Just ask Amy Appleyard. She’s the Vice President of Mid-market Sales for Staples Business Advantage, and she recently talked to us about how the company has been going through an immense reinvention over the last 3-5 years as the nature of office products and needs in an office environment changed.
That means moving beyond just paper, pens and pencils and more into technology, furniture and all kinds of other things people need to run their business successfully.
Basically, they were modernizing what they sold.
“And in doing so, we also needed to reinvent how we sell and how we work with our customers,” Appleyard said.
Here’s how Appleyard and the Staples leadership team created a system of sales performance management supported by the LevelEleven platform that drove success for their sales teams – and how you can achieve the same.
5 Lessons from Staples on Sales Performance Management:
1. Focus on controllable metrics.
Remember to manage what matters.
Average deal size is a good metric to know, but you can’t manage around it. The same goes for a metric like close rate. That’s because they’re lagging indicators.
Ask yourself: Can you really manage what’s closing this month if you aren’t managing the actions that lead up to closing a deal?
That’s why Appleyard recommends aiming for leading indicators: metrics that measure controllable behaviors. In Appleyard’s case, that includes things like “opportunities created” and “meetings attended.” These are the activities that define your sales process.
She admitted it’s often easier said than done to articulate these metrics, but they have been key for Staples.
“I certainly found the best way to identify these is to get them straight from the field sales managers,” Appleyard said. “The front-line sales reps are the ones who understand best what is going lead to success.”
Go after leading indicators that are controllable behaviors, and work with your sales managers to determine what those are.
2. Establish reasonable expectations.
Once you’ve identified your key sales metrics, you need to set clear expectations for daily, weekly, monthly and even quarterly requirements.
Part of that for Staples was to leverage their CRM tool, Salesforce, and make sure everyone was entering in data.
“I’m a firm believer in: If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen,” Appleyard said, adding that this has encouraged the discipline for her sales team to not just enter information into the CRM, but do so in the proper way.
Don’t be afraid of challenges like poor CRM adoption. Set expectations for your team, then encourage them to fulfill them.
3. Make it all obvious.
It is not enough to track and display your team’s performance against goals. You must make it obvious to everyone.
“Great to put it in Salesforce and tie it to KPIs, but people need to be able to see it and have easy access to it,” Appleyard said. “This is something we found very appealing about the LevelEleven tool to keep people’s eye on the game, and know that they had visibility on how they were doing at any point during the day.”
Adding interest to visibility, Staples also ensures that its KPIs are aligned with commission plans.
“If we help folks see what they need to do to maximize their commission plan, I know they’re going to meet our larger financial objectives because it’s all tied together,” Appleyard said.
She emphasized that this system for management has been huge in making sure that their leaders check in with sales reps daily. It really helps both establish discipline and maintain it, so that reps can maximize their commission plans.
4. Embrace the change.
Change can be scary. We get it. But Appleyard stressed that if the key activities your team is focused on aren’t delivering results, then you must change them.
“I highly recommend revising performance objectives if for no other reason than to just show folks that we’re looking at these things and we’re making sure they do, in fact, tie to business results,” Appleyard said.
She explained that her leadership team is comfortable with admitting when they didn’t encourage the right activity.
“If we aren’t hitting a target, we say ‘Hey, we’re gonna go back to that initial thing we asked you to do and make sure that was the right thing to do,’ ” she said.
Don’t go around changing things all the time, but revise as needed.
5. Let your team do the rest.
Since rolling out new performance objectives, Staples has seen high levels of engagement this fiscal year.
“Reps love the visibility into their progress to goal,” Appleyard said.
She also mentioned that they saw a competitive spirit unleashed among their sales teams, and reps have been hitting KPIs at a faster clip. There’s even been improvement in customer retention.
Staples Advantage is actively engaged in modern sales performance management, and you should be, too.