Athletes train activities and fine-tune behaviours, you should too!
Clear and challenging goals boost performance
Studies show that by setting clear, challenging, meaningful and agreed objectives for ourselves, our productivity increase 10-15 percent. When the goals are followed up though structured feedback methods, the positive effects are approximately doubled (!!) (“A little book on Goals”, Christopher Svensson & Stefan Söderfjäll 2020)
Performance (Activity) and Learning objectives are not micro management
Setting and working with objectives on all levels is enormously effective and will almost certainly guarantee you a new boost to your growth. You as the teams manager need to become very good at using different types of objectives in combinations, often adapted to the capacities and experience of each individual.
Most companies we work with have sales targets for sales personnel, in the form of quota letters, with or without financial rewards attached to them (bonuses). These are pure Result Goals, and the problem is that we cannot coach or improve results – they already happened! (See our article on Leading and Lagging Indicators)
Our focus must move to Performance/Activity and Learning. The Activity, how well we perform it, and which customer we prioritise, explain a good part of the productivity increase, the rest is explained by the increased motivation through the intrinsic sensation of empowerment and control of your own situation.
- The first part, how well we do customer work, depend on competence and skills, and improvement happen through Learning
- The second part – prioritising the right customers and contacts in the right moment, improves through pro-active calendar planning and careful selection of where we invest out time.
When you define tactical 1-2 month objectives, plan the month together, and move focus to almost exclusively discuss the activity, not the result. Set goals for the activity, who to visit, where to present, contacts to prioritise. While the overall Result objectives may stay the same for a year, your road there – the choices you make, the visits you plan, the trade fairs you attend, the calls you make – will be constantly adapted, revised and changed!
Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.
As the manager, your principal goal is make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, spend more time with prio customers, and eventually having a better life, more time with family. This is important to understand, the wish to excel must be present, and rooted inside our rep. As with all change management, the desire to perform must be there before you can introduce new ways of setting goals. Otherwise you risk being perceived as “micro managing”. (See ADKAR model, prosci.com on Desire in change management )
The swim coach and you
You can compare the methodology to coaching Athletes. The Athlete and his/her coach set up a common goal. “I shall win the World Championship in 200-meter Medley”. None of us would expect a Coach to just give the Athlete the Result Objective of winning the championship and then walk away wishing him/her luck. Right? Yet this is what we often do as Sales Managers/Directors.
What does the coach do? The coach follows the Athlete through training, identifies weaknesses, uses strengths for tactics, build individual training programs and coaches and helps the Athlete to push him/herself to the limit, and cross it.
In Medley, the three strokes are carefully studied, and optimal individual training programs are planned and executed. Just like we need to balance our Platform in Sales, the swimmer need to balance training in Butterfly, Backstroke and Breaststroke. And it is the coach ́s job to cut the Total Time of the 200m distance down to a minimum. (as it is our job to maximise Revenue)
The training and exercise program that the coach build is everything to the success of the Athlete. And it is Activity Based – the Result objective of winning championships is there at the horizon, but the daily challenge revolve around movement and behaviour – Activity. The coach looks at every movement in the water. Should the left hand be a little more angled during the stroke? Is the position good in the water?
The same way, we can only help our Salesrep if we know where in the process he/she tend to get stuck, where he/she spend too much time, if he/she is talking to the right people, is saying the right things, making the right questions. Our job as Sales Directors is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow up, coach our Sales Rep to excellence!