Shocker 1: Sales Reps generally do not enjoy weekly check in calls with their managers.  Shocker 2:  Sales Managers generally do not enjoy weekly check in calls with their reps.  You both dread these calls because you both enter into them unprepared, on the defensive,  or both, and most meetings end without anyone committing to an action item. Today I have tips to help you make the best use of your time together and even start looking forward to them!

The flow of a good 1 on 1 is:

  1. In preparation for the meeting, the rep and the manager each take 20-30 minutes to reflect on the reps’ activities in recent weeks, their progress on short- and mid-term sales goals, and obstacles impeding their progress. Both the rep and manager prepare the answer “why” and “what can we do” for each data point.  Hint:  Block this prep time on the calendar so it happens.
  2. The meeting opens with a quick review of the commitment list from the last meeting (see #5) and each party gives a short status update.
  3. Next, the manager and rep take turns choosing not all but a couple of the off numbers and a couple of the good numbers to discuss their why’s and what can we do’s.
  4. Together you make an action plan for each of the items you’ve discussed.
  5. You recap with a commitment list from each side. The reps says, “I’m going to do this, this and this.”  The manager says, “I’m going to do this, this and this.”  Hint:  Managers, don’t tell reps what to do.  Give suggestions and ask if the rep has alternative ideas.  Ask which strategies they’d like to try to get the change needed.
  6. You both actually do the things you’ve committed to in the meeting.

Here are the data points I like to focus on, and in my opinion, this is an every 2 week call:

  • Number of prospecting contacts made vs. goal
  • Number of appointments set vs. goal
  • Current sales and forecast for month vs. goal
  • Current sales and forecast for quarter vs. goal
  • Current progress on any sales incentives that exist such as a contest or annual bonus targets (Remember, earnings are top of mind for a rep. It’s worth discussing!)
  • Weighted Pipeline
  • Key opportunities in Pipeline

I sincerely hope you have a sales automation database that can easily give you these numbers.  If not, you can probably squeak by with the first two and the last two.  Every rep needs to know at least those four things at all times for as we say, what is measured is managed.  I also sincerely hope you have goals for activity categories, and pacing breakdowns such as monthly and quarterly goals.  I repeat:  What is measured is managed.

Why do I say to talk about some good numbers as well as the off ones?  After all, shouldn’t we spend our coaching time on where the rep needs help?  Let’s say the rep’s crushing it.  “Crushing it” is relative to one thing – a sales goal.  Maybe the goal was low for the market climate. Maybe it is a true boon and it’s because there’s a funding release that the company should do some quick marketing around to see even more success, or add some inside sales help for that territory to take advantage.  Maybe there’s about to be a funding take back and districts are racing to spend before a freeze.   At any rate, because performance against a goal or performance relative to other reps is subjective, presume you can improve and optimize every number – especially the ones you’re crushing.

And what about “bad numbers.”  The converse is true.  Maybe the goals were too aggressive or derivative of performance in territories with totally different market conditions – things like budgets, drive times to meetings, average number of students per district, and so on.  Poking around bad numbers should reveal if they are indicative of poor performance or poor forecasting.  I’ll give you a so-called bad number that is actually the sign of a great rep.  Low average order size.  (Ok you got me, that’s not a data point on my list for a bi-weekly 1 on 1 but it’s a good one to review once or twice a year.)  Low average order size along with a high number of orders usually means that a rep is working extremely hard to cultivate interest.

Why so much prep and reflection; after all it’s just a casual 1 on 1 and that prep time takes away from effective sales time, doesn’t it?  If a 1 on 1 is worth doing, then it’s worth doing well.  By both reflecting you have the best chance for informed dialogue, and helps you both make the most of your coaching time.  If one of you doesn’t prepare, the other can bamboozle or blindside the other.   Don’t be a pushover – prepare.

As a manager, preparation demonstrates you’re attentive – you study your rep’s pipeline and activity numbers not to find fault, but because you consider yourself their personal trainer.  You’re problem solving and thinking what can you and the company do to help this rep achieve their goals and develop into a holy terror for your competition.  You’re not a disciplinary board, you’re the safe harbor where they speak freely and openly about their concerns and ideas.

As a rep, preparation shows you are self-managing, insightful and thoughtful about your own work; using data to guide your efforts and make smart decisions with your time and other company resources.  Being subjective means you will have pressure-tested your own suggestions for how the company can help you and provide evidence as to why you think they will work—the fastest path to getting those resources granted.  You’re not begrudging the time you put into being managed, you’re open to it and grateful for being in a manager-rep relationship with someone that will give you their time, wisdom and experience.  Be sure to give suggestions a fair trial before dismissing them.

This type of prep-share-commit exercise is a best practice of effective sales organizations.  It results in both rep and manager making a commitment that together you’re about to act because you’ve decided it will make you both more successful.  Even if only one party starts bringing this approach to the 1 on 1, it will be such an improvement, the other party will quickly start doing their part.

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