The second test is salesperson (and sales manager) engagement. I once answered a call from a sales engineer that was accidentally “butt dialed.” It was early afternoon midweek and he was obviously practicing with his band. I could hear him talking to his bandmates about song arrangements. Good salespeople typically work long hours, creating quotes in the evening after a full day of sales calls, starting early to check email before heading out, prospecting on weekends, and this person had been the top salesperson just two years ago. What was going on? Was he having personal problems, “sandbagging” this year to reduce his quote, or was he cruising on his sales momentum? Even before this call, the problem was already obvious and corrective action was being taken, but this is a good demonstration that despite our best intentions and abilities, it is possible for salespeople to stray. This does not mean you need to implement a surveillance state with GPS trackers and phone taps, but you do need to be aware of the work ethic and activity levels of your salespeople. These aspects can be summarized as salesperson engagement. Are salespeople prospecting for new accounts? What percentage of the time? What tools do they use to track prospecting activities? Are they spending time with accounts of a variety of sizes and types? Are business lunches with the same customers on their expense reports month after month? Unlike conversion, there are no hard and fast rules for measuring engagement. It takes understanding and experience combined with the right intent: an intent to help salespeople keep performing at a high level (not an intent to just catch them goofing off). Most salespeople love what they do and they do it very well. There is a danger of micromanaging salesperson activity that is instantly demotivating, but being aware of engagement levels is an important tool to improving sales performance. In niche technology companies, it is even more critical since sales cycles can be long and complex, making engagement a key factor in success.
Like conversion, there is a lot more to evaluating engagement, but reviewing the factors above are enough to answer key questions such as:
- Do salespeople need additional challenges to improve engagement such as more complex project involvement or sales campaigns that motivate them to develop new opportunities?
- Do salespeople have a process that encourages consistent involvement in appropriate activities?
- Are leads being prioritized so outside salespeople are being used effectively. Hopefully, your top performers’ time is not being taken up with follow-up calls to customers needing cables or adapters.
- Are low priority activities (such as those quotes for cables and adapters) visible to salespeople? There are numerous examples of a quote for an expendable item being a clue to developing a key opportunity.
- Do salespeople have the tools and support they need to stay engaged? There is nothing worse than salespeople avoiding certain opportunities due to lack of sales or other tools.
If you have sales managers, the approach is the same. Additionally, this article has an excellent chart “World Class vs. Average Sales Managers” that describes the focus activities of top performers. Next time, the most important test will be explored: resource usage. This test goes hand in hand with engagement, so stay tuned.