Sales Performance Review Best Practices

happy employee in performance review
Ryan Barone
Ryan Barone
In Sales Performance, Trending
Ryan Barone is the SEO/Growth Marketing Manager at Xactly. He earned his MBA from Santa Clara University after receiving a degree in Marketing from Arizona State.

One key to steady improvement is to make sure the sales performance management process is top of mind throughout the year—and not just when the calendar is turning.

Today is the day to start incorporating strategies that make both goal-setting and performance discussions enjoyable and fruitful processes for both managers and employees alike.

From this day on, your process shouldn’t look like this:

performance-review-calendar

If you follow the sales performance review best practices below, you will see growth and improvement across your organization. Best part is, for these gains, you don’t even have to sign up for a gym.

Which brings us to the annual review.

1. Ditch the annual performance review.  

Sadly, the annual sales performance evaluation is still a thing for many companies, while it should be a thing of the past. If you look at a calendar and do some rough math assuming no holidays (just humor me), 52 weeks multiplied by 5 days of work per week equals 260 days in the office. So, with the annual review, your ratio of working days to reviews is 260:1. That just isn’t right. Even a 200:1 ratio is way off. Actually anything:1 will be a problem. Let’s change the “1.”

Those companies that aren’t utilizing regular and constructive feedback are missing out on huge opportunities to improve employee morale in your workplace, leaving employees to view the annual evaluation as a lump of coal rather than the gift that keeps on giving that it should be.

To be clear, ditching the annual review doesn’t mean get ridding of it completely…but ditch the mindset that the annual review is enough to carry the performance of your team. Instead, you should be supplementing the traditional end-of-year check-in with shiny, new performance management tools. These tools help you create a review process that motivates, thanks to monthly or quarterly interaction.

In fact, companies that set quarterly performance goals see 31% higher returns than those on a once-per-year system (and doing so monthly perform even better).

sales performance goals stat

Frequent evaluation coupled with strong goals and incentives develop careers, without a doubt. (View a few MBO examples to get headed in the right direction.) And, an automated performance management solution like Xactly Objectives™ ensures  transparency and allows managers to set clearly-defined goals with their employees.

So for now, ditch the annual review. Next…

2. Goal-set like your job (or that of your employees) depends on it.

Because it does.

Traditional goal-setting has become such a common and “tired” activity, the mere mention of it often brings on groans, and forces fake enthusiasm. It has simply lost its value for many organizations.

Here are some easy wins to get back on the right track.

  • Start with setting organizational goals. Have they been written down anywhere?
  • Talk to employees about company goals and how their individual actions contribute.
  • With employees, set clearly-defined personal objectives that align with company goals.
  • Stick to setting 3-5 important goals (when you try and do everything, you do nothing).

To explain, if you end up assigning an employee 10 goals and they achieve five of them, that’s a failing grade of 50%. On the other hand, if you zero in on those five achievable goals, and stop there, morale goes through the roof when accomplished—and that accelerated performance carries over into the next quarter, etc.

Download our guide, "Objectives: The Ultimate Productivity Hack for Your Team," to learn the benefit of managing employees by objectives.

Likewise, vague goals that employees feel they don’t have much control over don’t drive performance. Yes, such objectives might be achievable, but the employee is well aware that success wasn’t a result of their individual action, leaving morale stagnant. Even worse, they know they’ll get the finger pointed at them when the goal is missed, leaving a detrimental feeling of helplessness.

And lastly, marketing goals shouldn’t be tied to sales activity. Just as a sales rep usually needs quota-specific objectives, every other employee needs personalized goals that are very closely tied to the work they do every day—and work that contributes to the larger goals that the company would like to accomplish, at that.

All that said, there is one more key piece to the puzzle…

3. The best goals and tools will fail without communication.

Think of it like this. Goals are your destination, and your objectives system or management tool is your transportation vessel to get you there. But, importantly, without a pilot, driver, conductor, or whomever, you’re going to drift off course. Communication is that operator you so desperately need in order to maneuver the craft to your destination.

As discussed, the annual review is a major impediment keeping managers from communicating with their people— “I have some feedback on Ryan’s latest project, but we do have that performance evaluation coming up in about 150 days, so I’ll just leave it for then.” No, that’s just not helpful. The other hurdle is not having a solid objectives system in place, where if you did, you’d find it much easier to fire up goals, check progress, talk about related compensation, and so on.

Now, it’s your turn.  

By putting these sales performance review tips into action, there aren’t any more excuses. No more ‘it’s too stressful or imposing to try and orchestrate meeting times outside of this once a year rendezvous.’

I know this is a paradigm shift for most people, so it will take some adjustment for regular feedback and communication to be incorporated and become part of your day to day. And it goes both ways. While most of this is directed at the manager, employees need to make an effort to reach out to their bosses more often. Hey, make an objective of it and tie it to compensation if you really want it to be accomplished.

When all is said and done, this isn’t about micromanagement. It’s actually quite the opposite. Before you read this you probably felt that that handing down goals to employees, wrangling them for the annual review, and talking at them about successes and failures felt like micromanagement, because it was. With these best practices, goals are set together, with objectives that empower your people to take ownership of their day-to-day responsibilities. The one-way street now goes both ways, putting an emphasis on engagement and collaboration on your way to reaching the final destination of a productive, engaged workforce.


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