About the Author

Marie Warner is founder and President of Warner Professional Sales, LLC. Warner Professional Sales helps companies achieve sales force success through people, performance and planning. Warner Professional Sales helps companies get more revenue growth from their sales force by recruiting the right sales staff, 2) training and developing those sales professionals to consistently exceed revenue goals, and helping management to define and implement the best sales "process" and tactics for sales cycle control, territory assignments and quota planning.

Marie brings to client engagements over two-decades of leadership in the sale of technology, consulting and financial products and services to the Fortune 1000 and major financial institutions. This includes nine years of experience as Chief Sales Officer, in both enterprise-level and start-up organizations.

Marie Warner has authored articles in Mass High Tech, SalesResources.com, SalesVantage.com, EyesOnSales.com, Software Sales Journal, SalesDoctors, and Women’s Business  and has been interviewed by Forbes.com on successful sales strategies and tactics. She is a member of NETSEA (New England Technology Sales Executives Association), NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners); The Commonwealth Institute, NAPS (National Association of Personnel Services), and Founder and Director of Boston Women ConnectSM. Marie is also a CustomerCentric Selling® Business Partner, and participates in numerous other entrepreneurial, technology and marketing organizations.

Marie Warner can be reached by email at  mwarner@warnerprosales.com or phone at (617)489-4528.

Tune-up your Sales Team for Maximum Performance

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Do you know where your sales team stands compared to other firms? What’s your plan for improving results? Would you characterize your sales team as “Eagles”, “Average” or “Underperformers”? Evaluating your sales force is often challenging for Sales Managers.

Yet you can proactively and objectively evaluate your sales team - and “tune-up” the entire sales force to deliver maximum performance.

Measurement of 2010 sales performance at over five-hundred companies indicated:

  • Top-performing firms exceeded team quota by 106%.
  • Average firms attained 76% of team quota, and
  • Underperforming companies achieved only 22% of their team quota goal.

Do you want your sales team to exceed this year’s revenue goals? How can you “tune-up” performance to be better prepared to exceed next year’s targets?

It all starts with the individuals on the sales team. If you want to consistently exceed your revenue objective, it is imperative that the sales manager consistently evaluate each sales professional. And be prepared to make some tough decisions.

Early in my career as a Sales Manager, I would diligently work with each and every member of my sales team to improve their skills and boost their performance. This included a few Sales Reps, who, quite frankly, would have been better off in another – ANY other – line of work. In other words, they should have been “let go.”

A respected superior and mentor counseled me that no sales manager can consistently exceed
revenue goals by fostering the “laggards” on the sales team. Rather, the Sales Manager must focus on getting top performance - from the top performers.

When a talented golf pro is struggling with any aspect of the game, a coach will advise that the athlete focus on the strongest part of that Professional’s game – not the weakest. This same “natural selection” is practiced in corporate management.

Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, instituted the 20-70-10 “Rank and Yank” performance guideline. The top 20% of employees received grooming and opportunities for advancement. These were the “A” graded employees. The middle 70% of employees were trained and developed with the goal to improve – and it was “Up or Out” for these “average” performers. These were the “B” graded players. The rest of the employees? After two “C” grades, the bottom performing 10% of employees were invited to explore a career elsewhere.

There have been many critics of ranking and differentiating employees in this manner. Criticism of ranking is not as heated in sales roles, where there is an objective measure and ranking each quota year – Did you make your number or didn’t you?

But it’s not that simple, is it?

Not many Sales Managers welcome the task of replacing a sales team member. Hiring expense can be $30K to $40K to replace a sales representative. It can take two to three months for a Manager to recruit and hire a Sales Rep, plus another three months until that new Rep achieves sales productivity. For this reason, and because not many Sales Managers relish the tough task of firing, underachievers can remain on the Sales Team. This is a “lose-lose” situation for both the organization and the individual – who continues to struggle to succeed in the wrong role.

The struggling economy has dampened sales achievement across the board, making the evaluation of sales performance much more difficult. How can a Manager know which Sales Rep has “eagle” potential, but may have just suffered a bad year in an off-economy”? There is a systematic, efficient and equitable way to “Tune-Up” the sales team. Here are the steps for a “Sales Tune-Up”.

  1. Test and Assess - Select and administer proven Sales Assessment Tests for your entire sales force. For our clients, Warner Professional Sales implements several nationally recognized tests for both pre-hire screening and for employee benchmarking. Many tests can be customized to reflect the unique nature and requirements of your company’s sales process.

    Analysis of test results will reveal the innate characteristics of members of your sales team – and whether a Sales Rep is “wired” to be able to ever succeed as a sales professional for your firm. Other assessment test results will show those areas “needing development” in a promising, but temporarily underperforming sales talent.

  2. Hire New Talent – Based on testing results and job performance (recent and past), remove the under-performers from your team. Recruit, test and hire replacement sales talent. Remember that the hiring and ramp-up process can take months. If you want any new sales professional to make a contribution within the first half of the new selling year, you must step up to this task before year-end.

  3. Define your Training and Development Plans – Review individual performance metrics plus assessment test results, and create training and coaching programs for your top performers and your promising “average” reps.

When your Sales Team is finishing the year with the Eagles exceeding your team revenue goals, your opportunity for continued success can be enhanced by adopting a continuous “sales tune-up”.

If your Sales Team had a disappointing quota year, you must take these steps to “Tune-Up” sales performance. Otherwise your own career as a sales manager may be at risk.

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