Sales Performance Reviews: How to Make Yours More Valuable for Sales Managers + Reps
Have you ever conducted a sales performance review just because HR says you have to conduct one and the results are just kind of … meh? Let’s talk.
An effective sales performance review aims to review recent work and provide actionable, forward-looking advice for growth. They should be used as an opportunity to recognize your sales representatives for great work, motivate them toward continued success, and provide them with tools that will fuel improvement in their sales processes and sales strategies.
As your sales team crushes (or falls short of) their sales targets, it's crucial to conduct a meaningful, growth-focused sales performance management review for follow-up. In this post, we'll share key elements of an effective sales performance review and helpful tips for conducting them.
What is a Sales Performance Review?
Learning how to conduct sales performance reviews (or effective ones, anyway) takes some practice. But one can never have too many sales performance management tips, so on we go. You ready?
Key Elements of a Sales Performance Review
Sales performance reviews are more than a checkmark to comply with HR mandates. Including the following key elements will make your next review worthwhile for both you and your sales reps.
Highlighting both individual and team performance provides a thorough overview that will help you accurately assess past results and future opportunities. Measuring the ability to meet sales goals, gauging the quality of sales activities, and considering innovation efforts all support your team’s growth trajectory. They’re key elements for a reason. Let’s dive in.
Individual & Team Performance
It’s important to highlight both individual and team results in your sales performance reviews. Both/and, rather than either/or, offers a complete perspective to assess past performance and plan for future success.
Your sales team is made up of individuals, each with their own career goals, unique skills, and role objectives. Effective sales performance reviews must get granular and focus on individual employee performance: how that specific salesperson is contributing to the company’s objectives, the team’s objectives, and their own professional objectives (it’s ideal to establish individual goals that are meaningful to both parties).
Approaching each team member as a valuable human, rather than just employee #42, will also build trust and transparency between sales managers and their reps.
The team’s performance is ultimately tied to the individual efforts of team members working as … well … a team. It’s important to set clear team objectives, and how each individual contributes, at the beginning of the year or quarter while providing regular team check-ins to make sure the overall performance is on track to meet those KPIs. Teamwork makes the sales team function. It deserves attention in the review.
Ability to Meet Sales Goals
The ability to meet sales goals is obviously a critical element of useful sales performance reviews.
However, to gauge how well your sales team has met your objectives, you must first have established clear, actionable, and realistic sales goals against which to measure performance. A frequent point of conflict during sales performance reviews comes from preexisting, differing expectations between salespeople and their managers. Misalignment on metrics, KPIs, acceptable problem-solving processes, and confusion about the definition and measurement of success will quickly create mutual frustration and damage the review’s effectiveness. Set clear expectations early to minimize friction.
If those sales goals are in place first, the end-of-year performance reviews (or whatever timeline your team has) will demonstrate clear shortcomings and celebratory wins when measured next to those established goals. The results will show where you are today, and how you can make changes to improve tomorrow.
Quality of Sales Activities
Sales is a numbers game, so quantity over quality, right? Not always. It’s important to track the quality of sales activities throughout overall performance.
Emailing, cold-calling, prospecting. Pitching, relationship building, cross-selling. Measuring quantity metrics will give you information about activity, but not necessarily effectiveness. Quality leads deserve quality sales activities. Establishing clear quality standards and guidance, and then checking how well your activities measure up, is key to growth and continued success.
Zoning in on this will catch bad habits, and help your team avoid embarrassing sales performance going forward.
Innovation in Sales Efforts
Innovation, innovation, innovation.
Innovation in sales efforts can mean many things. Your team members may have honed unique sales techniques, shifted mindsets, or developed new-and-improved actionable strategies. Maybe your team adopted a new sales system tool like Close, or dove into a new market, or embraced a new sales philosophy.
The point is, in an ever-evolving sales world, we have to get creative with problem-solving and in how we continue meeting the needs and exceeding the expectations of our customers. “We expand or we die” kind of thing. Growth is often tied to trying new things– make sure innovation, in whatever form, is incorporated into your reviews.
6 Tips for Giving a More Effective Sales Performance Review
Now let’s talk about giving or writing up your next performance review.
Develop a Sales Review Outline
It’s important to develop a review outline that structures your approach. This will keep your process consistent over time and across employees, allowing you to track progress and organize your meeting efficiently.
The outline should include the concrete questions you want to consider, the KPIs, and potential SMART goals to develop for the future. These should be organized in a way that promotes positive communication, increased motivation, and effective resolutions to issues.
Include an Opportunity for Self-Assessment
Self-assessment is a valuable part of any sales performance review. It gives your sales reps the opportunity to reflect in their own words on their work and progress, contributions to the team, and areas of success and failure. You might also work out whether they are aligned with the company’s goals– and make appropriate changes, as necessary.
A thorough self-assessment should include:
- Articulated examples of their achievements and contributions to the team
- Performance that is demonstrated with clear numbers
- Explaining “the why” of their performance
- Where and how they want to grow
These elements will show how self-reflective the rep is regarding their performance, and will give you insight as you consider improvement plans and areas of mentorship.
Base the Review on Recent Performance Data
A lot can change in a couple of months…
Useful sales performance reviews will be based on relevant and recent performance data and tailored to the current needs of you and your sales reps. If these reviews are annual or bi-annual for your organization, you will need to get more intentional and specific with what you include so as to avoid obsolete information.
Time is limited. Focus on the metrics that still mean something.
Provide Resources and Strategies for Continued Growth
No sales performance review meeting is complete without an improvement plan. The good news is that there are lots of options; if the budget’s tight, look internally (or at free resources) and if you’ve got the cash, consider external options.
Conferences, courses, and professional development programs might tax the budget, but investing in the development of your sales representatives will likely pay off in the end. LinkedIn learning also offers some great courses (and the first month’s free); improve how you deliver an authentic elevator pitch, or about executive presence on video conference calls.
On the other hand, less costly options might include internal mentoring or directing your sales reps to our free resources. Close offers tons of resources that will teach your team members how to upsell, improve the follow up, profile new customers, and more. We also offer these handy sales guides to understanding CRMs, the ultimate sales pitch, and cold calling examples.
Work Together to Define Goals for the Upcoming Period
Something to think about: What percentage of your sales performance reviews should focus on the past vs. the future? The answer is up to you and your needs, but it’s an important question to consider as you approach your next review.
By working together with your sales reps to articulate milestones, set sales numbers, and define sales success for the upcoming period, you are promoting open communication and a motivating environment. The best goals will be mutually-beneficial, in line with your rep’s career goals as well as the company’s goals. And remember: You’ll need to tap into your communication, management, and empathy skills to make the conversation a positive and beneficial experience for both parties.
At the end of the day, overall performance results frequently correlate with employee satisfaction and buy-in. Make sure you’re including them in the goals-planning process!
Perform Routine Performance Evaluations
As mentioned earlier, sales performance reviews are frequently administered on an annual, bi-annual, or quarterly basis. But as any good manager knows, checking in with your employees every couple of months (let alone once a year) is totally insufficient.
Regular sales performance evaluations and 1:1 meetings allow sales reps to check in with you, recalibrate to individual and team objectives, workshop areas of recent success and failure, benefit from mentorship, and discuss areas of improvement to better meet KPIs.
You might also take this time to consider updating sales objectives and milestones to reflect changing circumstances and information. Did the market change? Did the economy tank? Are there new elements to consider that could skew end-of-term results? Make changes, as necessary.
By ensuring consistent and productive communication throughout the year, your sales performance reviews will likely produce better results and more motivated employees.
Check Out This Sales Performance Review Example
Below is just one example of a sales performance review. This quarterly review addresses performance, areas of improvement, and future goals, as well as a section to summarize the self-assessment.
Something like this provides a good one-page overview, while still being useful to both you and HR. You will likely want to adapt this basic framework to emphasize other key elements that better reflect your needs or goals with the review itself.
You can find some other great free sales performance review templates here to structure your next performance appraisal.
An Effective Sales Performance Review Drives Growth + Sales
Sales leaders should ensure that their sales performance reviews are effective and actionable, rather than simply a compliance measure with HR. In this post, we’ve shared key elements to include, valuable tips to enhance the experience, and an example with templates you can use for your next review– make it count.
Close’s CRM helps sales managers pull data on the performance of their sales reps, which enhances the performance review process and elevates your approach to performance management. The Close CRM enables sales reps to streamline their workflows for improved efficiency in their own work. Hit those performance goals.
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