Performance Review? Be the Expert on You!

This is the second in this most important process. Last week we started the discussion of the performance process. Now we get deeper. Do not take this for granted. There is no more important time than now to begin to affect your appraisal rating.  Read this post and begin the process.  You are the expert on you!  With this in mind prepare your case!  Always be prepared!


There is no time that is more important, or as intimidating, as annual performance appraisal time.  You probably don’t think that there’s much to be gained in this process.  If so, I vigorously disagree with you.  It is an important time of the year that evaluates your performance for last year, and sets the tone for the upcoming year.  You can have significance impact in this process and document.  Because it is a lasting document, and impacts everything from your salary to your future employment I urge you to insert yourself into the process early.

The sales profession is fairly objective from the standpoint of meeting goals.  As I said a couple of posts ago, “You can lie about the numbers but the numbers don’t lie.” In the end, the numbers or lack of numbers will define your future, but your best bet is toframe the situation correctly, enunciating what you have done and what you need to strengthen.  Remember, you will have the edge, as you should “be the expert on you!”  You should know your numbers and your situation, and feel comfortable leading the conversation.  Below you will see what actual items you should take into that discussion.

You might remember the discussion that should have happened mid-year, if one did occur.  We outline some strategies for this in Black Sales Journal 7/21/2011, After a Difficult Mid-term Review….  This was a suggestion to take the offensive, and hopefully you seized upon it.  This level of proactivity may be uncomfortable, yet it is well advised if you do the homework.  There is no way to hide from the fact that everyone can see your activity and performance.

No competent sales manager is going to avoid this opportunity to tell you his or her thoughts regarding improvement.  We all can be better.   If you are already ‘on the top rung’, this could be the opportunity to get additional resources that could result help you be even more equipped for success in the future.

Additional resources could be items such as:

  • A sales assistant assigned to you
  • An expanded territory
  • More prospects
  • More house accounts

Preparation for The Session

You know whether there are problems in your performance.  You don’t need to be psychic to know this.  It is not uncommon with being in a sales job that you can be criticized for your prospecting or production numbers.  The key is that you need a plan to get back on track.   You will want to have at a minimum the items below:

  • Be honest with yourself –Honest self-evaluation is the most important activity that you can undertake.
  • Know your weak points – Outline them, detail them, and understand them fully.
  • Know your numbers – The metrics are ultra-important, and your understanding of them is the cornerstone to succeeding.  See Black Sales Journal 2/28 – How Many Prospects do You Really Need? for some help in this area.
  • Craft your solutions – Come up with real ways to repair your performance.  Reduce these to writing and be prepared to present them to the manager.  Help can be found at Black Sales Journal 11/10/2011 2012 is Here! – Solidify Your Sales Plan.
  • Ask to be first – Get it over with, and avoid the anxiety of waiting to be called.  Get it behind you and get to work on the 2012 year.  If you have the above items and are prepared, you should rather be first rather than last.

Prepare Yourself for Criticism

Criticism is natural in sales, but sometimes hard to take.  Sometimes it is pride that makes it difficult, and sometimes it is just stubbornness.  Tough words are hard to take, especially if you think you are not being treated fairly.  I will provide more on fair treatment below.

If you have done the items above correctly, you will probably have selected many of the same items as your manager has selected to present to you.  So here is your opportunity to ask for the meeting, present these items to him, and show your ability to be objective.  If you do it correctly, you hopefully will have already started the activities that you are talking about.

Fair and Equitable Treatment

In any position, sales or otherwise, you run the risk of being treated differently than your peers.  This is called inequitable treatment and it may be happening for a variety of reasons.  The reason could be as simple as the manager not knowing what goals or measure they used for other sales professionals to situation where a manager who purposely differentiates his or her treatment for any number of reasons.  Among these reasons could be such items as racial preference, age or sex discrimination, or even racial prejudice.

Your remedies need to be structured based on what is actually happening.  Be careful with accusations, and remember that even though anything can happen, it is difficult to prove certain claims if you do not document everything that happens.

Remember that your human resource professional might be your most solid resource if you think you are being treated unfairly.  Don’t hesitate to discuss it, and get opinions based on what you believe, but don’t make wild claims and accusations.  Ranting might feel better, yet it will not gain you an audience.  Like the 60’s television show Dragnet suggested, “Stick to the facts”.  I would suggest you reference Black Sales Journal – 3/32011 – When You Feel ‘Screwed’ – 3 Steps to Getting Help for more on this important issue.

In business you don’t have the ability to beckon for Martin Luther King or WEB Du Bois, you need to be able to surface your grievance to someone who is paid to be objective and readily available.  Think it over first, and check your emotions at the door.

There will be more information on this in some upcoming posts.

Remember your all-important objectivity.  I know that is tough, but your self-evaluation as indicated above will give you the edge.

An Important Note

Many managers, for whatever reasons exist, ask you to do the work in constructing the actual performance evaluation.  If you are asked to write your own evaluation and bring it to your manager, then you need to be wise about the level of your self-critique.  Be selective about what you include in such areas of:

  • General performance ratings
  • Areas needing strengthening
  • Skills that need to be acquired
  • Training needs

Make sure that you give yourself some room to work, as there is only 24 hours in a day, and 365 days until this process happens again.   Focus on what can actually be done, and that which helps you the most.

The manager should not be ‘bailed out’ from giving his or her evaluation of your performance, and if you do all the work and evaluate yourself, you may rob yourself of the opportunity to hear how your boss really feels.  Additionally, I am not sure that it would be fair to have a manager essentially say, “I agree with your self-assessment’, then sign it.  They need to do their part in your development by advising you of what they perceived would help you.

Get something out of this process.

Your comments are appreciated. You can reach me at

Time to Prepare For the Dreaded Performance Discussion!

I will not attempt to convince you that the annual performance discussion is a guaranteed positive moment in your life. Everyone has a different situation. This is an important milestone in your employment, and you should be prepared for this discussion as it will memorialize the past year. This post and the post on January 19th deal with this annual ritual. Make sure you read both.


The Dreaded Performance Discussion

Whether it is called a performance review, a performance appraisal, or some other term, you will find this time useful in determining if your manager values you. You will be able to determine this based on the amount of preparation and forethought that the manager shows.

For some, this is a time of discovery.  You may be asked to gather baseline data that this session will be based on. In other words you will need to sift through the sales and operational statistics to determine what you have been doing for the past year. You might think that this is laziness on the part of your manager.  You might think that  you have been asked to gather the information to “hang yourself.” On the positive side it gives you the opportunity to determine your weak points, accentuate strong points, and in general fairly and cautiously spin the information in the best light, all while preserving the truth.

Scenarios–A Few Practical Examples

Here are a few examples of how you can use this activity in your favor:

Scenario 1 : You have not been successful in developing one or more portions of your territory. Your numbers show it, and you know it will be an issue.

In your self-review point out the territorial weaknesses, the reasons for the shortfall, and the objectives that you will undertake to solve the issues. Indicate interim check dates, final completion dates and intended results. In essence put together the plan for producing acceptable results. Advance the discussion toward constructive solutions that you have drafted.

Scenario 2: Your sales numbers indicate lower sales figures and close ratios than some of the other sales professionals.

If your activity generates lower production and close ratios than are the company norm, you need to consider “baking in” those lower ratios into your activity goals. It is not uncommon for Black sales professionals to have reduced close ratios yet still be effective and successful. Everyone is not your ideal customer. The reality is that you may have to work more prospective customers to get as many sales as others in your organization. You need to be prepared to point this out and have these additional numbers considered in your sales funnel or plan. Estimate your quote/proposal ratios and sales ratios in a realistic light then share these estimates in your plan if you have confidence in them.

Scenario 3: Your sales totals are lacking and your prospect base is light and lacking productivity.

Here’s where you need to consider some real changes. You need to have a plan that is aggressive, and puts in your own milestones for your goals. Take the opportunity to outline a plan (if possible) based on quarters (this is better than months) and what the numbers will be for the interim checkpoint dates. See the two examples above for examples of how you might structure this. Above all, you must have a stronger prospect base to succeed. Consider a niche for a specialty, maybe even more than one.  As you read here previously (Your Customer Needs An Expert, December 20– see Recent Posts), this can be in terms of industry, product, or maybe even geography. Check the potential of the niche in terms of availability and numbers of customers and go in with a plan to increase your prospect base. Be honest with yourself regarding the potential and do some preliminary research on the niche.

Remember: You Are the Expert On You!

Above all, as was stated in the last post,  “Be the expert on you!”.  If your sales funnel is weak you will continuously be subject to problems as you go forward. There is a “law of large numbers”. You cannot have the success that you need without some solid sourcing of perspective customers.

Remember, you cannot instill confidence in others regarding your activities if you don’t have confidence in what you are trying to accomplish.

There are Resources at Stake

Your access to resources like house accounts, call-in business, and accounts and prospects from terminated reps is all open territory for this annual discussion. All this is made much more easy by having a well-thought-out approach to any deficiencies in your performance. Be prepared with well documented facts and logic. As a manager of a production staff, if someone had a plan, I tended to let the plan play out if it made sense.

Let me know what you think on this issue. You can reach me at