it for me?” factor is more obvious. It’s about personal development and growth in areas that will support their career advancement.
“For the director, you could talk about retention. Every organization wants to retain its best people. Replacing a great salesperson is expensive. You may be able to see that staff turnover in Sales has been above average for the last couple of years: that’s a good place to start the conversation. Alternatively, you could pitch it as a way to help the business promote from within on a more regular basis. It’s nearly always more cost-effective to promote than to hire externally — if nothing else, you’re saving the manager from having to read 25 resumes and sit through a dozen interviews.
“Yes, you may still encounter resistance, but you’re presenting a value-added argument. Smart people will see the value. And if the sales director sees that their smartest people are using the system, asking for check-ins and demanding feedback, they’ll start to see the value too.”
If you have a question about performance management, employee engagement or anything else connected to the future of HR, we’ll be delighted to help. Send your queries to us on Twitter, Linkedin or by email. All questions will be quoted anonymously unless you specifically ask us not to.