In order for the members of your sales team to be successful, they must know exactly what defines “success” in your organization. It’s critical for sales leaders to establish and communicate expectations with their sales reps early on, and enforce them on a continual basis.
Setting Expectations – Start Early and Involve Your Team Members
You should begin setting expectations and introducing new hires to your company culture during the onboarding process (ideally in the employee’s first few days on the job).
Resist the urge to simply hand new employees a book of company guidelines and performance expectations. Instead, work with your sales reps to establish short-term goals and long-terms goals together, using two-way communication.
This collaborative goal-setting between sales rep and manager will help keep your reps motivated towards reaching their goals. That’s because as humans “we support what we help create.”
Just be sure that you’re setting realistic expectations with measurable milestones. That way, you can break the goals down into specific responsibilities and tasks and track their accountability and progress.
Categories of Expectations
The specific expectations that you set will vary depending on the unique needs of your organization, but all will fall into one of these 3 categories:
- Performance Standards – What is the sales rep’s target? How many calls/outside sales meetings are they expected to make per week? Set clear performance expectations so your salespeople know what to work towards.
- Administrative and Housekeeping Compliance – Salespeople must know what you expect of them when it comes to updating your CRM, attending sales meetings, reporting, etc.
- Personal Development – Top performing sales organizations prioritize sales coaching and helping each rep develop personally and professionally. A comprehensive Whole-Person assessment is a great tool to use here, and throughout the entire lifecycle of the employee (including hiring, onboarding, training, coaching, and career pathing)
As you develop your own set of expectations for your sales organization program, keep in mind the following 5 principles in order to increase performance and accountability in your salespeople.
1. Less is More
It’s important for your team to know that their performance will be held to a high standard, but get carried away and your most important expectations will begin to lose emphasis.
If you want your demands to be taken seriously, try keeping your concrete expectations to a minimum. For certain this list should stay under 10, and aim for under 5 to create the biggest impact and likelihood for adherence.
2. Have the Right Mix of Results vs Activities
Sales Leaders can’t always control the outcome of a deal—that’s part of the game. What they can do, however, is influence the outcome by choosing what to focus on during the process.
Inputs (like number of discovery meetings, number of proactive ideas provided to accounts, etc.) should be where 75% of your attention lies, with the remaining 25% being left for outputs (total sales, number of new accounts won, percentage of goal met, etc.).
The biggest mistake that sales managers make is to merely assess numbers at the end of the month, instead of identifying opportunities to influence those numbers along the way. Once your monthly numbers are out, it’s too late.
3. Deliver with Clarity
If you want the expectations you have set to be met, you need to make sure your sales team knows exactly what they are responsible for.
In order to increase adherence and accountability, reps should clearly and specifically be told what is expected of them. Describe in detail what success looks like, as well as what is completely unacceptable.
Collaborating with your reps (when possible) and creating a written document detailing the expectations in your sales organization is the best way to gain agreement from your team members. Have your reps sign the agreement so they understand their commitment.
4. Establish a Formal Cadence
All the work you put into setting expectations and communicating them may never see fruition if you don’t establish regular meetings to evaluate compliancy.
Whether your sessions are weekly, monthly, quarterly—or all of the above—having a time dedicated to review, measure, and coach to performance standards is crucial.
Don’t just analyze sales performance, but also include reporting standards and whether your reps have taken any individual actions towards self-improvement (courses, seminars, etc.). Without follow up, expectations will not be taken seriously.
5. Involve Your Team
This has been mentioned before but deserves extra emphasis. Setting performance expectations should involve not only your criteria, but input from your salespeople as well.
Involve your reps as much as possible in the process, and at the very minimum, have them contribute to the follow-up process. That can be by letting you know which short-term goals have been achieved, and what they’re doing to work towards the long-term goals you’ve agreed upon.
Employee involvement helps to establish a sense of ownership in the expectations that are set, as well as a commitment to meeting them.
Establishing clear expectations with your sales team upfront will help set them up for success in the long-run.
You should also be sure that they’re well equipped to meet those goals by training them in your product line and the sales process your team follows. Companies that use a credible, formalized sales process experience an 18% increase in revenue growth, according to the Harvard Business Review.