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 with 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. As the team’s manager, you 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 prioritiseexplains 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, depends on competence and skills, and improvement happens 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.
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 to make your sales rep become successful, to sell more with less effort, to spend more time with prio customers, and eventually to have a better life and 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 a “micro manager.” (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 their 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 them 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, builds individual training programs, and coaches and helps the athlete to push them to the limit and across 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 needs 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 builds 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 revolves 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?
In the same way, we can only help our salesrep if we know where in the process they tend to get stuck, where they spend too much time, and if they are talking to the right people, saying the right things, and asking the right questions. Our job as sales director is to build these individual training programs, and by joint activities and follow-up, to coach our sales rep to excellence!