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Sales managers could be more like doctors

Have you had your annual physical yet? I just completed mine. Those are always fun. I like my doctor. He and I have a little chit-chat about what's happened in the past year of our lives, and then we get down to business. Before the doctor comes into the room, the nurse weighed me and took my blood pressure, pulse and temperature. These are the "vitals." For the annual, they also draw blood and do a "panel" on my blood. If those are all within the boundaries of good health, the doctor and I chat some more, he does a bit of poking and prodding and says, "You look healthy, good work." The process takes a total of about 15 minutes, and I'm good to go for the next year unless something comes up that causes me concern.

Imagine for a moment if that would be how sales managers handled the annual reviews with their salespeople. Imagine if the one-on-one with your sales manager were similar to my experience with my doctor. They aren't, but you can dream, right?

I've been on both sides of the table of a one-on-one meeting; sometimes it feels like a ridiculous exercise of measuring the minutiae — details I never would look at if not for the meeting.

Before you managers start to get angry with me, let me explain. My doctor looks at my "vitals." If he finds no cause for alarm, he doesn't subject me to needless invasive procedures and expensive diagnostic tests looking for trouble. He accepts the vitals as an indicator of health or trouble and proceeds accordingly. IF there are warning signs, more questions, tests and diagnostics are performed — but only IF an issue is found in the vitals.

In sales, shouldn't we be measuring what matters and not subject our people to an analysis by paralysis? Here are the "vitals" for sales professionals: Are they meeting their PERSONAL financial goals? Are they making enough money? In my experience, most sellers don't care much about the company's goals. They care about their personal goals first. Notice the whole process starts with them. How does their billing compare to their agreed-upon goal? If they are meeting their goals every month, this is a great sign. Many managers, (including me), would joke, "Then we have to raise your goal." Salespeople don't laugh at that. How does their billing compare to last year? Are they up, down or flat? Have they retained most of their customers from last year, or are they churning through new business?

New business. What is the percentage of their billing that didn't exist last year?

Repeat business. What are their renewal and attrition rates?

Are they enjoying what they are doing and why? No matter how good they are, if they aren't being fulfilled by the work they do, that's cause for concern. By looking at those six vital signs you would have a complete picture of a salesperson's success.

The big idea is this: Measure what matters. The seller who is performing doesn't need the same level of diagnostic work as the seller who is not performing. If Dr. Panczyk were to put me through a battery of tests when my vitals are good, he would be accused of insurance fraud or over-billing.

We're going to take a holiday break for sales tips, but when we return on January 2, I'll share with you a newly created one-on-one agenda that I developed recently by working through the process with another manager. If you're struggling to figure out what to do with your one-on-ones each week, I think this tool will be very helpful.

Happy holidays!

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, SVP of Professional Development, RAB