Not long ago I was talking with a friend who works for a large sales company. He had a good year. In fact he finished among the top reps in his region, posting solid account growth and second-best net gains.
Thousands of reps work for this company and they are expected to comply with a standard set of expectations. Sales reps are measured on a half-dozen indices, give or take. Recognition goes to only those who meet expectation in all indices.
My friend’s complaint and frustration is all about the big picture. Despite his performance, he came up short in one metric. He was short by one sale to meeting a minimum objective for new clients.
He retained more and renewed more existing clients than all but one other rep while he increased their business with the company significantly, again only being out-performed by two or three other reps on that measure. Overall he exceeded sales objectives by over 130%, or more than twice what was expected, far outpacing nearly all other sales reps.
But his managers wanted 36 new clients on the books at the end of the year. He had 35, which still put him among the top in that in that metric, too.
Here’s the problem as I see it. The month of December was spent chasing new sales to get as many as could be found into the books. Existing accounts were put on hold. Larger accounts were put on hold. He sacrificed a month chasing one objective. And…as a result…the company lost money.
They also slowed a rep, putting a speed bump on the fast course, to say nothing about burning enthusiasm, an important part of success.
We met a week ago and I asked how January was going. Not so good. Being passed over for a promotion and getting no recognition at all deflated a lot of enthusiasm. A month squandered chasing random accounts killed momentum. He worked through his Christmas holiday, a time normally spent away from home. This year time spent poorly, not invested wisely. And now he is working hard to get the sales machine humming again, back where it was for most of the previous year.
So what did his managers advise? Work harder. You had a good year. Just not good enough. Put in some extra time next year and make it happen.
What do you think? The managers are whacked and out of touch, out of touch with managing strong performers and out of touch with priorities maybe? Most of us are in business to grow business. Growth should be rewarded, not arbitrary lines in the sand.
Remember, good performers don’t quit companies, they quit managers.
- Scott Steinberg: Sales Management Secrets: 7 Ways Leaders Sell to Win (huffingtonpost.com)
- Five Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail (hiscoxusa.com)