Sales and Sales Management Blog

February 16, 2009

The Sales Value of Your Performance Management Process

Many sales people make the mistake of undervaluing their company’s performance management process as a tool to help them succeed.

We tend to measure our success in terms of sales volumes and reaching sales quotes. But sometimes, how we achieve these goals is as important as achieving them. That’s where your performance management process can help – by giving you vital feedback on your performance of fundamental competencies. Excelling at these the fundamental competencies will make all the difference in a tough economic environment.

Go back to your last performance appraisal and have a look at the feedback and ratings you got. Is there any room for improvement? Were you assigned any training or development activities as a result? Have you followed up on those? Has your performance improved? Any competency that didn’t get the highest rating is a target for improvement, even is your performance was deemed satisfactory. You want to be your best. Take the initiative to improve and use next year’s appraisal as way to measure progress.

Getting feedback from more than one person is also critical. Salespeople tend to work rather independently. Your manager might not be the best person to give you feedback. Multi-rater or 360 feedback will give you and your manager a much broader and fairer perspective on your performance. You should gather feedback from peers, other managers, administrative staff, anyone in the company that you interact with on a regular basis who can give you a knowledgeable assessment of your performance. Under certain circumstances, it might even be helpful to get feedback from customers – though you need to be careful with this. The point is to get the perspective of others and use it to develop.

Your performance management process can also be a wonderful way to help you stay focused and on track, but only if you use it as an ongoing tool, not a once a year event. Go back and look at your goals. Ideally, they should be aligned to higher-level organizational goals. How are you tracking to those goals? Often we set them in our once-a-year meeting with our manager, and then forget them or their specific detail because we file our appraisal away in a drawer. Keeping your “eyes on the prize” can actually help you to achieve your goals.

Making regular notes on your progress towards achieving those goals is also important. It can help you with regular status reporting, and makes it easier to draft a summary of accomplishments for next year’s evaluation – you’re less likely to forget important details. But keeping a performance journal also gives you and your manager a way to dialogue about ongoing performance and tackle any challenges before they become bigger issues. It’s just another simple way to identify opportunities for learning and development.

A lot of people fail to see the value in their performance management process because they’re stuck with an antiquated, paper-based process. And many sales people avoid using it as a tool to improve because they’re concerned about the use of their time. But today’s automated performance appraisal applications take the tedium and time out of the process and make it easier for everyone to extract value. Don’t overlook this valuable way to improve your sales effectiveness.



  1. I agree and these are good tips, especially in today’s economic climate. You want to be on the top of your game now more than ever. I like how you mentioned feedback. Feedback from others and especially your manager are the key to your success. You need to know how you can better meet the needs of him/her and the company. As a salesperson you should naturally and constantly be tuning into feedback. What is the client telling you about his or her needs. Well, in your job, your boss and your company are your clients. You need to listen to what their needs are and adjust based on the feedback you’re getting.

    Comment by Lynn M — February 17, 2009 @ 9:50 am | Reply

  2. Great posting. Having run two large B2B sales organizations I found it helpful to run routine performance management meetings. We covered the past, present and future. We did this by reviewing results YTD (the past), the sales pipeline (the present), and assessment of sales skill development for every single contributor (the future). We did this quarterly at a district level and monthly at a regional level. I was a great process.

    Comment by gregdeming — February 20, 2009 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  3. In addition to providing feedback that improves the performance of individuals, a performance-management process also improves the overall effectiveness of the team. When combined with analytic tools that give insight into the pipeline, evaluating sales performance enables sales managers to adjust resources to take advantage of opportunities and advance deals in the pipeline.

    Comment by Bob Johnson — February 26, 2009 @ 2:50 am | Reply

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