Improving performance in sales teams

Many sales managers are faced with the challenge of trying to improve team performance and the sales results of individuals in their team. They will provide coaching and training on an individual and team basis, but how can they make best use of the limited time they have?

All the individuals will be performing at varying levels, so should they spend their time with their poorest performers or their top sales people? When asking that question of sales managers the answer is often that they should focus their efforts on the under performers, as they feel they need to have a team that are all producing on target or above results. However this is not always practical, as there is usually a wide variance in skill and experience levels within the team. When you also add in a spectrum of different attitudes to the role, it doesn’t necessarily follow that spending the majority of your time with the weakest players is the most logical use of your own skill and experience. Why spend too much time with someone who is not going to be receptive to your input?

Let’s look at an example;

Team performanceIf you have a team of 9 people, 3 in group A are all performing well above target, 3 just above target in group B and 3 below target in group C, as mentioned many managers will spend most of their time trying to improve the performance of the group C people.

While you need to spend time coaching and working with all 3 groups spending more time with group C than the others is not the most effective use of your time. One argument is to spend more of your time with the people in group A as a 5% improvement in their performance will generate more revenue than if you generated a 5% improvement in performance from the other two groups. I think this is a very valid argument, but does tend to ignore the competitive nature of most sales people.

If instead, you focussed your efforts on improving the performance of the people in group B, this would have a knock on effect on the people in the other two groups. The people in group C would see the three above them widening the gap between them and would feel more exposed than they currently do. The increased peer pressure will encourage them to either improve their own performance or lead to them leaving the company.

The people in group A are used to being the leaders in performance and will respond to the pressure of group B improving their performance, and will strive to maintain the gap they have built up between them and “the second tier” of performers.

Think about how you manage your team now, how do you divide up your training and coaching time between your people? How much could you improve team results, team harmony, team motivation and your own enjoyment of the role by spending more time with people who are eager to learn and develop?

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