The sales assessment process helps to focus internal discussions and communication to build performance, organizational alignment and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
Many building product and equipment suppliers are re-examining the overall effectiveness of their sales effort and, in some cases, re-engineering the sales process to address the changing channels to market. Part of the challenge for these suppliers is to understand what is currently working and not working in the field.
Although most senior managers have an intuitive understanding of sales performance within their firms, few companies within the building industry have a formalized process for assessing sales effectiveness related to individual performance, customer satisfaction, market penetration and linkage to corporate strategy.
Consider, for example, the large building products manufacturer that worked with FMI to conduct a third-party assessment of its current sales performance and identify opportunities for improvement in its field sales organization. To help, FMI developed a performance scorecard to evaluate individuals and teams current skills and skill gaps. Also included was an important time study of face-to-face engagements with the influencers of product selection and purchase – the specifiers, buyers and installers – measured against all other non-selling activities. To help, FMI developed a performance feedback process for all sales territory managers and sales regions. It also evaluated the sales team’s current skills and skill gaps and assessed just how much time sales reps were spending out in the field versus other sales support and administrative activities.
FMI then developed an assessment process that incorporated internal and external feedback; an evaluation of sales performance in the individual territories and regions; and the building products manufacturer’s input regarding its customer base, competitive conditions and sales organization metrics. Using face-to-face interviews and customized survey tools (completed by individual territory managers, the regional manager, the sales and marketing team and selected customers), FMI gained a 360-degree perspective on the company’s sales strategies, focused primarily on:
- The territory manager’s use of time (actual and desired) by channel and by activity.
- The territory manager’s selling strengths (and weaknesses).
- Organizational support, clarity of direction and communications effectiveness.
- Performance results compared to the territory market opportunity.
The results of the internal and customer assessment provided a summary look at the individual and group (regional and total) performance in a variety of areas of interest to the senior management team. In addition to individual results, summaries were also prepared by responder type.
The Individual Scorecard
Based on the internal input (self-assessment and manager assessment), customer input and performance index results, the company developed an individual ranking for each sales territory manager.
Created as a learning and development exercise to improve individual and overall team performance, these individual evaluations provided a valuable benchmark that the company used to develop a plan of action. And to reduce pushback from the field—and reinforce the benefits of the evaluation itself—the firm provided no individual results outside of the normal, direct reporting channel.
Working with senior management, FMI assigned weightings for each of the assessment categories. In this case, a 100-point rating was built using a 30 (customer input), 10 (individual input), 20 (manager, marketing and sales support input), and 40 (performance index) weighting. Ultimately, each territory manager was ranked, and each region was ranked using this weighting. This process was particularly helpful in helping to identify individuals for potential leadership development opportunities.
Careful Evaluation Counts
Through the evaluation process, the building products company’s senior management learned that its sales team was actually performing better than it expected in most territories, and especially when compared to the competitor’s sales representatives (as noted from the quantitative and qualitative customer feedback received). The results served as the basis for creating individual development plans and performance improvement plans.
With the 360-degree assessment completed, this building products manufacturer was ready to transform the results into the opportunity to identify best practices (by profiling the group’s top quartile) and then utilize those best practices across the entire selling organization. It also:
- Restructured its sales organization
- Realigned territories to match opportunities
- Identified new market opportunities
- Developed new sales training initiatives (both group and individual)
- Created a process for identifying and developing sales leaders and developing sales managers
Create incentives that reward the right (CPR) behaviors:
- Conversion (What percent of our sales activities are converting prospects into customers?)
- Penetration (What percent of our sales activities are driving greater revenue from existing customers?)
- Retention (What percent of our sales activities are retaining customers from year to year?)
- Are our investments in travel and entertainment commensurate with customer loyalty?
Initially, territory managers were apprehensive about this assessment effort. However, they came to appreciate the value of this process as it related to performance feedback and overall opportunity identification. To the credit of the sales leadership management’s, this assessment was not used as a “club” or a weapon, but rather as a tool for enhancing individual and organizational performance.
Answering the Tough Questions
The managers of this building products manufacturer wanted to better understand the existing alignment among headquarters, field sales management and the territory manager, and asked questions like:
- Did the sales team focus on the right customer?
- Did its activities support the firm’s strategy?
- Did the company’s corporate leaders deliver a consistent message to sales and territory managers?
- Were sales, marketing and customer service aligned?
- Was there clarity of direction to accomplish the mission?
These and other questions were used to garner feedback on overall organizational and individual performance as well as strategic direction for the group.
The sales assessment process outlined above helped improve individual sales leadership and organizational performance. By focusing on customer perceptions, sales results, skill gaps and overall organizational alignment, building product manufacturers can develop a “hard edge” process for measuring sales performance in the field.
It’s important to note that this process is not a static exercise that becomes a performance “fix,” but rather, it serves as the foundation for organizational directional changes, both for individuals and for the firm as a whole. When implemented on an ongoing basis, this process helps to focus internal discussions and communication to build performance, organizational alignment and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
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