As the first quarter comes to an end, it’s appropriate to review your department goals and measure your progress. Will your sales team hit the quarterly benchmarks for your department’s strategic initiatives? Have they made significant headway? Or, have they fallen behind already?
Many companies invest a significant amount of time and energy developing their goals and strategic plans. The identified initiatives are then given to the appropriate departments with the expectations that the departments will take the necessary actions to achieve them.
Strategic initiatives given to sales managers, who must then convert them into specific quantifiable sales goals, may include:
• Expand sales into new territories
• Increase market share in existing territories
• Increase sales volume and/or profitability of one or more product lines
• Expand the product mix in a particular customer base
• Introduce new product lines
• Improve the profitability of one or more customer categories
Once specific goals have been developed, sales managers assign them to the sales teams with the expectation that the teams will take the required actions to achieve those goals. Sometimes, the goals are accepted with little protest; other times, there is significant grumbling. Nonetheless, the teams go to work.
At the quarterly review, what do many sales managers discover? The sales teams are on track with their overall sales goals, but a closer examination often reveals that they are off track with some of the specific goals defined by the corporate initiatives. The sales teams are given the requisite pep talks (or perhaps reprimands) and reminders of the specific goals, and then sent back to work.
At the next quarterly review, what has changed? Not much. The teams are still on track with their overall number, but the numbers tied to some of the specific category goals are still askew.
When the specific goals were initially given to the sales teams, the team members were expected to transform those goals into workable sales and territory plans they would then execute. But, there was little, if any, time dedicated to the task of actually developing those plans. Consequently, the salespeople hit the streets continuing to do what they have always done while making perhaps a token effort to identify and develop opportunities related to the various goals.
For the most part, salespeople are not concerned with or committed to corporate initiatives in which they had no input. Their real commitment is to generating sales and earning commission—end of story. And, if there is not a specific plan to which they are being held accountable, the salespeople will take the path of least resistance even if that path doesn’t help them achieve all of the individual corporate goals. In their minds, a sale is a sale, regardless of whether it is for an existing product or service to an existing customer or a new product or service to a new customer in a new territory. If a salesperson falls short of his “new business” quota, for instance, but is above quota with existing customers, in his mind, he is still “hitting his numbers.”
If you are responsible for translating corporate initiatives into specific department goals, it is imperative that you invest time developing a detailed plan of accomplishment to accompany the quotas you assign. Most importantly, make it a point to involve your sales team in the planning stage. After all, they will be responsible for making the plan work. You can’t have all the answers and knowledge regarding markets, customers, and products. Involving your people in the planning process can provide you with additional perspective and insight. And, more significantly, their participation in the development of the plan gives them ownership in it…which increases their buy-in and commitment to it.