In a perfect world, sales professionals would be evaluated on their ability to achieve quotas and generate revenues. But such clear-cut metrics don't work in today's economy, when even A Players can only stand by and watch helplessly as their numbers plummet.
The reality is that companies are scaling back purchases, including products and services that were once considered recession-proof. To punish top talent for failing to grow sales in an economy where no one is buying will ultimately backfire when individuals seek employment with a competitor who understands that there is more to selling than closing every deal-especially in a bad economy.
Financial goals are important, but they cannot be the sole determinant of performance in down times. Other criteria such as net activity levels, attitude and motivation are equally important, as they demonstrate an individual's efforts to keep the company visible in the marketplace.
Are your sales professionals showing up every day with a positive outlook? Are they aggressive and proactive at identifying new prospects? Are they doing what it takes to close sales in a bad economy by working harder to build out their prospect pipelines to achieve the volume necessary to generate returns?
Indeed, even if their numbers have slipped, top sales professionals with a deep understanding of the company's products and services remain the best weapons in this economy. The key is to arm them with the information and tools they need to succeed.
"Candidates with good business acumen are at an advantage since they can discuss the financial perspective with respect to the business benefits their customers and clients will receive from their products," notes Dave Stein, CEO of ES Research Group, which analyzes and advises companies on sales training and performance. "With that being said, it's so important for a sales leader to understand the skills and traits of any candidates. For example, someone with all the skills but a relatively pessimistic perspective isn't going to do well now."
Stein recommends psychometric and predictive testing to better-understand a sales professional's perspective and personality traits to ensure they are suited to thrive in a down economy. But he also points out that success is not solely dependent upon abilities. Rather, it is "the responsibility of the company to make sure their products, services, value articulation, marketing, customer service, references, etc. are all in place. Some of that has to be rebuilt for positioning in this economy."
In other words, rather than punishing the sales team for missing unrealistic quotas, companies should focus on motivation and training to give them the tools they need to be more effective.
While ES Research specializes in providing companies with the tools and strategies they need to keep sales teams motivated and effective, others such as The Brooks Group offer training programs specifically for selling in down economies.
Investing in these services and refocusing the criteria by which sales performance is measured are solid strategies to ensure that a company has the sales team it needs to survive the economic downturn and position itself to thrive once it turns around.