A reader writes, "Earlier this year, I had my reps take a sales assessment. I reviewed the results with each of them, finding the information provided to be accurate and eye-opening. The problem - I haven't done anything with or about the assessments since. What do you recommend?"
This happens often. Sales leaders go through the assessment with the rep and then neglect to re-visit this powerful, career enhancing document.
Look At It Again
Sales leaders taking a second look at the reps' assessments tell me they get even more good information the second time around. They don't have the pressure of telling the rep some things they might not want to hear. They've also had time to consider the results, which they see validated when they monitor or accompany reps on calls.
Most conclude the assessment captured the salesperson's strengths and challenges very accurately.
Salespeople have different reactions to the information provided, especially if they've never taken a sales assessment before.
- Some focus only on the areas needing improvement and ignore any positives. They require some time to process the critiques and take a more balanced view of the results.
- Others have no idea what their areas of strength are. They just get out there every day and sell. Having the test point out and validate their talents serves as great motivation.
- Ambitious reps see it as a vehicle for increasing their income. If they can address a few of the weaknesses, they can earn more money.
Though rare, sometimes reps shut down. They consider the information nonsense and want little to do with discussing the results.
Most reps, after thinking it over, see the comments and critiques as valid.
Prior to the next regularly scheduled monthly or quarterly one-on-one meeting with the rep, tell them you want to discuss their assessment again. Ask them to review the document before the two of you talk.
Start the conversation by asking them open-ended questions like:
- Now that you've had some time to consider the results, what are your thoughts?
- What surprised you the most?
- Have you changed anything about your sales approach based on some of the comments?
- What findings did you disagree with?
Let them talk. Let a little silence fall while they process their thoughts. Resist jumping in or arguing with any conclusion they've come to.
Together, look at the suggested areas of improvement and discuss only one or two specifically. Continue to ask questions such as:
- Have you become more aware of this since we first looked at the assessment?
- How do you think it affects your sales performance?
Create a plan for reading a book on the topic, participating in targeted on-line training, and observing other reps who excel in this area. Attach dates, goals and outcomes. When working together, discuss the particular issue right after a sales call or appointment.
Many companies provide guides or workbooks to accompany the assessments. If available, I recommend purchasing them for each rep. These documents use the same terminology as the assessment and help to focus coaching sessions.
Look for other opportunities, besides one-on-one meetings, to coach reps on areas for improvement. Email or pick up your cell phone frequently. Say to the rep, "I saw you called on LHS Associates this morning. How did it go? Were you able to try the response we came up with to the configuration objection?"
These calls remind salespeople that you want to see them succeed. It also reinforces the new behaviors the two of you are working so hard to make part of their regular routine.
Assessments aren't a one-and-done event. As a sales leader you want to turn it into a working document that you refer to throughout the rep's tenure with your organization.