The Dreaded Mid-Term Performance Review

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.

Performance Programs: Do You Know What You are Up Against?

Depressed Sales Professional

I know that you’ve  heard about performance programs, even if you have not been in this situation!  It can be a bewildering position, but it is not uncharted territory.  You can beat a performance program.  You should never give up if it is constructed fairly and you are good at what you do.  don’t be bewildered, chart a course of action and get at it.

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Are you currently being threatened with termination?  Have you been put on a performance program?  I have seen both sides of this issue, and want to make some comments that I hope will be beneficial.

As a threatened sales professional, my sales program was fortunately loosely put together, but it was program nonetheless. Performance programs for sales professionals are structured tightly now, and you should know that what you’ll see when you view the performance program is essentially a template document from past programs and even terminations.  It will be fairly tight, if the managers that put it together are good.

As a manager, I put together sales performance programs that were designed to get someone to generate sales results or be out within a prescribed amount of time.  I suppose that you would call it ‘sales justice’.  These programs should be designed to be fair and equitable.  It probably will be based on the current goals and how those goals would apply in a shortened time period.

Owning and maintaining a sales force, or even a single sales professional is expensive.  Whether it is a single professional or a sales force can be expensive.  It is a wasted resource if it is not productive, even for a short period.  Programs are a necessary process and when used correctly can reform some behavior,

Can You Beat a Program?

The answer is yes… if the program is fairly constructed.  Sales professionals beat programs often if they have been working hard.  A well constructed sales program is potentially beatable if:

  • Your goals are constructed fairly and the time limits are granted correctly
  • You have been working hard and are not starting from ‘scratch’
  • You have never stopped prospecting and recognize that prospecting is a required activity
  • Your company’s products are solid and priced properly
  • You have the sales skills necessary to be successful

To capsulize, if you have fair goals and have been working hard, you have a chance.  That chance is enhanced if you have been prospecting and working to sell your products to a wide base of prospects, and thus creating real, sellable opportunities.  If you don’t have the above bullets on your side, you are toast!

Defining Fairness

I would be remiss if I did not cover this portion.  Fairness is a concept that defines an employer’s actions.  Here is a simple example of fairness:

Your goals are as follows:

Sales in Dollars – $500,000

Cases sold – 25

New Prospects – 250

Quotes – 125

What you have here is a results and activity requirement.  New prospects and quotes are activity standards, and dollar sales and cases sold are result standards.  Activity leads to results, so both are necessary.  Some sales organizations will rest on the results standards and require their sales professionals to reach the results goal, but the best organizations realize that they must us both.  The presence of the prospecting and quote portion requires that those activities necessary to have future and continued success are being done.

So a fair performance program for 3 months would look like this:

Sales in Dollars – $150,000

Cases sold – 6

New Prospects – 63

Quotes – 31

The simple fact is that the goal for the performance program is an elementary 25% of the annual goal.  A simple but potentially fair goal.  It is based on the previous goal, and is apportioned in a way that probably could be justified and would hold up if tried in a court of law if the sales cycle worked in terms of lead-time and production time.

It Happened to Me!

As a fledgling account representative I was put on a program at a time when nothing would go right for me.  It was a time when our company’s product was good, but priced a little higher than the competition.  The program had a component that was centered around activity (how many quotes?) and on production (how much did I sell?).

I was successful and beat the program, but the key to that was that I had never stopped working, but had just not had success.  The activity portion does not guarantee anyone continued employment, but it is the process that counts.  I refer you to BSJ 2/28/11- How Many Prospects Do I Really Need? It is probably more than you think!

I will be honest that I was not confident that I would make it.  I had worked hard, but just had not been able to convert.  For some reason during the time when the program was in effect, I generated some sales and locked myself in. It also created an expectation that I worked hard to keep up with.  Remember your chances are always better if you never stop working!

If the Program Is Not Fair

If your program goals are not attainable, then you have a couple of problems that may be insurmountable.  You need to have the conversation with your manager re making the program ‘doable’.  If that does not give fruit, you need to have a conversation with human resources.  Do it immediately.

If you are behind the “8” Ball, my suggestion is to do what is above while you try to work through it.  In most programs there is a clause covering any other deterioration of work.  In other words, you could be terminated earlier if you slow down your work effort.

Sales is a occupation with much objectivity baked in to it.  Be as effective as possible, and recognize that this job may be aided by relationships and a plan, but if you are not getting results, you are forever vulnerable.

Drop a note regarding your program and how you will beat it.

Always be the best. You can reach me at Michael.Parker@blacksalesjournal.com.