The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. We may not be living in depression-era America and earning our living might have nothing to do with tiling the soil, yet this much-quoted phrase still rings true for many of our 21st century business schemes.
Despite their best efforts, many sales directors find that their strategies for success fail to produce the desired results. This is especially true of that one vital but often elusive element; the continuous improvement of performance. While the most obvious hindrance to performance development may be cited as the constant pressure to do better, it could be more a matter of attitude than aptitude.
Perception not only of schemes themselves, but also of company culture, can have a significant impact on the level of performance. Altering the attitude or perceptions within your organisation, could help you to identify the flaws within those failed strategies and produce a culture of success.
Attitude to development
A common mistake among sales directors is make performance development too goal orientated. Focussing drive and motivation on each goal can lead salespeople to regard each individual target as the start and finish line. The danger of this is that performance may become erratic. Effort and skills are only expended when a specific goal is set, rather than as a matter of course, and overall performance levels are therefore low.
Performance development must be seen as a continuous process – the goal is not this month’s target, it is to be constantly working towards learning new skills and to maintaining a high level of achievement. By working on the core capabilities of your people, you can permanently improve knowledge and skills, creating a culture of continually development and success.
Attitude of management
We all know that sharing is good for you but we don’t always remember. Research has found that 67% of sales directors have their own targets to achieve, which drastically increases the possibility that directors will be too focussed on their own goals to spend time investing in and empowering their team members.
Neglect of your team members can mean that capability gaps are missed and essential skills are not developed, or worse still, failure to notice the start of negative behaviours can mean that they thrive unchecked.
The secret to great management is to focus on teamwork. Spending time coaching and investing in your team members can help to share the workload by empowering them to do more both through ability and attitude. It can also help you to avoid burnout by trying to do it all.
Attitude to change
Change can be hard to accept. Not only can the need for change in performance be demoralising for employees, it can also be a source of disappointment if expectations are unrealistic. The best solution is to make your performance development initiative transparent and to manage those expectations when it comes to timescales.
Ensuring that your evaluation process is both fair and objective is one way to do this. An assessment that relies on what is done, or not done, produces accurate results. Add to this the ability to share these results with your salespeople and you can adjust their attitude to change by making them part of the process.
This can also give you the means to set achievable goals together, one step at a time. This both empowers your salespeople to take charge of their own performance development and reduces the pressure that may come from setting goals without a full understanding of individual capability.
Silent Edge sponsors the National Sales Awards.