The Dreaded Mid-Term Performance Review – Be Prepared!

It is that time again! This post is for all of those professionals, and sales professionals, who are concerned about their mid-term review. The performance review can be a stressful event, a difficult time for many.

Many of us have been there before, and thus the need for this post.  A tough interim or mid-term review is sobering, and if you are in sales it is easy to have a couple of tough quarters.  The importance of this is apparent when it gets to writing.  Use this post, to prepare for this important upcoming event, or to respond to a difficult mid term that has already happened.

Are you currently on a performance program? Remember, you must be on top of your game, and working all of the time.  You might refer to BSJ 4/30/2011, Are You on A Sales Performance Program? Can You Beat it?

Remember, this is the mid-term, and there is some time left to get goals, but you must do something different, or the results will be the same. This post was from last July but applies now as much as any interm period.

Never give up!

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If you are with a fairly large organization, you have probably recently experienced an interim or mid-term review.  As trite as it sounds, you knew it was coming; yet it is one of the least enjoyable activities for a sales professional.  Having someone tell you where you stand in comparison to a goal that you had no choice but  agree to.

Historically, that is the nature of sales.  Review Black Sales Journal – 1/10 Preparing for the Performance Appraisal that discusses the performance appraisal process and the sales professional.  These points are applicable here, yet I am highlighting “what is after the interim appraisal” as a result of the urgency getting on track, meeting goals, and having a successful last 5 months.

You Must Do Something Differently!

This is not an issue if you had a great interim review as you are on track, although you need to remain there.  The problem comes when the interim or mid-term was problematic, exposing what even you have to agree are sub-par sales results and as a result low attainment.

When you are in that mode you have reasons to despair and frankly, I can tell you I have been there. It is a place that you don’t want to be as you are up against a clock (actually the calendar) and you know something has got to change, or you won’t be there down the road.

The real deal is that you might not be doing anything wrong, yet you might not be doing enough right.  Something new has to be tried, and now is the time to do it.  I will propose a few things that may help; yet you cannot stop the normal sales process while you execute them.

Those items are as follows:

  • You must increase your prospecting effectiveness. It is a proper activity for even those who are having success.  Please to refer to Black Sales Journal 2/10, Prospecting Tips For Black Sales Professionals.  Making your prospecting activities most effective will include changing, yet it is still an activity that is basically short-term that will yield dividends.
  • Reckon with the numbers game that prospecting represents. There is no doubt that there is a formula that successful prospecting continually requires.  See this in Black Sales Journal 2/28, How Many Prospects Do You Really Need? You must know your success formula, and make it happen.  The formula is different based on your own effectiveness.  I might be able to make my numbers with fewer prospects, based on my own approach and characteristics.
  • Continue to work hard. There is no magic in this statement.  You can increase your effectiveness and recognize your prospecting formula and the numbers that make it work; yet you still can do more.  Here is where you put it into high gear.

Here are some activities that you can do that you might not be doing right now:

  • Utilize networking as a prospect source
  • Use seminars as a prospecting tool

Networking – can be a very effective prospecting source.  It does take work and some planning, yet proper networking will change the prospect base you are exposed to as well as create face-to-face opportunities for prospecting intimacy.  I went deep in this topic in Black Sales Journal 2/21, Networking for the Black Sales Professional.  Using networking effectively is possible in the short term and can be done while the normal prospecting activities continue.

Seminars – can be extremely effective.  Done correctly, this activity can be more effective that networking, yet require more preparation, and potentially some resources.  Black Sales Journal 3/24, Finding Prospects Though A Seminar gets deep into this activity that I am partial to.  Now to make this activity work, you do need to have a group that has some has some commonality in buying habits, product needs, industry type, or other characteristics just as the 3/24 post describes.  Once you pull a group together like this, and deliver a message a message with value, you will potentially have followers, prospects, and some customers that you may never have been exposed to.  It would help to be an expert, or regarded as one, yet not necessary.  If you are not an expert, you should engage one to speak to your group, and as is described in the post, keep meticulous records and do not let anyone in, or out, without their contact information, especially their email.

In Summary

These are tactical activities.  They do not replace normal prospecting but can supplement that activity.  You cannot make it in sales without prospecting and need to face that important issue if you have problems there.

Prospecting is the price of admission to being successful sales professional.  Prospecting Tips For Black Sales Professionals were designed specifically for up and coming Black sales professionals in recognition that if you are going to be in this profession, you will need them to smooth out the difficulties of sourcing prospects.

Be effective and prosper.

We welcome your comments. Reach me at Michael.Parker@BlackSalesJournal.com.

First Deliver Solutions – Then Sell!

Even the number one business in its field has problems in need of solutions.  The best of breed businesses and industry leaders struggle to find solutions so that they can stay on top.

As a sales professional, implicitly what your customer pays you to deliver solutions.  Many times those solutions are underpinned by your own product or service, and sometimes it is the packaging and perception that gives them value.

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If you are the sales professional for a firm, and you are ignorant about hat they need, you cannot produce solutions.  You have to ask.  You must gather from them enough information to “make a difference.”  Know how to make your product and services convenient for them.  It is called “ease of doing business.”  If you give the customers an easy way to interface with you, you will make a difference.

Diagnose The Issues

The only way to know what would provide ease of business is to listen and probe deeply and frequently.  Communication is at the root of this diagnosis, and action is the result.

  • Investigate - Seize every opportunity to ask your customer what are their greatest opportunities and threats from a business standpoint.  As companies determine these in their SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis you can focus on what your organization can do.
  • Strengthen Your Knowledge - Know your company’s industry, and have a strong knowledge of the customer’s industry.  Know how you can use your current product offerings packaged differently to satisfy needs.
  • Record – Keep a good record of customer’s problems, and take time to group problems of like-customers together.  If you do this well you can pick where to spend your time trying to develop superior solutions.
  • Research – Spend time researching the best way to solve problems, once you have determined what can efficiently be solved.  Use your competitor’s ideas, your imagination, and yourexpertise as you research how to solve.

Stand and Deliver

Once you have determined what can be solved efficiently and have researched the solutions that can be used, you have an excellent opportunity to be a “star” if you deliver it correctly.

I am going to give a practical example of how this works:

An office products sales professional recognizes that his list of clients includes a large number of non-profits.  Much of his customer list had similar needs, and similar restrictions from the standpoint of finances.  Non-profits are similar, although not the same.  Knowing this market segment, he began to structure a program that had some unique offerings.

Realizing that many of these non-profits buy many of the same products, he began the process of packaging them.  He came up with unique “offerings” that were mainly packaging that satisfied a need regarding the products purchased, and the way they were consumed.

He then lobbied for unique credit terms (trade terms) that he could offer, knowing that they would need to stretch out payments for a longer period based on them being funded by governmental agencies and donations.  Once he got them, he made that a part of his “Non-Prof-Pak”.

He then worked to do that which you can only do if you know the buying habits of your customers.  He worked to do a separate mailing to his customers (“Non-Prof-Pak) with the most frequently purchased products in it.  This was based on his research of what products were being purchased by all of them.  His mailing amounted to a specialized catalog of items that were most used by non-profits including some items that his organization did not carry; yet he knew they needed.  He arranged for those items to come from a “friendly” competitor that allowed those items in the mailing.  It was “win-win”.

The result was that his customers did not have to search for their most common items.  Someone who “specialized” in non-profits sent them to them!  We know that it was the way it was packaged, and received.  They did not have to hunt through a long catalog; someone had marketed directly to them.

This sales professional picked up business from this sector, and attained a certain stature in the business community.  This individual has retired since then, and there are not catalogs for the most part with on-line marketing, yet the example is solid.  Packaging is important, marketing is important, and specialization is important.

Product and Promotion

That is a question only you can answer.  There is a possibility that you can identify a group of customers who have a similar need and operating pattern.  Examples are storefront merchants, Black churches and religious organizations, truckers, printers, publishers, and a host of other semi-homogeneous groups.  You want groups with more in common, than differences.

Structure them with an eye toward what solutions they need, then deliver it.  Your research is important, so do it correctly.  You can figure out what makes them the same, and market to them with the application of some of the steps above.

Remember the 5Ps of Marketing:

  • People
  • Place
  • Product
  • Promotion
  • Price

In this effort, you are concentrating on the product, or perceived product and promotion.  Your packaging of the product promotion makes all of the difference in the world in this case.

You can only do what your organization lets you do; yet there is some latitude here.  Remember some of the discussions in Black Sales Journal 12/20 – Your Customer Needs an Expert- Let it be You.  We are not talking about you being a sophisticated expert here, yet your ability to package and promote will be the ultimate asset.

By doing this you can provide an ease of doing business that others might have missed.  You can orchestrate the designing of product packages that hit the mark.  We all have seen it, known what it is, and still purchased because it had “perceived” value.

I think you can provide more solutions than you think.  You might be surprised.

Your comments are appreciated. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@blacksalesjournal.com.