What do all high performing sales people have in common? They work in the way they do, not because they have to, but because they want to. This is a hugely important truth that managers miss. They think that by cajoling and setting lots of activity and results targets, the salesperson will perform to a higher level than if these were not set. This, the manager thinks, will make the average sales performer a high performing one through the top down imposition of standards and rules.
This never applies in sport. Think of any high performing sports person; the idea that they are set targets by their coach because, if not, they wouldn’t practice or perform to be best of their ability is ridiculous. The only time coach-led standard setting might be used is if a rookie doesn’t have the maturity or knowledge to set their own. That’s the problem, right there, maturity. The best salespeople set their own targets. They forensically work out what the required activities are to meet those targets and then they measure themselves, just like high performing sports people.
The problem is two-fold. Managers feel it is their job to set the activities required to achieve the results set; if they don’t they are failing in their role. Salespeople want to be left alone and feel if they achieve the results, their activity is their business. These two perspectives create a reductive way of driving performance, one that sucks from the process all motivation and authenticity.
What salespeople spend their time doing is controllable by them, so why shouldn’t they own and be accountable for what they do? They should be mandated to share their activity profile because it’s brilliant and the reason why they are so successful (there is no other controllable reason). So why don’t they?
Because they feel it leaves them exposed. A calendar with no appointments in it for the next two weeks doesn’t inspire confidence that this salesperson has a plan, so management will give them one, such as you must make 15 appointments for the next 3 weeks. The salesperson now has something to work with: to either resent being given this task; to argue why 15 is the wrong number; or to do any old rubbish appointments, to say they’ve done it, without it delivering the resulting business (proving setting 15 was wrong to start with).
What needs to happen is a mature engagement around how to set performance and activity targets.