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Sales Performance Management Strategies: Preparing for Success in the New Year

Sales organizations are always working towards moving targets: finish a strong month, get started on the next; finish a strong quarter and immediately start working on deals for the next one, and so on. While the journey remains continuous, milestones make each segment of the journey more meaningful. Year-end is as meaningful a milestone as any. It gives organizations the opportunity to analyze the past year and prepare for the year ahead.

This week we are happy to introduce the first article in our Sales Performance Management (SPM) Strategies series, in which we invite leading industry experts to address a variety of timely topics of interest to SPM practitioners. Our first series of articles is provided by Intangent, a North American consultancy and beqom partner specializing in SPM and Sales Effectiveness solutions.

Preparing for success in the new year

Perhaps your organization wants to increase sales volume, grow pipeline, and improve conversion rates in the coming year. The ability to achieve your sales goals depends heavily on the successful rollout of sales plans. The more locked-in your sales reps are with their plans, the better they will perform.

The importance of a great start is undeniable because your team will experience both high and low productivity levels throughout the selling year.  Having a toolkit of strategies will help you standardize your approach, which will allow you to focus on areas that require more attention. Equipping your sales team with the right tools can help you effectively mitigate the possibility for false starts. However, what tools and strategies should you include to ensure higher success rates?

Defining goals

Short-term goals

An effective approach for increasing engagement is to orient your sales team’s goals into daily, weekly, and monthly milestones. This method provides multiple benefits.

  • Daily goals are great for helping sales reps break out of slumps. They are designed to be easily obtainable and offer fun rewards.  A win is a win and, in this scenario, you are investing in long-term benefits. Sales reps who are struggling with achieving goals can get stuck in unproductive, morale-draining behaviors. Daily goals, such as prospecting along with writing/sending drip email campaigns, provide corrective measures and when applied effectively, should allow sales reps to break the cycle of negativity.

  • Weekly goals, like booking meetings and follow-up calls with potential clients, will up the ante. They are designed to engage sales reps with more challenging objectives. It’s a fantastic opportunity for sales ops to instill further behavior-modifying metrics. This benefits the sales reps directly by painting them a clear picture of what is expected.  Working alongside sales reps throughout this process also has the potential to improve the relationship with management.

  • Monthly goals are the biggest fish that sales reps will try to catch. The level of difficulty should be reflected in the corresponding SPIFF. This should be linked to closing a certain number of deals. Sometimes it’s beneficial to offer tangible, big-ticket items instead of cash bonuses. The strategy behind this approach is based on the idea that physical rewards will serve as a constant reminder and motivate sales reps for a longer duration.

It’s important to remember that no two sales reps are identical. Sales ops can create a better environment, one that is conducive to success, by being aware of the individual strengths of each sales rep. Work cooperatively with sales reps to determine which type of goal maximizes their abilities.

Long-term goals

From an overall organizational standpoint, both quarterly and annual sales goals are vital to achieving sustained success. Without a bigger picture in place, the growing pains and gains achieved through smaller morale-boosting checkpoints will have been for nothing. When deciding on key sales objectives consider these points:

  • Quarterly goals work best alongside yearly goals. They allow for further segmentation into less daunting action items. When planning for quarterly sales objectives, consider breaking down your annual goals into 16 targeted milestones. By allocating four milestones per quarter, you increase your sales team’s ability to look past perceived challenges associated with annual targets.

  • Annual goals play a pivotal role in shaping direction. They provide a destination to drive towards. How will you increase your sales volumes, grow your pipelines, and improve conversion rates? By mapping out an entire year in advance, you allow your team to better manage expectations.  

Evaluate and re-evaluate

Allotting time for evaluating the effectiveness of incentive compensation plans is critical to any organization’s success. This practice allows sales ops to diagnose problems sooner and to implement corrective measures immediately. If only a handful of individuals from your sales team are experiencing difficulties with performance, it could signal that only minor corrective behavioral adjustments are needed. A capable manager should be able to take on such task. A more widespread problem may indicate that your current incentive compensation plan is not yet fully optimized.

Recognition goes a long way

A simple, yet effective way to boost spirits throughout your sales cycle is to give recognition. Public acknowledgment shows that sales organizations are aware of the contributions and sacrifices being made by dedicated sales reps. Keep in mind that recognition doesn’t always have to take the form of monetary benefits. A wacky trophy that is passed around monthly to top performers can also have a positive effect on raising morale.

Understanding SPM: Begin with the user experience

The successful rollout of new plans also relies heavily on engagement through incentive compensation management software. When working cooperatively with the strategies outlined above, the software provides real insights into the relationship between a sales rep’s abilities and how they are rewarded for their efforts.

Focusing on user experience, reporting and ease of use should always be a priority. Dashboards should be tailored for easy access to pertinent data. There is no need to inundate users with excessive information. Sales Operations should strive for accuracy and brevity when creating dashboards. The same logic should also be applied to reporting.

It’s beneficial for sales organizations to review reports that payees have access to. Since variable compensation can be a touchy subject, it’s important that reports are accurate and easy to interpret. This will reduce the level of confusion within an organization. Sales reps should be able to view the direct relationship between their daily, weekly, and monthly efforts and how they stack up against compensation calculations. The benefits for the sales ops team should be clear: If payees are satisfied with reporting, they will spend less time contacting administrators and management for clarification.

These same practices can also be applied to the opposite end of the spectrum. To ensure that plan rollout is a success, administrators and sales ops should be thoroughly trained on the tools that payees are using. A well-trained sales ops team can better handle potentially explosive situations involving discrepancies between reporting and expectations. This preparedness goes a long way to de-escalating conflicts.

Building trust between reps and the organization is tantamount to increasing sales volumes. To build unity throughout an organization, payees must have confidence in the integrity of the data and the corresponding calculations being made.

More from our SPM Strategies series

This is the first article in our Sales Performance Management Strategies series, provided by beqom consulting partner Intangent. You can read the second in the series, Streamline Plans and Prepare for 2019

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