Looking back at our predictions for the sales performance management space
Despite how unpredictable 2020 was, patterns and trends did emerge from the chaos. We recorded those predictions in this blog post at the end of the year, giving our best guesses as to how 2021 would look for the sales performance management space.
We believed that the organizations who successfully adopted these changes would do well in 2021 and beyond. So, now that we’re at the halfway point of 2021, let’s take a look back at our predictions from last year to see how accurate – or inaccurate – they were.
Prediction 1: Transparency & Visibility Not Optional
We said: The buying process is more complicated because multiple facets of the business want a seat at the decision-making table. There’s an increased desire for transparency on both sides: leadership wants better visibility into the day-to-day activities of their employees and those employees are demanding more transparency from leadership.
Now we think: With the switch to remote work, it’s no surprise that there has been an increased demand for transparency from both sides. When you no longer have the daily in-person interactions with your manager, it can be hard to know what is expected of you. Alternatively, for management, if you aren’t in the office with your team hearing them make calls how can you keep track of their activities?
We’ve helped solve this problem for our customers (discover specific examples here) with solutions like our scorecards and coaching notes. LevelEleven’s Executive Scorecard provides leadership with a high-level overview of their team’s progress toward goals at both the team- and individual-level. Performance Scorecards, on the other hand, allow sales reps to have a clear view of what their goals are and what is expected of them.
Coaching notes help keep the line of communication open between rep and manager despite not being in the same office. It allows them to document & standardize their coaching all in one place. Features like custom coaching templates, activity snapshots & action items enhance the coaching experience with real-time performance data.
Prediction 2: Proactive, Not Reactive
We said: To survive & thrive post-pandemic, a proactive approach is crucial. We predicted last year that the companies who will see the most success are those who formulate an efficient, powerful strategy for the future. It’s no longer enough to stick to the status quo, doing things the way they’ve always been done. Proactively approaching the coming changes sets teams up for success over those who simply react once the changes happen.
Now we think: This is a philosophy we’ve seen our own customers (as well as ourselves) lean into. Sales performance management is a practice all about being proactive and taking an active role in improving your sales performance, and it’s the foundation of LevelEleven’s solutions. Companies who have a set of processes in place for tracking, measuring and analyzing performance succeed using data to drive improvements in both people and outcomes.
Sales performance management means having a disciplined strategy that builds successful behaviors, fixes problems in the moment to get reps back on track and helps improve their skills. Rather than finding out at the end of the quarter that your team isn’t going to meet their goals, you should be tracking performance in real-time so that problems can be addressed before it’s too late.
Visibility into performance is therefore crucial to a sales team’s success. After all, if you don’t know there’s a problem, how can you expect to fix it?
Prediction 3: Death to the BHAG
We said: The beginning of 2020 still saw many sales leaders setting lofty, impossible goals for their teams to try to live up to, but the events of last year brought quite the reality check. Leaders must focus on realistic – but challenging – goals based on what the data tells them in order to keep their team motivated and engaged. Big Hairy Audacious Goals simply discourage, especially in a year like 2020, and don’t allow for an accurate picture of whether you’re on the right track for success.
Now we think: We stand by this. Goals should help sales reps get a clear view into where they stand and what they have to do to achieve success, as well as provide leadership with an accurate way to predict whether revenue targets will be met and allow for any necessary course correcting in real-time.
That said, goals need to be clearly defined and reps need to have visibility into their own performance in order for it to work. Goal tracking enables reps to know where they stand and what they need to do to achieve those goals. The metrics being tracked need to be front and center and not overwhelming, or it will be difficult to know what to focus on.
Performance Scorecards are helpful here, even if you don’t have a sales performance management solution and you have to create them manually.
Prediction 4: Strategy-Driven
We said: Teams need to focus on strategizing and efficiency if they want to succeed post-pandemic. With some organizations having to play catch-up after all the lost revenue of last year, you can’t afford to be wasting time on activities and behaviors that don’t bring results. Targeting qualified leads with a personalized approach and building those relationships will win over cold calls and mass emails any day.
Now we think: This is definitely the case today. Amid so much noise, it’s become increasingly difficult to stand out and catch a prospect’s attention. Impersonal outreach won’t cut it.
Gaining trust is more important than ever, and one way to do that is to tailor your approach to fit the prospect you’re chasing. Of course, it’s impossible to personalize for every single lead that comes in, but recognizing different personality types and what appeals to them is a good middle ground. Chances are, you can categorize your potential buyers into a few personalities as a starting point for how you should approach the sale.
Prediction 5: Consistency is Crucial
We said: Consistently reaching goals and sustaining positive performance is the true measure of success. A temporary spike in sales won’t be enough to maintain a profitable business if it isn’t repeatable. Teams need to execute on the behaviors that lead to success, and leaders need to support those behaviors through coaching and motivation. If improvement is needed, it’s up to the sales leader to coach their reps on the activities and behaviors that historically have led to success.
Now we think: This has definitely been true over the past year or so. When so many businesses struggled to survive shutdowns and less customer foot traffic, the need for a consistent stream of revenue was glaringly apparent.
With performance tracking, customers of LevelEleven can see which reps are most successful and which are struggling, then analyze the behaviors of the high performers to see what creates their success. Once the successful behaviors are identified, managers can coach low performers on the behaviors that will improve their performance.
Consistency in processes is important as well. For example, coaching should be standardized so that managers can get a clear picture of a rep’s progression over time. Coaching note templates help keep meetings consistent and ensure that the important questions are being asked and discussed each session.
Prediction 6: A Consultative Approach
We said: A consultative approach to the sales process builds stronger relationships with future customers that lead to customer loyalty. The question every sales rep should be asking themselves is “how does our solution actually connect to solving one of the buyer’s problems?” If you consult with them and listen to their pain points, you’ll have a better chance of finding the answer.
Now we think: This is similar to our prediction that a strategy-driven approach is more likely to be successful than an impersonal, generic presentation. At LevenEleven, we will often have a discovery call before setting up a demo for a prospective buyer in order to understand what will be most helpful for them. The demo can then be tailored to the buyer’s needs and avoids too much irrelevant information or features being shown.
Looking further ahead
It’s hard to predict what will happen, especially in a pandemic year, but so far our experts have done pretty well! The one thing all of these trends have in common: change. As predicted, the organizations who have adapted to the massive change of the last year and a half have had more success than those who were content with the status quo.
The sales performance management space is constantly growing and changing, so anything could happen. We’ll continue to monitor the sales performance management space in the second half of 2021, and see how we fare at the end of the year.