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I run a team of 8 sales representatives in the wireless industry (B2B). I tend to focus alot of my time (conference calls w/customers, appts w/customers, etc.) with the 4 very successful reps. I realize that I should spend more time with the lower performers (not poor but average) but am having a hard time doing it. I need to be on one appt per week with the 4 "average" reps and also need to develop some ideas on ways to help them get more appts via cold calling and/or telemarketing. What do you suggest?

jhack's picture

The most powerful management tool is one-on-meetings, every week, with each of your direct reports.

Please go into the archives and listen to the podcast about one-on-ones from early July, 2005. I adopted 'O3s' and I will attest before anyone that they are incredibly effective tools for getting the most out of both your top and your typical performers.

Through O3s, you can better understand your reps, and establish effective processes of coaching them to become better. This isn't a set of tips to get them to sell better, but a way for you to help them develop as employees.

This isn't a magic bullet that works in a week. But in one quarter, you will see results.

"A manager should regard his position as one that gives him a splendid opportunity to render assistance." - Thomas Watson

Now comes the hard part. Sales is a very tough skill to learn on one's own. You need to show them how: Coaching. You may need to pair the average performers with the top ones. In any case, plan to observe them closely and provide lots of affirming and adjusting feedback as they do (most) things well and (some) not so effectively. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the podcasts on coaching, feedback, and delegation are excellent and I won't repeat them here. In just a couple hours, these 'casts provide the best management advice I've ever heard (and I'm no newbie).

Those four techniques: meeting one on one, providing constant feedback, coaching them, and delegating repsonsibility are the basic blocking and tackling that will allow your team to keep moving the ball down the field.

And back to your original question: One of the best sales leaders I've known scheduled time with his reps every week. If they didn't have sales calls lined up for him to join, he joined them on cold calling exercises, telemarketing, prospect research, whatever. But the key was scheduling the time, sticking to it, and working with them to develop their skills.

John

tomw's picture

I used to have that same tendency, spending most of my time with my top performers. The discussions were often higher-level, more fun, and more positive. I realized (partially from M&M and partially from my boss) that this was not an effective behavior. The average and below average performers were the ones who needed more attention and perhaps even more intervention.

Once I started doing one-on-ones across the board, I was able to better identify what coaching my average performers needed. I got to know the staff better and those who I was not spending as much time with got more comfortable coming to me for things.

I feel the need to say that I use the terms "average" and "below average" very carefully. I'm in a VERY fortunate situation where my lowest-performing employees are still in the "usually meets expectations, occasionally exceeds them" range.

I think in your situation, it's the classic MT model: one-on-ones, coaching, and feedback.

I envision feedback as being along the lines of "When you say this to the customer, this is what they are thinking" or "... this might be why they are not buying"

WillDuke's picture

I like everything above. I would remind you, as M&M did in the cast, that you don't need to make the your underachievers perfect in a day. If they improve at all, you're winning. Nurture them through the process, and before you know it you'll be the envy of all the other managers. :)

tomw's picture

I totally agree, Will.

We didn't get great performers overnight. It was a slow process of minor improvements per quarter, focusing on a different weakness each time. Over a couple years, you see massive improvement.

Mark's picture

The question of how much time to spend with your folks, frankly, is the wrong one, because most people have no clue how they're presently spending their time, and don't know what's eating up the time that would best be spent on developing their directs.

That said, there are two distinctions about time with directs. One is that a manager must spend a certain amount of time with each developing a relationship. this is often thought to be a choice...but any discernment on a manager's role and effectiveness mandates this. A positive relationship with someone is necessary to get their best performance, and positive relationships take time on a regular basis.

Thus, one on ones.

Secondly, one needs differential time with each direct, depending upon their needs. The better the relationship, believe it or not, the LESS time you need differentially.

And here's what surprises people: after all that (and all that is NOT trivial) an effective manager ends up spending more time with her TOP performers than her bottom performers. An hour spent with a top performer (on topics that will improve performance as opposed to random communications or misplaced friendship) will have a greater economic benefit to the firm, all other things being equal (which they never are), than an hour spent with a bottom performer.

The difference isn't substantial - it's not 2-3 times as much. But it does become noticeable.

This could be a LONG post...but that's the basics.

Mark

vinnie2k's picture

[quote="tomwaltz"]The average and below average performers were the ones who needed more attention and perhaps even more intervention.
[/quote]

But not more time :-)

Try "First, Break All The Rules": good managers actually do spend the most time with their top performers. That's an empiric fact-based statement by the way, not my personal theory :-)

So yes, bottom performers need attention and intervention, but M&M have two greats tools to address this (O3 and Coaching). You don't need more time to implement these.

thaGUma's picture

For the parents among us. Reward good behaviour with attention. Top performers get the lions share. Average and lower get rewarded when they perform like the top performers.

vinnie2k's picture

[quote="donnachie"]For the parents among us. Reward good behaviour with attention. Top performers get the lions share. Average and lower get rewarded when they perform like the top performers.[/quote]
Off on a tangent, but imagine the message you're delivering when you only take care of your kids when they do something wrong...

thaGUma's picture

Nope ... good kids get the ice cream

Mark's picture

Love the comments....

And WATCH OUT... comparing directs to kids, even casually, is a recipe for disaster. The parallels are easy to see...when you're the boss.

But what if you heard YOUR boss say, "they remind me of my kids", or, "some of the same basic stuff works with them like it does with my kids."

Ouch.

Mark

vinnie2k's picture

[quote="mahorstman"]Love the comments....

And WATCH OUT... comparing directs to kids, even casually, is a recipe for disaster. The parallels are easy to see...when you're the boss.

But what if you heard YOUR boss say, "they remind me of my kids", or, "some of the same basic stuff works with them like it does with my kids."

Ouch.

Mark[/quote]
Absolutely, which is why I mentioned going off on a tangent.

thaGUma's picture

OK kids is a simplistic comparable. The idea that people see comparison with children as somehow demeaning is understandable and, to my eyes, strange. it wasn't long ago that we were children and a significant part of our make-up comes from that time.

The same technique of rewarding good behaviour is used in a lot of industry. Gold stars, incentive programs etc. The only hard bit is to ignore bad behaiour unless it is impactful (wow is that a word?).

News yesterday. Kid came home late. Mother took house keys away, stopped allowance and took son to police station. This kid was 61 (Italy). Sometimes all we are is big kids.

spiffdeb's picture

I think the best way to build your average performers is to also give them [b]ongoing real-time coaching [/b][b]as you encounter things in their performance that you would like to change.[/b] Top performers get to be top performers because someone took the time to share and build their skills.

I view my most important job as a leader to develop those middle performers. That is where you can really change your business/department/team. The most effective way to do this is real-time ongoing coaching as situations present themselves - don't wait for the weekly one on one for this type of discussion and coaching.