Sales Effectiveness Planning Guide for Sales Managers


“It’s not the people…it’s the process!”




For a sales force to operate at optimum levels, each facet of the sales process must be improved. This guide will show you how to inspect, adjust and establish controls to predictably and permanently refine the effectiveness of each of the following variables.


  1. Compensation. Income must reflect the value of your salespeople while still motivating them to earn more.
  2. Sales Support. Salespeople should sell and sell only.
  3. Sales Skills. Skills must be up-to-date and appropriate for today’s market.
  4. Product Knowledge. Understanding and proactively applying the results delivered by your products and services is essential to improved sales.
  5. Sales Management. It is not enough for sales managers to be good sellers. More importantly, they must have the skills required to manage people.
  6. Training. The most effective training takes place often, and continuously.
  7. Marketing. Sales and marketing must work as a team, providing opportunities to close in synch with the sales force’s requirements.
  8. Strategic Plans. These should be forecast according to the actual capabilities of the sales force, not from last year’s results.
  9. Sales Tools. No tool, technological or otherwise, will produce results if the sales process and organization are flawed.
  10. Recruiting. Unsuccessful sales reps incur thousands of lost dollars. These mistakes are avoided by specialized screening of potential employees.
  11. Customer Retention. The sales techniques for established customers are different from those used for prospects. A 5% reduction in customer attrition can boost profits by as much as 11%.
  12. Quality Issues. Quality control throughout an entire organization frees up time for salespeople to do what they should be doing, generating revenue.
  13. Communications. Internal as welt as out-of-office communications must be consistent, reflect the vision of your organization, and be appropriately routed.
  14. Industry Life Cycle and Impact on Sales. As an industry moves from one phase to the next, skills, compensation, strategies, tactics and marketing must be adjusted.
  15. Product Life Cycles and Impact on Sales. In the same way industry life cycles affect sates, product life cycles dictate the selling environment.
  16. Time Utilization. Selling time is finite. Optimizing this time produces increased sales.
  17. Process Optimization. The sales and marketing process is the only sustainable competitive advantage, and must be optimized to effectively communicate and reflect the value of your products and services.




As you can see from looking at the 17 Components of Sales Success, there is no simple, universal approach to improving sales results. All of the components must work together in an optimized manner to make sales improvement efforts worthwhile and permanent.


Adjusting one and avoiding the others is one of the primary reasons traditional improvement efforts fail. When you understand the number of components and how they all work, both independently and together, it’s easy to see why most people still use traditional sales improvement methods despite the proven failure rate.


Gone are the days of thinking that effectiveness could be measured simply, for example as x thousands of widgets for y hours of labor, or x dollars for y cold calls. Effectiveness—the relationship between inputs and outputs—has to incorporate a new definition of output. Output is not merely a revenue stream or an inventory of product. its also customer satisfaction. For that reason, we have developed a new definition of sales effectiveness.


Sales effectiveness means achieving maximum financial return and customer loyalty from your sales efforts.


Well, it sounds good, but what does it mean? This definition acknowledges that sales effectiveness is a complex issue. To achieve it, you must balance:


  • Bottom-line pressures against escalating customer expectations.
  • Short-term gain against long-term advantage.
  • Sales organization issues salespeople can easily control against company-wide issues they can’t.


It’s probably no surprise to you that trade-offs are the issue here. If, for example, you empower your sales force to negotiate price, terms, and conditions to improve customer satisfaction, will you sacrifice the predictability of your revenue stream and production schedules? And what about a customer satisfaction measurement system? Over time, you’d amass an invaluable database of information about your sales efforts, but will the ultimate payoff justify the development and start-up costs?


Faced with these kinds of trade-offs, executives need a framework for examining the complex issue of sales effectiveness. The forms in this guide will help you establish that framework.





Below you will find an overview of the steps you must take to achieve optimum sales effectiveness. As a Cargill training program participant, you will utilize all of these steps in some form or another. Reviewing and understanding them will help you guide your organization through the course of its improvement efforts.


The Pre-Planning Assessment Form beginning on page 9 asks you to analyze each of these steps as they pertain to your organization. You will then plan your sales organization’s improvement according to these principles.



A sales force must be diagnosed from a process point of view. You must look at customer opinions (what they like and dislike about your offers), employee opinions. sales opinions, sales support functions and views, and many other factors. Far too often, the only diagnostics available to the sales organization are assessments of sales results, with no analysis of the activities that led to these results. This retroactive view of the sales force cannot provide management with information to change direction in the future. Optimally effective sales forces utilize an ongoing, activity/result-based self-evaluation system.


Strategic & Tactical Planning

Without a written plan that correlates activity to results, it is impossible to assure success in achieving your financial goals. With it, success is nothing more than a matter of discipline. A sales force operating at optimal levels of effectiveness will utilize strategic and tactical plans to measure itself on a daily basis. These plans should all tie back into shortfall calculations, which function as the ‘translator” of daily activities into year-end financial results.


Business Development

Historically, this is an overlooked area of sales profitability improvement potential. The number one reason for lost sales is the salesperson’s failure to be positioned in front of the prospect when that prospect is ready to buy. Missed opportunities occur when salespeople are prospecting or performing tasks other than selling. In other words. salespeople should sell and sell only. An optimally effective sales force has a dedicated business development function whose primary purpose is to identify all potential sales, then nurture these embryonic relationships until they are ready to become full grown leads or sales orders.


Process Optimization

The function of identifying, gaining, and retaining customers is very rarely managed from a process point of view. If you view selling as an activity that manufactures customers from raw materials (prospects), then you, like manufacturers who use quality control methods, will readily see the advantage of having documented processes. Without them, it is impossible to measure your sales activities. Without measurement, it is impossible to control a process. This is the only reason sales management continues to be frustrated with the inability of sales to produce consistent, predictable and profitable levels of revenue.


Personnel Optimization

Salespeople and sales managers frequently use self-taught skills, or skills learned in an ad hoc fashion. This method of folklore instruction has been used for decades. Unfortunately, in today’s wor’d, differentiation of products and services is becoming increasingly more difficult and buyers are increasingly savvy. It is therefore important for the sales force (managers included) to employ skills that directly complement the strategic and tactical plans of the organization. These skills must be tested and reinforced on an ongoing basis. Management must fully understand and work with the capabilities of their salespeople. A significant contributor to sales effectiveness problems is the misalignment of sales and management skills with the requirements of the marketplace.


Monitoring & Adjusting

A famous general once said: “Don’t expect that which you don’t inspect” We at Cargill Consulting Group, Inc. believe this philosophy of inspection is key to building a sales force that consistently and predictably generates profits. First, monitoring is useful only if the elements of the sales process have been previously benchmarked and documented. Furthermore, you must take into consideration the realities of your market and your organization’s unique factors, and be able to adjust your sales improvement program accordingly, based on timely feedback from the field.





To measure the effectiveness of your strategy and determine the action you need to take to improve, start by completing the Pre-Planning Assessment Form on the following pages. It is intended to be a preliminary guide to get you thinking about your sales processes.* You will get the “big picture” on your problem areas, and you will probably find hidden strengths on which to capitalize in the future.


We encourage you to distribute this assessment form to others whose job functions contribute to your sales force’s effectiveness. This includes human resources executives, customer satisfaction managers, quality control managers, and any other positions that affect your sales department’s productiveness. By involving others in the assessment process, you’ll build consensus for action planning as well as obtain other, valuable perspectives on your situation.


The Pre-Planning Assessment Form asks you to rate the activities within each of the six Steps to Sales Effectiveness. In thinking about your responses, ask yourself the following:


Degree of influence on your organization: Does this activity have a low, medium, or high influence on achieving peak effectiveness in your organization? Circle the number that corresponds to your evaluation of this activity’s impact on sales effectiveness.


Level of effort/resources: What level of effort/resources do you devote to the activity? Indicate whether your commitment is low, medium, or high by circling the appropriate number.


Degree of satisfaction: Are you satisfied with your progress on this activity? Indicate your level of satisfaction by circling low, medium or high.


When you are done evaluating each step, add and average the total scores for all three columns. Once you’ve completed the assessment form, you will interpret the results to begin the planning process.




Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Factors that improve sales Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Accurately benchmarking current activities 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Correlating activities to year-end results 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Clearly understanding the sales team’s activities 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Clearly understanding available selling time 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Differentiating between “order making” and “order taking.” 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing salespeople with monthly activity shortfall calculations 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Salespeople only performing tasks directly related to the sales cycle 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Clearly understanding reasons behind wins/losses/postponements 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Sales efforts going into qualified prospects only 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Total Total Total
Average Average Average




Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Factors that improve sales Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Developing and internally communicating organizational mission and sales strategies 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Encouraging innovation (e.g. new products, new sales strategies.) 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that products and services meet market needs 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Building long-term relationships with customers 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring effective customer service 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Implementing strategies to help customers fully evaluate products or services 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Opening new business within target organizations 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Implementing strategies to sell effectively against competition 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Choosing the right distribution channels 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Setting appropriate individual and group sales goals
Communicating progress toward sales goals
Total Total Total
Average Average Average









Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Factors that improve sales Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Ensuring that sales staff is supplied with high quality, ready to buy leads 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Tracking leads through all inquiries to their conclusion 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Accomplishing business development without using sales time 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Comparing cost-effectiveness of all business development (prospecting) activities 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Quantitatively assessing marketing efforts 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Clearly understanding and measuring marketing return on investment 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Marketing department providing leads in sync with sales capabilities and corporate financial objectives 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that the lead “pipeline” has no leaks 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that lead flow avoids supply black-outs 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Total Total Total
Average Average Average








Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Factors that Improve Sales Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Promoting teamwork within the sales department 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Sales and other departments working together in a timely manner 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Maintaining positive recognition and image in the marketplace 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing effective advertising and promotion campaigns 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Instituting a process to assess and respond to customer feedback 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that sales managers direct sales efforts that advance organizational strategies 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that managers regularly coach and give feedback to salespeople 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring salespeople have comprehensive knowledge of their customers’ business issues 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Equipping salespeople with high-tech tools (e.g., laptops, car phones) 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing effective clerical support for the sales staff 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing recognition for outstanding sales performance 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Maintaining a high level of morale and job satisfaction among salespeople 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Allowing salespeople and managers to negotiate price, terms and conditions within established guidelines 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Processing and delivering orders quickly and accurately 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Total Total Total
Average Average Average




Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Deploying sales force in the most effective manner (e.g.,  geographically by key account assignments) Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Determining the proper number of sales reps and managers 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Determining the appropriate criteria for measuring sales force performance 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Controlling turnover among sales reps and sales and managers 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Sourcing and hiring candidates with the appropriate background, skills and personal attributes 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Determining and using appropriate hiring criteria for sales positions 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that salespeople fully understand their roles, responsibilities and other expectations 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Ensuring that salespeople have and use strong selling skills 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing salespeople with in-depth product or service knowledge 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing salespeople with comprehensive knowledge of your competitors 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Bringing new people “up to speed” on policies, processes, responsibilities and expectations 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Dealing effectively with poor or marginal performers 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Total Total Total
Average Average Average





Degree of influence on your organization Level of effort/resources devoted Degree of satisfaction
Low Medium High Low Medium High Low Medium High
Ensuring that sales management positions are filled quickly and appropriately 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Developing optimal pricing structures 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Implementing organization-wide sales tracking systems 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Forecasting sales accurately 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Controlling expenses within the sales department 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing compensation programs that support organizational strategies 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing comprehensive benefits programs (e.g., insurance, tuition, vacations). 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Providing incentive programs that reward particular behaviors or results 1         2          3 1         2          3 1         2          3
Total Total Total
Average Average Average




The “Degree of influence on your organization” column in each step of the Pre-Planning Assessment Form will show you the issues of greatest importance to your sales organization. The information in the following chart will help you interpret your scores for these columns.

Average “Degree of influence” score Interpretation
High (2.5-3.0) Steps with scores of 2.5 or greater have a high impact on the sales effectiveness of your organization. It is critical that you examine these steps because they ‘MM likely include strengths on which you’ll want to capitalize, as well as significant opportunities for gains.
Medium (2.0 – 2.49) While it’s tempting to focus on the steps that received high and low scores, the ones with medium scores warrant attention too. Many of these activities deserve continued effort because they do affect your organization’s sales effectiveness.
Low (1.99 or below) Steps with low scores indicate activities that are not as problematic. While not to be dismissed, these steps are of lower priority. Be sure not to overlook individual activities that received medium or high ratings for impact. Also, you may be devoting unnecessary resources to activities in this area that could be shifted to higher-scoring steps.

List each step in order of importance, starting with the one that held the highest ‘Degree of influence” scores on your assessment form.









Note: If all steps score about the same, list them above but consider giving them equal attention – perhaps focusing on a few activities in each. You should now have a big picture view that will give you a sense of direction. Whatever approach you choose, you’ll probably find it impossible to address all of the activities within one or more of the steps. For effective action planning you must identify and prioritize specific activities on which to focus.




There are many possible patterns to be found in each of the six steps—combinations of ratings for each of the three columns—but the patterns in the chart below identify the key activities for action planning. These are: strengths, missed opportunities, and misdirected efforts. Look for these patterns in each of the six steps of your Pre­Planning Assessment Form, beginning with the one you’ve identified (on the previous page) as deserving the most attention.




Improvement                                        Activity Ratings


Degree of

Influence        Effort/resources devoted   Satisfaction

Strength                        high                 high, medium or low     high

Missed Opportunity      high                 high, medium or low         medium or low

Misdirected Effort          low                high                              high, medium or low



As you are identifying patterns, record the activities that you classify as strengths, missed opportunities and misdirected efforts on the Priorities Form found on the following page.


Strengths are activities that received a “high” rating for impact and a “high” rating for satisfaction. They’re important to your organization’s sales effectiveness, and your efforts have paid off with satisfactory results. These are activities you’ll want to sustain and build on. Beware of diverting effort and resources away from them, unless you’re certain you’ll be able to maintain satisfactory results.


Missed Opportunities are activities that received a “high” rating for impact and a “medium or low” rating for satisfaction. These activities are important, but you’re not happy with the results. These high-impact activities deserve your attention because they have the potential to become strengths.


As you look at missed opportunities, question not only if you’re doing the right things, but also whether or not you’re doing them correctly. Is more effort needed — or a different kind of effort? Consider how such factors as people, processes, and materials play a role in your efforts.


Misdirected Efforts are activities that received a “low” rating for impact and a “high” rating for effort/resources. You’re dedicating a lot of effort and resources to these activities — but your investment isn’t warranted, given the activities’ low impact on your effectiveness. The resources invested in these activities represent hidden treasures. For a greater payback, apply them to a strength or missed opportunity.


As you consider misdirected efforts, examine why you’re devoting so much effort to these activities. What would be the consequences of doing less? What would happen if you didn’t do these activities at all?


Planning: Priorities Form


Step 1: Diagnostics


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…

Step 2: Strategic and Tactical Planning


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…

Step 3: Business Development


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…

Step 4: Process Optimization


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…

Step 5: Personnel Optimization


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…

Step 6: Monitoring and Adjusting


Missed Opportunities…

Misdirected Efforts…




As we have mentioned, this Planning Guide for Sales Managers is intended to be just that, a guide, Because sales improvement can be complex, and the requirements of different industries and companies so diverse, you won’t come away from this phase of your sales improvement undertaking with a standard answer that will rectify all your sales problems.


However, by now you should have your “big picture” on the obstacles suppressing your sales organization’s effectiveness. By identifying your problems, you have taken the first step towards solving them.


You have learned that sales is an extremely complex and variable business function, with at least seventeen components that must work together to achieve optimal sales effectiveness. You have examined the six Steps to Sales Effectiveness and used the Pre-Planning Assessment Form to rate your organization’s performance in each step. You have then used this information to pinpoint critical issues and patterns that affect your specific organization. In this way you have created your own customized sales improvement framework. With this critical preliminary work complete, you are now ready to put your plan into action.


Performance Plans & Standards Development Guidelines



To teach sales managers how to develop and communicate standards for job performance.




If you ask the average manager to write a plan, assign work or perform a variety of other functions, there is little doubt that he or she will do so without ever once following a standard. Despite the fact that no plan or evaluation of any kind can ever be complete without standards, the practice is purely and simply neglected.


What the average manager does, in the absence of written standards, is evaluate performance ex post facto — after the work is done, pursuant to standards that are intuited rather than expressed. The result is an excessive need for corrective action, wasted time, unnecessary expense and an de-motivated subordinate.


As absurd as it may sound, managers fail to write standards because it simply never occurs to them, and because they almost never consciously think of standards. Although these guidelines may not provide you with the motivation to write standards, they will certainly assist you in standards development, should you decide to rectify this chronic deficiency.



To facilitate the development of standards, you should keep in mind that there are three types:


A declarative standard is a simple statement that accommodates no discretion. The Ten Commandments are examples of declarative standards because they dictate a course of action without the possibility of compromise, interpretation or discretion.


“No more than 5% of finished goods will fail the quality control inspection,” is an example of this type of standard. All someone needs to do is apply the standard simply and directly.


As the name makes obvious, this type of standard requires that a comparison be made, for example, “The firm’s gross sales revenues will always place the firm in the industry’s 95th percentile for any 12-month period.” Before the results of the company’s sales program can be fully evaluated, someone must compare the gross sales with the figures reached by all the competitors.



Whenever you find it difficult to quantify something, you can resort to this type of standard.

For example, a typical customer service standard would be, “95% of all customers polled will rate the service excellent.” (The term “majoritarian” should not be taken literally — it applies to any number or percentage, implying that a poll will be taken.) This standard is quantifiable, even though 95% of the customers interviewed may have no judgment whatsoever. In other words, the service may in fact be terrible, but the results of the poll can be measured


Majoritarian standards are particularly useful as a substitute for the judgment of a single individual, whenever the judgment rests solely on perception.


If you are selecting carpeting for the office, you should not be content with a standard that requires the carpeting to be “tasteful,” as the term is meaningless beyond any individual’s subjective judgment Therefore, a majoritarian standard will at least afford you the opportunity to spread the risk over a number of personalized opinions.


Whenever you write a position contract, an action plan or simply a list of standards, you should ask yourself the following series of questions to help cue your mind:


“Can I write any declarative standards?”

“Can I write any comparative standards?”

“Can I write any majoritarian standards?”


You will not always have examples of each in a given document. Sometimes, you will write nothing but declarative standards and sometimes a combination of two or all three. However, if you find that you have prepared a position contract or an action plan with nothing but majoritarian standards, you should rethink the issue and strive to develop some of the other types.


Keep in mind that comparative standards usually create extra work, while majoritarian standards always do. Therefore, if you use either of these, the additional work should be reflected in a series of steps (if you are writing an action plan).



When writing standards, imagine that you are an attorney preparing a legal document (in fact, performance plans and action plans are considered legal documents). As such, you want to eliminate every loophole and leave nothing to doubt or interpretation.


Assume that a standard is present in a sales manger’s position contract. It is perfectly possible for him or her to fulfill the standard and still do an unsatisfactory job, which would be the case if your competitors were doing poorly. Keeping abreast with underachievers is no great accomplishment. Therefore, the comparative standard would have to be supported by another standard to close this loophole: “The firm’s gross sales revenues will increase at the rate of 30% over each previous year’s level, for any 12-month period.” In this case, the supporting standard is declarative.


This technique of supporting a comparative standard with a declarative one (and vice versa) is something you should employ frequently. It would also be prudent to ask yourself another question when you think you have prepared all the standards you need:


“Is there any loophole that can and should be closed with a supporting standard?”


By thinking legally, you will be constantly asking yourself if the standards you have written will permit anyone to beat the system, even though most subordinates will not attempt to do that.




Perhaps the most common mistake in the development of standards is the writing of meaningless statements.

Standards which rely on such terms as “high-quality,” “workmanlike,” “tasteful” and the like are unenforceable because the judgments that subordinates are required to make to attain these standards cannot be quantified. The notion of quality, for example, has an almost limitless number of meanings. For some, it means expensive; for others worth the money; for still others, well-made.

Whenever such standards are used, the manager must accept whatever results the subordinate delivers, and that is also the case when there are no standards whatsoever! You cannot condemn as tasteless what someone else believes is tasteful.

We would be remiss if we did not point out that writing certain meaningless standards does have its place. A standard that exhorts everyone to work professionally has an emotional content capable of inspiring people, even though it is unenforceable without a good deal of arbitrariness. While such standards can serve a purpose, the results should never rely solely on them.

Another frequent mistake is the writing of standards that are simply unattainable. In :he mistaken belief that they are encouraging people to set their goals high, many managers ask the impossible. Setting foolishly high standards (e.g., “If you want 95%. ask for 100%.”) will de-motivate your people because they will be constantly reminded of their failures.

Developing impossibly high standards is a practice that actually results from another type of mistake — failing to enforce standards. The inability or unwillingness to enforce standards will certainly lead to underachievement which, in turn, often provokes managers to elevate the standards even higher. Needless to say, the underachievement will continue because the excessively high standards will guarantee it!

The solution is to enforce your standards in the first place, by literally insisting that they be met. This will require an enormous amount of relentlessness, for most subordinates are not accustomed to taking their managers seriously in most situations. Therefore, when you first introduce standards, disbelief and a certain degree of cynicism will strike your people. Since they have probably never had a manager commit standards to writing (or even announce them verbally), their immediate emotional reaction will be a combination of resistance and a need to test your resolve. Despite what they may say consciously, their commitment on the unconscious level will not be internalized until you have enforced and re-enforced your standards several times.

It’s better to not write standards at al/than to write them and not enforce them!




An excellent technique for writing standards is to ask yourself these two questions:


“What will please me?”

“What will displease me?”


If you wish to be more thorough, you can phrase the questions as follows:


‘What — if it occurs — will please me?”

“What — if it does not occur — will please me?”

“What — if it occurs — will displease me?”

“What — if it does not occur — will displease me?”


If you feel uneasy about a standard, perhaps because you fear it is not clear enough. Feel free to include an example. The technique is perfectly valid, as well as an excellent means of elucidating the point.


With respect to assumptions, one of the most critical is to assume that your reader knows absolutely nothing about the work. Even though that will rarely be the case, it is a vital ingredient in the development of standards. What your subordinate does or does not know about the work can often be a mystery to you, sometimes an unpleasant surprise. Therefore, it is foolish to take chances, especially since you don’t have to.


You should also assume that you will not have the opportunity to explain anything verbally. If, after writing a set of standards, you find it necessary to say, “Now, let me explain this,” you are doing something wrong, and your standards are either incomplete or unclear. The written word must be able to stand on its own.


By employing these two assumptions, you will also avoid the catastrophe of writing standards that are not relevant to everyone.


Any time you neglect to write a standard — or allow a non-quantifiable standard to determine the outcome of work — because your subordinate “is good” or “knows how to do it anyway,” you are headed for serious trouble. What happens when those subordinates leave?


That is a question you should ask yourself continually, with respect to more than just writing standards.




Your first attempts at writing standards might very well be frustrating and embarrassing. They are for just about everyone.


Like everything else in life, you will learn by doing, and the more you write standards, the better they will become. Persist through the initially painful phase with the conviction that it will get better. It will.


Opportunity Evaluation Form




Eliminate selling to unqualified opportunities and encourage selling to profitable prospects.




Use this form on all new accounts and for any significant order (new products, volume upgrades, etc.) from existing accounts. This form should be complete before forecasting these significant opportunities.


The salesperson’s primary responsibility is to convince the customer to change. This form will keep salespeople from making common mistakes in the process of initiating change, and will help shorten the sales cycle. They will have more selling time available as well as avoid investing time or energy in unqualified situations. This will allow them to make more money, while enjoying their jobs more.


The Opportunity Evaluation Form guides reps through the beginning phases of a sale with a new account and/or a new opportunity within an existing account. The top portion of this form requires information about decision makers or people of influence. People do not change (vendors, processes, and/or products) without feeling some pain regarding their current situation. As humans, we naturally avoid things that we perceive to be painful. Consequently, all decisions to change hinge on comparing the perceived pain of maintaining the status quo (not buying) with the perceived value of the results that will come from change.


You will win the sale when the value of the results of buying (changing) clearly, in the decision-maker’s mind, exceed the pain of either not buying or changing. Understanding how and why customers change is the key to becoming a strong proactive salesperson. The goal is to understand the buying motivations of prospects and customers and record them on this form.


For instance in the economic buyer section reps should record the name of the person who releases the funds required to place the order. The Resp and Ratg lines indicate how that person views the process of changing. Resp stands for Response mode while Ratg refers to the rep’s assessment of their attitude toward changing.


You have a high probability of inducing a customer to change when they are experiencing rapid growth or are in trouble. Please note that if they are in trouble, it may be due to credit holds on the part of your competitors. Obviously you do not want to bring a new customer into your life who has credit problems.


Conversely, you have a low probability of inducing a customer to change if they see themselves as stable or if they are over-confident about their current situation.

A buyer rating of “10” indicates that the individual is an enthusiastic advocate of either changing to your company or greatly increasing the volume of purchases from your company. A “1” is for an individual who is antagonistic to the idea of change. Reps should use this form for accounts where they are questioning whether or not the prospect will move forward in the sales cycle.


Enter the account name. As the rep evaluates this opportunity, they must determine whether or not your company has sold to this type of prospect before.


New Account. If this is a new account, the form must be completed. If the rep s selling a new product or service to an existing account, they will probably need to have as much information as they can. Never assume the account will buy. The information you do not know is information that could stop your selling efforts.


Revenue Potential. Do not waste selling time working with accounts that cannot produce adequate levels of revenue. Verify that the account can produce a profitable relationship. Remember that it is a common strategy for purchasing people to promise a profitable relationship after a short trial period. These trial periods are frequently very unprofitable for sellers. If the potential does not justify your efforts, find a different opportunity.


Competition. Who is currently handling the account? Why did the prospect initially buy from your competition? What were the criteria they used to evaluate the competition? Which current contacts participated in the previous decision-making process? What role did they play in that decision? Are the same people involved in this decision? What role will they play? Are there any new decision makers involved at this time? What do they like about the current vendor? Please note that salespeople should never ask the customer, “What don’t you like about the current vendor?”


USPs That Make Wins For You. Refer to the training exercise on USPs. A USP is the Unique Selling Proposition that differentiates your team and your offer from the competition. Your chances of closing diminish if your salespeople cannot present one or more USPs to complement their prospect’s goals. The more USPs you communicate, the more value the prospect perceives. As perceived value increases, perceived risk (the pain of changing) is reduced.


Name/Mode. In this column reps should write the name of the contact who fills each specific role in the sales process. Next to their name, record the mode that the buyer displays.


The mode of the contact reflects their view of the status quo. The status quo is frequently your biggest enemy. Therefore, reps must learn to identify the mode of the contact rapidly. For instance, if the mode indicates that the prospect company is growing rapidly, experience teaches that this contact is inclined to listen to a proposal to change. The same applies when the mode indicates that the account is in trouble.

Representatives should verify their understanding of the mode before they make any proposal. Also be careful of decision-making teams that have conflicting modes. When the mode is in the category of “even keel” or “overconfident,” you will encounter a lot of resistance to a proposal for change.


Buyers Role. All sales involve various people in different roles. If you don’t know all the people, the roles they play, and how they view their circumstances vis-â-vis your offer, you are engaged in a process of hoping you will close. Following you will find an overview of roles and how they impact the progress of a sale. Remember, different roles or buying entities may exist within one manager (or several, depending on the structure and size of the account).


  • Champion. The Champion is the person who invites you into the account and guides your progress throughout the selling relationship. This person likes you. your offer, your company, and the results that they believe you will deliver after the account closes.


  • Economic Buyer. This is the person who evaluates the financial impact of your proposal. This is not the purchasing agent, but rather, it is the person who gives orders to the purchasing agent. This buyer will pay more if you show that you can offer a desirable (from their point of view) improvement in some operating condition within the company.


  • User Buyer. This individual is concerned with their employee’s ability to implement and run the changes you will propose. For instance, if you sell copiers, the User Buyer will worry about the people who will have to run the copier. This buyer, as with all buying entities, can veto the idea of change.


  • Strategic Buyer. This entity is clearly one of the best to meet if you are selling a big change. The strategic buyer responds to presentations that show this individual how to achieve the strategic goals of the company better, faster, or with more certainty. Salespeople must find this buyer and learn where he/she wants the company to go. Identify the vision of the strategic buyer and learn what it is worth to them to get some assistance in achieving their goals. When you can show the strategic buyer that you and your firm can help them achieve a goal that is important, you will have a prospect who wants your offer more than you want to sell it!


  • Systems Buyer. This person implements new products, processes, and or procedures with existing systems. A system may be technology based, or nothing more than the informal, “Here’s how we do it ‘round here.” Regardless. this buyer will stop you reps cold if the proposal 1) impacts an existing system negative~y or 2~. he/she believes that the proposal will not help the systems buyer achieve their goals.


Goals. As you can see on the form, we have provided room for your salespeople :c document the goals of each buyer. If they are not positive about each entity’s goals. they may close the order, but they are relying too much on luck. Be careful to avoid assuming that the prospect wants your product or service. What they really want is to gain a desirable improvement (from their point of view) in some business operating condition. If salespeople are not clear about the goals of each of their contacts and the roles they are playing, they must return to the account to get this information. In other words, this form is used to help identify the gaps in knowledge of the account. Once identified, closing these gaps is the next priority.


Rating. Look up a rating from the Opportunity Evaluation Form that accurately describes the contact’s disposition towards you, your offer, and the concept of change. After you have found the appropriate description, enter the corresponding number into the chart. If a majority of the buyers have negative feelings towards changing, one negative buyer can “poison” the remainder, since not changing is always perceived to be the safest course of actions. Again, this is why it is so important to know the goals and modes of all the contacts. Reps must also sell to the different goals of all of the individual buyers.


Averaging the ratings. To get a quick snapshot of how you are doing with the opportunity you are evaluating, average the ratings assigned individually. If the average is less than five, you are probably in the wrong account or situation.


Describe the improved operating conditions after the opportunity closes. This is the most important consideration to evaluate as reps determine whether or not they want to move forward in the sales cycle. Don’t waste time selling to an opportunity when you and the prospect cannot agree on a set of desirable business operating conditions that can be delivered by your products, service, and/or people. The result(s) produced by an account with your company must have value from the prospect’s point of view. Some set of business operating conditions must be improved. This may mean lowering costs, reducing overtime, assisting the prospect company in achieving a strategic goal, etc. Keep in mind that companies and people rarely change for improvement in existing conditions. The only exception to this axiom would be account changes that deter impending undesirable conditions. (For more information, see Decision-Making Criteria, below).


Timing. If the prospect’s timing is not near-term, you need to put this prospect into the wait series. Make sure your reps are working with prospects who are in need of the changes you are proposing, in a time frame that assures maximum return on your time investment.

Funnel Position. This refers to where the prospect stands in the funnel, or the prospect is above the funnel, you should not forecast the opportunity. They are in the funnel and they meet all of the rules associated. Evaluation Form, you have a good prospect. By the time your reps are considered of the final few, they should have a very good sense about their chances. They know all of the decision makers and be familiar with the criteria being used to CL C your offer. The salesperson must understand the prospect’s collective pain as well as their definition of the value they feel they will get from changing.


What decision-making criteria will be used? If you cannot define the criteria prospect will use to evaluate your offer, you do not have a qualified opportunity. The only way to obtain decision-making criteria is to ask for it. The rule is you must ask to get. Ask your prospect, “How will you evaluate my proposal?” In addition to knowing  the criteria, you must know what they will do when you prove that your offer meets or exceeds their criteria. If you don’t know the criteria or what will happen when the criteria are met, you are not selling. Rather, you are hoping your prospect will buy, versus knowing why and how they will buy.


What is your next step? If your salespeople cannot complete the form, they should go back to the account to get the information that is missing. Whatever the next step. make sure they know what they have to do and how the account will react.




New account?

Potential $:




What does the customer like about the competition?

Which USP’s make a win for you?

Economic Cost Justifies
Strategic Plans
User Usability
Systems Compatibility
Champion Guides Efforts



Compute and enter the average rating:

Define the operating conditions that will improve after your sale.






  • – Missing information
  • – Uncertain information
  • – New buying influence
  • – Reorganization
  • – Unknown buyer
  • – Credit problems
  • – Past experiences


Acceptance Rating

10 Enthusiastic advocate

9 Strongly supportive

8 Supportive

7 Interested

6 Will go along

5 Probably won’t resist

4 Uninterested

3 Mildly negative

2 Strongly negative

1 Antagonistic


Response Modes

High probability: Rapid Growth or Trouble

Low probability: Stables or Overconfident


Timing: Needs Now, Near Future, No Timetable





Active Prospect




What decision-making criteria will be used to evaluate your proposal?

What is your next step?


On the following page, you will find a Perpetual Opportunity Listing Form. This form is a prerequisite to building your salespeople’s game plan for attacking their territories. Obviously, you want them to get the best return on time invested. investing time with either unknown or active, potentially high dollar prospects will yield the best return in the long run. Don’t forget that unless an account dies, goes out of business, or moves, there will be an opportunity to sell to them.


Recognize that a benefit of sales is that competitors will eventually drop the ball. This stimulates an incident-driven sale. In other words, incidents beyond your control can stimulate an unknown or active prospect account to buy from you. However, it is impossible to win these orders unless you are involved with the account when the incident occurs.


Your salespeople should use the Perpetual Opportunity Listing Form to identify accounts with which they want to maintain a presence. The form is designed to help salespeople get all potential prospects in their territory on a list for 12 months. The number of prospects on the form should be enough to satisfy three times the rep’s annual sales objective, should all the prospects result in a closed sale. Of course, the chances of this happening are quite slim, but the point is to shoot high.


Reps should forward the names of the decision makers and contacts on the form to your Business Development Center, as well as retain copies of them for their files. The Business Development Center, along with these efforts, will provide a “one-two punch” on accounts that will give you the best return on your collective investment.





If all managers are doing all of the things that this document suggests, they will make a! of your revenue goals. Activities and results always go hand in hand. The activities n this section should follow the schedule called for below.


Quarterly. Review each salesperson’s performance to determine opportunities for improvement. Additionally, each quarter should be marked by a formal account/territory review session. These sessions require each salesperson to present a recap of their prior quarter’s activities. At these sessions, the salesperson must be prepared to show you what they plan to do to make up any revenue shortfall. How aware is the salesperson of the relationship between their activities and the results that those activities produce?


In the event that your team sells in a distribution mode or sells to large accounts, you should refer to the Large Account Planning Guide included in Cargill Consulting Group, Inc.’s Results Oriented Selling System.


First of Month. Collect and review the forecast with your salespeople. Inspect the forecast for compliance with two rules: 1) All opportunities on the forecast comply with the rules of the Prospect Evaluation Form and the Win/Loss/Postpone Form. You must have the previous forecast available in order to inspect for Win/loss/postpone compliance. Debrief each Win/Loss/Postpone Report verbally and compare verbal with written information. Probe any and all discrepancies. You will find it most beneficial to ask your salesperson open questions regarding their forecast.


Mid-month. Review and update the forecast. At the same time review month-to-month sales for each salesperson. Add new opportunities, supported by the Prospect Evaluation Form. Remove opportunities (wins, losses, and/or postponement is supported by the Win/Loss/Postpone Report. In the event the salesperson is falling behind their result objectives, adjust their activity objectives. Ask him or her what they will do differently if they are failing to achieve your established goals.


Beware Of Bluebirds. Bluebirds are unexpected orders. While these frequently reflect sales efforts, they can be misleading. If, for example, a salesperson is making or exceeding their revenue objectives but most of their sales come from unanticipated sources, you may have a problem. The problem is the fact that the territory or accounts are making your salesperson successful. You want the salesperson’s efforts to make the territory profitable.


To avoid the Bluebird syndrome, examine the forecast on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis. Make sure that most of the sales recorded by the salesperson during any time period are forecasted.  It should rarely be satisfactory for a salesperson to make their revenue goal based on the luck of the Bluebird.

  • There are some instances in which it is very difficult for the salesperson to accurately forecast each order. This is true in both the distribution and the channel management sales environments. In these environments you should make sure that your salespeople are forecasting significant orders. This includes new accounts and/or any major piece of business.


Field Time. The best managers spend time in the field with all of their salespeople. In order to prioritize your time investments, make sure you spend at least one day per month in the field with each salesperson. If you are managing a marginally performing salesperson, you should spend more time in the field with this individual than with people who are performing. Use this time as a coaching session. Use the Sales Call Audit Form to guide your evaluation and coaching.


End of Month. Compile sales data on the team, and publish stack rankings for the sales team. Note: Do not publish stack rankings if the entire team is doing poorly A report showing that everybody is below quota damages management’s credibility. Compare actual sales on a year-to-date basis with the Activity Planner. Make sure that the existing customer base is not being neglected in the face of your emphasis on new accounts. Also make sure that the promised revenue is actually being produced. If it is not, discuss remedial plans with the salesperson. The most important end-of-month responsibility is identifying the team’s marginal performer.


For the purposes of this objective, the marginal performer is the worst salesperson on the team. This person may or may not be targeted for termination. Regardless of the eventual outcome, you will find that there is always a marginal performer. This is the person on your team who must either improve or be removed by the manager. As always, you must adhere to the rules established by your HR department.


Weekly. Conduct individual S.O.F.T. meetings. These one-on-one meetings with each sales representative are intended to keep you informed. Do not accept vague or general statements. The salesperson must demonstrate complete knowledge of all sales opportunities. These meetings are critical for rapport and team building. They should be upbeat in tone.


Weekly. Conduct sales meetings. Make sure that these are sales meetings, not social meetings. Use this time to discuss last week’s wins. You should also use this time to conduct Buyer’s Side Selling lessons (a series of 25 canned sales meetings available from your Cargill Consulting Group, Inc. consultant). Lastly, use this time to make the salespeople aware of their standings in the overall rankings. Try to be creative in your meeting planning. It may be very useful to have a customer come in and discuss their relationship with your company from their point of view.


Daily. Do everything possible to allow adequate selling time. Remember that sales time is finite and valuable. Therefore, to the extent possible, you should clear the decks and give your team the time they need to sell your products and services. If your organization presents time obstacles to your salespeople, you must remove them. Do not allow non-sales issues to intrude into the selling day. The ideal situation is one in which salespeople sell and sell only, and all other tasks are handled elsewhere.


Mornings. Meet with the marginal performer. During this meeting you must inspect the marginal performer for the quality of their daily plan. Do not allow this person to start the day without a plan. Furthermore, this plan must address their selling needs. Walk around the office and inspect the quality of phone presentations. Coach as required. Pay special attention to beginners and the marginal performer. Use this time to role-play with the marginal performer. Stress training and improvement opportunities.


Afternoons. Meet with the marginal performer. Review daily activities and verify that the marginal performer has produced a plan for the next day. The marginal performer must meet the daily activity objectives that you establish for him/her. These objectives, when satisfactorily completed, should lead to sales success. Make sure all of your objectives are measurable and completely understood by the marginal performer.


Review Proposals. Inspect every proposal going out to make sure it meets your guidelines in terms of quality and completeness. Furthermore, make sure the proposed deal makes good financial sense. Inspect each proposal to verify the document includes a Calendar of Conversion.





S.O.F.T. is an acronym for Satisfactory Opportunity Failure Threat. A S.O.F.T. report will be completed by your representatives and discussed with you on a weekly basis.


Satisfactory. With the S.O.F.T. report, reps will be responsible for sharing with you activities that occurred during the previous week which can be judged as satisfactory.


Opportunity. Salespeople must also keep their eyes and ears open for any opportunities they may encounter during the course of the week. An opportunity may be an chance to sell a new product line, or it may be an opportunity to open up a new account.


Failure. This part of the report should focus on objectives the rep attempted to achieve during the previous week but were unable to accomplish. Be prepared to discuss why they were unsuccessful, as well as the remedies they will take in the following week to rectify the deficiency.


Threat. The rep should be prepared to identify any and all threats observed the previous week. A threat could be a new strategic or tactical move on the part of a competitor. It could also be a pricing change or other significant movement in the marketplace to which you sell.


The purpose of S.O.F.T. reporting is to ensure that everybody throughout your company communicates succinctly and consistently about issues that impact their ability to achieve their strategic goals. While most people talk often, we rarely communicate about actually achieving our strategic goals. This process will keep your company on course and keep your sights set on your objectives.


  1. Describe all SATISFACTORY events completed during the past week.
  2. Describe all OPPORTUNITIES identified during the past week.
  3. Describe all FAILURES during the past week.
  4. Describe all THREATS identified during the past week.





The purpose of this section is to share some fundamental sales management concepts with you. It is very important that you read this section in its entirety prior to conducting sales training. Failure to do so will put you at a disadvantage when covering the course material. Proper preparation allows you and your sales team to get the most out of training.



It is Cargill Consulting Group, Inc.’s core belief that the primary function of salespeople is to create change. Selling is neither an art nor a science. It is a discipline. In other words, the goal of this course is to show you the correct things to do, and how much and how often to do them.

When you do the right things in the correct frequency and volume, the results are predictable and measurable.


We also believe that all sales-related activities (customer identification, customer acquisition, and customer retention) can and should be measured and managed. This module will teach your representatives how to mange themselves in a way that assures their sales success. The secret? Learning the correlation between activities and results. When you have control over the quality and quantity of activities that produce sales, you will have control over your personal destiny. Improvement is a perpetual process, not an event. In other words, this course will not end in the next few days. The involvement in improving the selling skills of your people will be perpetual and ongoing.



The heart of Cargill Consulting Group, Inc.’s programs is the Results Oriented Selling System (ROSS). ROSS has been developed over the last twenty years by Mr. Gil Cargill, who is the founder of Cargill Consulting Group, Inc. and the developer of this guaranteed sales improvement system.

There are 10 keys ROSS. These keys are presented as steps:


Step 1:       Clearly understand the results your company delivers.

Step 2:       Identify the business that may need these results.

Step 3:       Approach these businesses with a results oriented message.

Step 4:       Understand what results the customer wants.

Step 5:       Establish value for those desired results.

Step 6:       Compare the value of the results with the perceived risk and cost.

Step 7:       Quantify results in terms of dollars, hours, time, etc.

Step 8:       Get agreement regarding the comparison of cost and value.

Step 9:       Prove, if necessary, that your proposal will work.

Step 10:     Close the sale.





Clearly understand the results your company delivers.

First, your reps must clearly understand the results they deliver. What results have they delivered to other businesses? Make sure they can discuss these issues in terms of desirable changes in operating conditions within the customer’s organization. Does a relationship with your company increase profits? Lower costs? Give the customer a competitive advantage? Remember, don’t focus on the product or service being proposed. Rather, focus on the results that a customer receives after they buy from you. For example, many of our customers have told us that they have gotten peace of mind and an unprecedented ability to grow their business as a result of our contract with them.



Identify the business that may need these results.

The next step of ROSS is to identify the business that may need these results. We emphasize the word “may,” as your reps will be approaching these businesses with the goal of introducing themselves and your company.



Approach these businesses with a results oriented message.

This is traditionally called prospecting. We are going to go far beyond prospecting to show you and your reps how to build your own lead factory. This will enable them to approach a large number of businesses consistently with a results oriented message. Again, the results have to be changes in circumstance that may be of interest to a large number of customers in your respective markets.



Understand what results the customer wants.

Far too many sales are lost when representatives do not come to a good understanding of what exactly the customer wants. They must learn to communicate in slightly different ways to ascertain how the customer defines their desired results. Customers frequently misunderstand the quantity and/or quality of the results that are offered to them. Failure to communicate these is a sure way to misunderstand customer expectations, and therefore inadvertently create a dissatisfied customer.



Establish value for those desired results.

If the results the customer wants are not valuable, they won’t invest time, money, or energy in changing. If, on the other hand, the results are extremely valuable, they will do everything they can to achieve those results as rapidly as possible.



Compare the value of the results with the perceived cost and risk.

If the risks or costs of buying from your company are too high, the customer won’t change. We believe costs are rarely too high. More often than not, the customer’s perception of value is too low. Perception of value is something that a salesperson can and must control. When you help customers understand that the value of the results they will receive after they change exceeds the perceived cost and risk, they will feel comfortable forming a business relationship with you. Conversely, if customers think the value does not meet or exceed the perceived costs and risks, then they won’t buy. The salesperson’s job is to help the customer perceive enhanced value.


Please note that salespeople must look at things from the customer’s perspective.

What is important and valuable to you may have little or no meaning to a customer.

Consequently, you must communicate with your customers to understand the results

they want and the value they place on those results.


Quantify results in terms of dollars, hours, time, etc.

Frequently, the customer will not make this next step. Failure to quantify the value of the results causes sales efforts that seem to be going very well, but never seem to close.


Get agreement regarding the comparison of cost and value.

If the customer agrees that the cost and/or risk is of less magnitude than the perceived

value of the results, then the customer will buy.


Prove, if necessary, that your proposal will work.

Salespeople need to be ready to prove, if necessary, that their proposals will work. This proof frequently takes the form of testimonials, references, and meetings with other members of your management team.


Closing the sale.

The final, often overlooked step is closing the sale. Salespeople must ask the customer for their order. Research shows that asking five or more times for each order optimizes the chances of getting that order. Failure to ask for the order means that all the work your reps have done prior to this point in the sales cycle is a complete waste, and consequently, a bit of a tragedy.



The marginal performer is defined in terms of sales results. Specifically, the marginal performer operates below acceptable levels of performance. The individual at the bottom of the stack ranking for any month is defined as the marginal performer.


Once the marginal performer has been identified, they should meet with their manager to formulate and write an improvement plan- This plan should focus on the areas of weakness you have identified. The plan should normally last no longer than 30 days. If, at the end of this time, the marginal performer has not improved significantly, they should be terminated or reassigned.


However, there are exceptions to this 30-day time limit. For instance, if an outside sales representative is chronically tardy, that is something that can be fixed immediately. You should not wait 30 days if the representative is chronically disorganized, as that also can be fixed immediately. If appearance is shabby, that can and should be fixed immediately. The things that take time are lack of process knowledge or poor selling skills. These may not be fully repaired within 30 days. But significant progress can and must be shown.


Note that there is always a marginal performer. Someone is always on the bottom. This person represents your greatest productivity loss and, conversely, your greatest opportunity for improvement. In addition, a rigorous program of attention, training and improvement for the marginal performer will motivate all sales representatives near the bottom of the stack ranking to improve, to be sure that they will not become the marginal performers.



Steps for Managing the Marginal Performer

  1. Identify the marginal performer for the month.


  1. Address this person conversationally in a private meeting and deal with specific information regarding the problem areas. Try to identify the causes of poor performance. Note that conditions such as pricing, competition, territory etc. are often put forth by reps as an excuse for poor performance. The rep needs to understand that these are not acceptable reasons for marginal performance.


  1. Present the improvement plan. This plan must be in writing with goals, objectives and performance quotas clearly spelled out. The plan should focus on a few fixable things, not on everything. The plan should also establish the marginal rep’s reporting requirements. Note that requirements for call reports, summaries, forecasts and activities are more stringent for the marginal sales representative than for other reps and, therefore, must be collected daily, and not weekly as is the norm. Select two to four areas to work on with the representative. Focus on their weaknesses.

Do not forget that it is vitally important to document all employee performance problems prior to termination for such reasons. It is also important to try to help the employee improve before terminating for failure to perform. Be sure your improvement plan includes your expectations regarding future performance and that the marginal employee understands that failure to perform satisfactorily may lead to termination.


  1. Meet with the marginal performer every morning and every evening. Structure the meetings around debriefing, planning and role-playing. Inspect quantity and quality of salesmanship every night. In the course of the 30 days, bad habits can be broken down and rebuilt into good habits.


Note that it is always better to save a sales representative than to terminate one, and that the goal of the plan is not to build a case for termination, but rather to help this representative perform at acceptable levels.




On the following page, you will find a Target Accounts Stack Ranking Form. This form is a prerequisite to building your salespeople’s game plan for attacking their territories. Obviously, you want them to get the best return on time invested. Investing time with either unknown or active, potentially high dollar prospects will yield the best return in the long run. Don’t forget that unless an account dies, goes out of business, or moves, there will be an opportunity to sell to them.


Recognize that a benefit of sales is that competitors will eventually drop the ball. This stimulates an incident-driven sale. In other words, incidents beyond your control can stimulate an unknown or active prospect account to buy from you. However, it is impossible to win these orders unless you are involved with the account when the incident occurs.


Your salespeople should use the Target Account Stack Ranking Form to identify the accounts with which they want to maintain a presence. They should forward the names of the decision makers and contacts to your Business Development Center, as well as retain copies of them for themselves. The Business Development Center, along with these efforts, will provide a “one-two punch” on those accounts that will give you the best return on your collective investment.





The purpose of this report is to provide management with visibility regarding the sales representative’s progress towards achieving their sales objectives. Without a formal debriefing, as this exercise calls for, a salesperson is forced to evaluate and correct any bad habits by themselves. Implementing the Win/Loss/Postpone Report is easy. Should your reps feel these forms are additional work, you may use them as guides for discussion. The important thing is that you verify that the salesperson understands why they win, lose, and suffer postponements.


Primary Benefit. Both salespeople and managers benefit from this form. Too many salespeople win, lose or get postponed without understanding why. Without this exercise, your team will continue to make selling mistakes and have no idea that they are committing any errors. If this pattern is allowed to continue, your people will tell you that the products or services aren’t selling like they used to, or that there is some significant deficiency in your offering.


First of Month. As described in the forecast module, take a forecast from the salesperson. Make sure the Opportunity Evaluation Form is used for each opportunity forecasted. Do not allow an opportunity into the forecast that has not passed the requirements of the Opportunity Evaluation Form.


Mid-Month & End-of-Month Review. As customers buy, decline to buy, or postpone opportunities, the salesperson should complete the attached form. These forms are to be reviewed by the sales manger with the salesperson at this mid-month meeting.


Manager’s Actions. Ask your salesperson why each opportunity was won, lost or postponed. Try to get the salesperson to see where they went wrong (if they did) and solicit ideas to prevent a recurrence. Refer to the Opportunity Evaluation Form. Did your rep know the decision-making criteria? Did they have contact with all of the decision makers/influencers? How many “touches” did your salesperson complete? What step of the sales cycle seems to cause the most problems for the salesperson? What training or development work do you recommend the salesperson undertake? How will you monitor progress?


Be very careful to watch for any trends in the outcome of the salesperson’s efforts.




Account name:

Time on your forecast: ____ months

Today’s date:

List decision making criteria used the account’s decision makers:






Average rating_______

Total number of decision makers______

What were the modes:


Economic Decision Maker

Systems Buyer

Strategic Buyer

User Buyer

Who won the order? Why?

If postponed, when will they buy?

Why was the order postponed?

What is your next step?

Did you see any issues that could be cautions or concerns?

What desirable improvement in the customer’s business operating conditions will the order create?

Review the proposal for benefits that the customer values.



Dates: From:                                                                           To:

Activity Requestor Responsible Person Time
Total Time
Total Commission =
$/minute =





Collecting data about your time:

  1. For two or three days carefully monitor how you spend your time. Note each activity and the time it takes.
  2. How much time are you spending doing managerial work?
  3. What should you be spending your time on?
  4. What are your TIME BANDITS?



Problem                                 Causes                         System Solution







FORECAST                                                                      ACTUAL


Time       ACTIVITY


















The Sales Call Audit Form is a checklist designed for use by sales managers to enhance their field coaching activities with sales representatives. The most effective location for representative development is in the field. The most effective managers consistently coach their representatives in real life sales activities.


Use the Sales Call Audit Form as a checklist to provide the nucleus of a field activity sales development system. Please note, a list should be completed for each day in the field with a sales representative. Use these to help you avoid some of the common mistakes managers make when coaching.



  1. Don’t do all the selling for the sales representative. You were probably promoted to the position of manager due to your superior selling skilis. Granted, there are some benefits to you handling sales calls as demonstration for your representative, but if you do all the selling, your field day will not be a developmental day. The only skill you will allow your sales representative to practice is their ability to drive a car!


  1. Resist the temptation to save a representative in a dangerous or negative situation. The best managers are capable of watching a representative get very close to losing or jeopardizing an order, yet are able to rescue them before the final negative decision can be made. A representative tends to learn the most when they recognize their inability to pursue the sale any further, before a manager intercedes and saves the day. Although it is very natural to want to assist your representatives prematurely, please resist this temptation. This is a judgmental exercise that will require additional practice on your part to perfect.


  1. Do not save all your coaching, counseling, and advice for one lump session after a days’ worth of sales calls. Debrief the representative, no mafter how quickly, as soon as possible after each sales call. Find a convenient coffee shop to dispense your coaching and counseling. Don’t do it while traveling to the next account.


  1. Do not dwell on negative information. A negative debriefing will distance you from your representative and make it virtually impossible to produce any constructive activity through the course of the day. Instead, utilize the “sandwich” technique. This technique is based on the principle of prefacing bad news with some good news, and then immediately following the bad news with some more good news. This sandwich of information allows the representative to walk away from the debriefing with at least some positive feelings about their performance. Very few sales representatives do everything incorrectly in a field sales environment. With these thoughts in mind, you should utilize the following checklist to evaluate your sales representatives’ day in the field with you.




  • Did the representative present you with a well-developed daily plan?
  • Did the daily plan maximize face-to-face time with customers and minimize driving time?
  • Did the representative present a daily plan that included all necessary sales support materials, tools, proposals, etc.?
  • Was the representative on time for your pre-day meeting?
  • Was the representative dressed appropriately for the sales call?
  • Did the representative display an enthusiastic and optimistic view towards the upcoming events of the day?




Instructions:           Rate the following on a scale of I through 5 (1 = Failed, 5 = Excellent)


Greeted each contact in a friendly manner.

Each call was well-planned.

Effectively used a one-minute monologue as an introduction.

Used reflective questions to probe for information.

Called on the correct person.

Appropriately emphasized USP’s (Unique Selling Propositions).

Displayed a professional and positive image to the customer.

Related benefits to the prospect for further action.


Introduced the concept of closing for all of the account’s business, rather than just one product line or service.



Presented benefits and related them to the prospect’s needs.

Collected valid decision-making criteria.

Followed the ninety-ten listening rule (listen 90%, talk 10%)

Dealt with objections openly and confidently.

Used trial closes smoothly and frequently.

Responded confidently to competitive challenges.

Answered prospect’s questions with selling statements.

Collected information regarding customer’s future plans.

Used sales aids smoothly.


Obtained referrals.


Ended each call with a commitment to future action.


Smoothly clarified any improper information.


Displayed good listening skills.


Maintained control of the meeting.


Properly qualified each prospect.


Clearly understood the prospect’s needs and goals.


Closed at every opportunity.


Developed a sound understanding of the prospects.


Sold your company (as well as its products).




Presentations followed a smooth, logical flow.


Displayed strong industry and product knowledge.


Accurately established customer/prospect expectations.


Displayed a complete knowledge of competitors.


Showed enthusiasm.


Shared success stories.


Displayed a helpful, cooperative attitude.


Used the Opportunity Evaluation Form



Recommended action for future development (manager may suggest the sales representative participate in developmental activities):








Following is the 90-Day Ramp-Up Plan for new salespeople. Use these checklists to review the plan for the week with the new sales rep. Use them throughout the process, checking off each item as it is accomplished.


A copy of the completed plan/review form should be forwarded to executive staff weekly.




Sales Manager Welcome


Orientation Process

Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Present letter from the vice president
( ) ( ) Review job description, performance plan and activity quotas
( ) ( ) Present compensation package
( ) ( ) Explain management process
( ) ( ) Management tour of facilities (meet telesales staff)
( ) ( ) Management introduction of new employee to existing employees (if appropriate)
( ) ( ) Review reports
( ) ( ) Review accounts
( ) ( ) Review prospecting process
( ) ( ) Present the 90-Day Ramp-Up Plan
( ) ( ) Manager reviews industry knowledge
( ) ( ) Sample administrative forms
( ) Order forms/contracts
( ) Credit applications
( )Data collection forms
( )Compensation plan
( )Evaluation form
( ) Other internal forms
Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Sample selling material, i.e., proposals, prospect letters, media kit, etc.
( ) ( ) Overcoming objections
( ) ( ) Selling benefits
( ) ( ) Product information
( ) ( ) Competitive information
( ) ( ) Prospecting
( ) ( ) Closing techniques
( ) ( ) Approach strategies
( ) ( ) Needs analysis (if used)
( ) ( ) Complete sales representative process training





Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Scheduled field time (turn over accounts)
( ) ( ) Document your company’s features/functions/benefits
( ) ( ) Visit and document five account and fill out case studies
( ) ( ) Manager reviews all transfer accounts and introduces new sales representative to decision makers
( ) ( ) Create and present your company story to management
( ) ( ) Write and present a one minute monologue to management
( ) ( ) Review competition with management
( ) ( ) Contact and document all existing leads
( ) ( ) Write a prospecting letter
( ) ( ) Mail twenty-five prospecting letters per day to new companies
( ) ( ) Give management a selling phone presentation
( ) ( ) Prepare and present a company presentation to management
( ) ( ) Complete a weekly review form
( ) ( ) Create a weekly plan for week three



Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Spend one day in field with manager
( ) ( ) Follow up prior week’s prospecting letters by phone
( ) ( ) Identify five new account leads
( ) ( ) Schedule three initial appointments
( ) ( ) Create a list of proving/qualifying questions for initial appointments
( ) ( ) Create a sales kit using your company’s story
( ) ( ) Become familiar with survey proposals
( ) ( ) Mail 25 prospecting letters to new companies
( ) ( ) Review proposals with manager
( ) ( ) Conduct a selling demonstration
( ) ( ) Review competition
( ) ( ) Complete a weekly review form
( ) ( ) Create a weekly plan for week four



Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Complete five initial appointments with manager
( ) ( ) Schedule at least one pre-sale survey
( ) ( ) Follow up prior week’s prospecting letters by phone, document results
( ) ( ) Rehearse proposal presentation with manager
( ) ( ) Cold call or teleprospect to fifty additional new contacts (manager must document activity)
( ) ( ) Rehearse use of capabilities brochure with manager and prospect
( ) ( ) Identify/qualify ten new leads
( ) ( ) Conduct five initial sales interviews
( ) ( ) Mail 25 prospecting letters per day to new companies
( ) ( ) Complete a weekly planner for week five



Manager Representative
( ) ( ) Attend five initial appointments
( ) ( ) Schedule a minimum of three data collections calls
( ) ( ) Perform scheduled surveys with manager’s assistance
( ) ( ) Write a selling proposal
( ) ( ) Schedule a proposal presentation appointment (manager should attend this meeting)
( ) ( ) Follow up on prior week’s prospecting letters by phone
( ) ( ) Cold call or teleprospect to fifty additional new contacts
( ) ( ) Schedule ten initial sales appointments
( ) ( ) Qualify ten new leads
( ) ( ) Mail 25 prospecting letters per day
( ) ( ) Review a 30/60/90 day forecast with management
( ) ( ) Complete a weekly review form
( ) ( ) Complete a weekly planner for week six
( ) ( ) Sell an appointment to management to present your company’s features, functions and benefits (FFB’s)




The sales representative should meet all assigned prospecting activity quotas and schedule sufficient initial appointments, data collections, proposal presentations and selling demonstrations to meet performance plan requirements. Management will review performance on a weekly basis and suggest changes to the sales representative activities as required.



This is a critical first step to understanding how your organization currently functions. Please make copies of this form for distribution to your team. Please direct each mem­ber of your company to complete one Time & Task Analysis Form per day for the next five business days.


It is important that they record each category of task performed, not each individual task itself. For instance, if a member of your team spends the first half-hour of a day on administrative tasks, it is appropriate to note this as “administration.” It is not necessary to write down each individual administrative task completed during that half-hour.


During the next five days, your team should make a practice of pausing every 15 min­utes to record the type of work they have completed in the preceding 15 minutes. If a task extends through multiple 15-minute increments, it is sufficient to draw a line through the entire time taken and record a single entry for the task.


Please read the following definitions carefully. In order to have accurate analysis, it is important that you categorize your time using the definitions below:


Administration. Administration is the time you spend working on administrative, operational, or financial issues that impact you, your customers, and your clients. This is business time, but the work you are doing does not contribute directly to incremental revenue.


Examples of administrative tasks include working on a customer’s billing, being involved in shipping products, arranging for your service provider to meet with a new client, attending a business operations meeting, calculating financial records for yourself (commissions, expenses, bonuses, etc.) or a customer/client.


Pre-Sales. Pre-sales time is the time you spend getting ready for a sales call. Pre­sales tasks may include conducting research, preparing a proposal or presentation, meeting with members of your team to plan the next step with a customer, or any other activity that prepares you for your next sales event with customers, prospects, etc. This is time you spend getting ready to sell.


Prospecting. Prospecting is the time you spend engaged in activities designed to introduce you and your company to a new sales opportunities. When you prospect, you are investing your time to proactively introduce yourself and your company’s message to a group of strangers. These organizations are ones that you suspect may be able to buy products or services like those you sell.


We understand that prospecting, or business development, is a critical component of selling. However, for purposes of this analysis, please separate the time you spend prospecting from the time you spend selling. The selling section below describes selling time in detail. Unlike prospecting, sales time is the time you spend with people you know have a need to buy products or services like those you offer. Furthermore, you are spending that time with an individual or group of individuals who have an under­standing of your purpose and are meeting with you face-to-face or by phone to review your offerings.

Selling. Selling time is any time you spend face-to-face or on the phone with a cus­tomer or prospect. Please be careful to record only the actual selling time. Do not include the time it takes for you to travel to a prospect location. This will be accounted for elsewhere. During selling time, you are actively pursuing incremental revenue from existing or prospective accounts.


Travel & Waiting. As the name implies, this category covers the time you spend get­ting to a customer or prospect location and waiting for your appointment. Regardless of the mode of transportation, we would like to know how much time you spend travelling to a customer location and upon arrival, how much time you spend waiting before actu­ally meeting the contact and starting your sales time.


Customer Service. This is the time you spend with a customer facilitating the relation­ship you have already started. Activities in this category include helping a customer understand your company’s products or services, assisting a customer facilitate resolution of a problem, etc. During customer service time, you are not selling. Without appropriate quantitative and qualitative levels of customer service, however, you run the risk of losing the relationship between you and your customer.





To make the most of field coaching, the prime time of sales training, you must plan your coaching visits and follow up in detail. That calls for a lot of paperwork, but you don’t have to get bogged down in it. Checklists and guidelines in this special analysis can save you time, help you cover all the bases, and supply a lot of the paperwork for you.


Feel free to copy the forms for your own use. They are designed to be your working tools.




Notify the rep. Surprise visits are for extraordinary circumstances and special reasons only. For example, you might surprise a rep whose job is on the line to see how he or she does without prior preparation. Or, you might want to take advantage of your proximity when other business brings you into a particular rep’s territory.


One week’s notice is about right. This gives the rep time to prepare, but not enough time to stack the deck, or to have the upcoming visit cast a shadow on their activities.

Tell the rep when to expect you and how long you intend to stay.

Get the rep’s approval for the time you want, and try to accommodate a change if there is cause.

Build in a time cushion. If, for example, you plan a two-day visit, keep the third day open —just in case. An unscheduled extra day, if warranted, can be highly productive. Prepare to work a full day. Set standards by advising the rep that you expect to put in long hours, in front of as many customers as possible.

Let the rep schedule the calls. Do not dictate the work, but suggest calls on a mix of customers. Get an agreement that at least one call will be scheduled in which you will make the presentation, with the rep as the observer.

Assemble a representative information folder. Include all support data you may need in the field:

Rep’s sales volume, broken down by lines

Calls-to-sales ratio

Sales quota record

Sales profitability record

Record of customer complaints

Known problem areas

Summaries of any previous coaching visits

Pertinent correspondence between rep and office.


Evaluate the rep’s recent record based on the information you have put together:

Has performance been slipping?

Has performance shown some improvement?

Has rep leveled off for an extended period?

Are sales for the past six months acceptable? Unacceptable?

Is territory potential being realized?


List probable coaching needed based on your evaluation of the following areas:

Selling skills, techniques (which ones?)

Product/service knowledge (which lines?)

Accessory/add-on/incremental sales

Customer relations

Customer service

Plan the kick-off meeting. Your first meeting with the rep sets the stage and tone for the entire visit. It is too important to be rushed.


Don’t use selling time for this meeting. Plan it for the evening before of your first day of joint calling.


  • Go over ground rules.


  • Encourage the rep; be upbeat, not grim.


  • Explain, listen, and agree.


  • Be open, and provide the rep with all information necessary. Make it clear that you are there to help in any way possible, not to take over.


Prepare a Sales Call Rating. Rate the salesperson after each sales call, and review your ratings with the rep at appropriate times using the Sales Call Audit Form. Make plenty of blank copies of the Sales Call Audit Form, as you’ll need one for each call.


Meet with the rep early, at least one hour before the first sales call.


  • Briefly go over the calls the rep has scheduled for the day.
  • Get a rundown from the rep on routing and travel time between calls. Question the rep on routing, if warranted.
  • Suggest that the rep alert any customers on the schedule who might resent an unannounced team call. Have the rep explain the reason for your presence and get the customer’s approval of your visit.
  • Give the rep leeway to introduce you to each customer in any way he/she sees fit: as manager, sales supervisor, member of the home office staff, etc.
  • Make sure the rep has no inhibitions about team calling on a given customer, for example at an appointment that may have been made weeks ago. If the rep expresses doubts, discuss them, but let the rep make the final decision.
  • Emphasize that your role during all calls is as an observer only. The exception is the call (or calls) during which you have agreed to reverse roles. Advise the rep that, as an observer, you will respond to a customer only if questioned directly.


Discuss the upcoming call. “What is your objective on this call?” is the key question to ask the rep. Inquire into strategy or methods for achieving the objective, and ask for some background on the account.

  • – “What services/products have we been selling them?”
  • – “What share of their business are we getting now?”
  • – “Are you dealing with the top buying influence?”
  • – “Is this account solid or shaky?”
  • – “Are there any specific problems with this account?”
  • – “How might we increase our sales here?”


Ask what the rep would like you to look for. Some reps are aware of personal shortcomings and would welcome a targeted critique. A useful question to ask any rep:

“Is there anything special you’d like me to watch for and comment on, as far as your selling goes?”


Don’t dominate the pre-calI conversation. That can build pressure, and you don’t want the rep to get uptight. You want to catch the natural person at work and in top form.


Be pro-company in all your comments referring to your firm. For example, if the rep says, “Acme’s lower price prevents me from getting more of XYZ’s business,” do not validate the remark by replying, “I know what you mean.” Instead role-play the point with the rep. Coach him or her on overcoming the price objection by selling value.


Use a motivational approach. Bear in mind that the rep is about to go into action in front of the boss as well as the customer. So build the rep up with positive suggestions, rather than tearing him or her down.


  • Be supportive. Point out that this is not a test.
  • Avoid the “parent” approach. Don’t say, “You should do this…you ought to do sound-so   Let the rep decide what will be done in front of the customer.
  • Use team language. Say “we” instead of “I” whenever possible. Reinforce the feeling that you are both on the same side.




  1. What to Do


  • Observe, listen, concentrate. (After the call, you’ll have checklists to fill out and a post-sales call conference to run.)


  • Remain silent. Honor your pre-call agreement about your role. Don’t make the rep resent your presence.


  • Observe how the rep reacts to the customer:


Relieves doubts, uncertainties?


Expands on areas in which the customer wants more data?


Allows the customer to complete his or her sentences and thoughts?


  • Watch how the customer reacts to the rep:


With interest?


Acknowledges the points made?


Seems satisfied with the rep’s method of selling your product or service?


  • Be willing to sacrifice the sale. Let the rep leave without the order — no matter how strongly you feel you could get the sale if you intervened. There is more at stake in field coaching than saving a single sale. Your intervention could undermine the rep’s confidence, make the rep feel and appear inadequate, and make the customer think less of the rep — and even your company.


  1. What to Avoid


  • Taking notes of any kind.


  • Chatting with the customer in a way that makes the rep feel less than equal.


  • Correcting the rep, no matter what the mistake.


  • Taking sides with the rep or customer for any reason. This turns the call into a negative, two-against-one situation.


  • Offering a concession to resolve an impasse.


  • Making a comment to break an awkward silence.


  • Helping the rep close the sale.



  • Any sign of discomfort when the rep fumbles: grimacing, shifting feet, rolling eyes, and so on.


  • Any form of coming to the rep’s aid — even rescuing him or her from an embarrassment.


  • Any sign that you are not interested in what’s taking place: staring out a window, scanning the room, fidgeting, making notes or doodling.


  • Small-talking the customer in order to “make a friend,” instead of letting the rep do that him/herself.


  1. What to Ask Yourself


  • Is the rep focusing on the call’s objective?


  • Does the rep avoid mentioning any particular services or lines?


  • Does the rep sell top-of-the-line?


  • Is the rep lowering his/her sights too quickly?


  • Does the rep sell solutions? Turn customer problems into sales opportunities?


  • Is the rep honest with the customer?


  • Does the rep leave out important sales information?


  • Is the rep wordy?


  • Does the rep show irritation?


  • Can you learn something from the rep? A different technique? New information?


  • During the post-sales call conference, do you see anything worthy of recognition and commendation?




Fill out your checklists immediately after the call. Then hold your conference before moving on to the next call. Compress it if you’re pressed for time. There is no need to go over each point with the rep at every post-call conference. And don’t skip the conference just because a sale was made. The rep still may have weaknesses to work on, and he or she is entitled to recognition for all that was done well.


Keep the conference brief, constructive, and to the point — no speeches, no big deals.


Begin with, “How would you rate your performance?” Having the rep rate the call gives you a take-off point for critiques and lets you check your perceptions against your rep’s.


Focus on the one call only. Do not dredge up past calls or other experiences. You want the rep’s attention to stay on the call you’re discussing.


Concentrate on a major point. (If more than one, cover one at a time.) For example, if the rep failed to give a complete sales presentation and you felt one was needed, make that the centerpiece of the conference. There’s no need to rattle the rep by offering too many things to think about. There are other calls to be made, and other conferences will follow them.


Deal in solutions. Don’t be a slammer by saying, “Here’s what you did wrong…” Instead say, “I wonder what his reaction would have been if you had when you suggest a solution, the rep discovers the problem.


Critique, coach, and counsel in specifics. “You might have converted more features into benefits,” is not specific enough. Instead say for example, “The built-in thermostat is an energy-saving benefit worth talking up.”


Deal separately with knowledge, skills, and mannerisms. Each is a different area. It’s fairly easy to stock the rep with knowledge. Skill development requires a change in selling behavior. A mannerism may simply need to be pointed out. For example, “I don’t know if you’re aware of it, Bob, but you closed your eyes in there a few times, as if to say, ‘This guy is impossible.’ I think you showed your frustration. Am I right?”

Keep the rep in line. For example, don’t let the rep sidestep an action you want changed or modified. Say you tell the rep, “Jane, the two-week delivery promise you made in there really puts us on the spot.”


She may respond, “Well, I wasn’t about to risk the sale.”


If you let it drop there, Jane will probably consider it tacit approval to continue making promises that put the company in a bind.


Summarize the session. Wind up the conference with a summary that includes your major area of concern: “Harry, I think the main point to come out of this call is the way the customer fought you on price. I know how tough that can be to handle. Why don’t we take an hour tonight and role-play the price objection?”


Set aside a block of time at the end of the day or visit, maybe in your hotel room, where you and the rep can work without interruption in a relaxed manner. Have your completed checklists and notes ready, along with an outline of areas you want to cover.


Get the rep involved. Success of the wrap-up depends on give and take. Draw out the reluctant rep with questions that begin with how and why, such as, “Why do you feel the C-2 is tough to sell?”

  • Stick to what took place during your time together — what the rep did well or poorly.
  • Get agreement that there is room for improvement in a specific area or areas.
  • Get agreement on solutions to the specific problems.
  • Discuss actions for solutions: memorizing the sales presentation, expanding knowledge of competitive products, and so on.
  • Coach solutions: techniques for closing the sale, trading up, and so on.
  • Have the rep commit to simple solutions: stock their car with a complete demo kit, do more prospecting.


Be receptive to legitimate complaints. If there is anything the rep wants done or changed that you can arrange, grab at the opportunity. It may mean contacting another department such as shipping or credit, but it allows the rep to feel they got something they wanted, too. That’s important.

Coach for results, not confrontation. Dwell on performance, not personality.


Talk facts, not motives. Don’t diagnose why the rep does something; just talk about what was done and how to correct or improve it.


  • As a guideline, treat only one problem at a time.


  • Do not repeat a criticism once the point has been made.


  • Do not exaggerate a weakness, nor should you or make light of it.


Document changes that the rep agrees can be made. Write up a report or contract


that specifies coaching and expected results.




Follow-up is leverage. The rep may have made some adjustments and sharpened certain skills in your presence. But you need to keep the effects of the coaching alive by making sure that the rep’s new selling edge is applied after you have left the territory.


Renew contact. About a week after your visit, send a friendly memo to the rep:


  • Express appreciation for his or her cooperation and hospitality.


  • Refer to something positive worth recalling — a tough sale the rep made, an unusual customer or problem the two of you encountered.


Reinforce with reminders. Notes or phone calls from time to time act as catalysts and help keep the coaching experience fresh in the rep’s mind.


  • Extend offers of help. Pave the way for the rep to contact you.


  • Inquire how that new approach or tactic is working out. Continue to show interest in coaching results.


  • Encourage the rep to relay success stories, not just problems.


Monitor progress. Look for proof that the coaching is taking hold.


  • Track the agreement signed by you and the rep after the coaching session. Keep a sharp eye on call reports, monthly sales reports, and correspondence. Does the rep show signs of living up to the agreement?
  • Provide the rep with feedback about your analysis and perceptions. Offer recognition when progress is evident — a congratulatory note or a phone call will acknowledge that you’ve noticed. Better yet, put a memo noting the change into the salesperson’s personnel folder, and let the rep know you’ve done so.



Here are coaching adjustments to make when dealing with some specific types of individuals:


The Brand New Salesperson


The person is new to selling and new to the company. He or she has never been field-coached. Assume nothing with this person.


  • Explain carefully the purpose of your visit, and make the rep feel at ease.


  • Reinforce in the field any training the rep may have received in the classroom.


  • Show how to set up a routing plan.


  • Demonstrate how to gain appointments.


  • Drill in methods used to qualify prospects.


  • Let the rep watch you sell — every other call, if practical.


  • Role-play the major objection areas.


  • Coach skills, knowledge, paperwork.


  • Critique critical points but let the rest go on this visit. Emphasize encouragement.


  • Do not write up a special contract as part of your wrap-up this time out. The only commitment you want from a new rep is to work and to learn.


The Newly Hired Veteran


This person has had sales training and experience from and with other companies. He or she may be skilled in sales techniques and yet bring to the job habits or methods that don’t work as well in the new situation as they did in the old one.



  • Let the rep observe you in at least one call, more if requested.


  • Be alert for habits your company discourages. (Excessive use of pressure, ethnic jokes.)


  • Coach on product/service knowledge, procedures, methods, formats, some of which may be new to the rep.


The High Performance Rep


Stars are part of the team. Don’t take them for granted. They are as entitled to field coaching as anyone else.


  • Check for short-culling (in presentations, demonstrations) and for over-qualifying of prospects, as well as any other negative habits that may have taken hold.
  • Emphasize prospecting in cases where the rep realizes the bulk of his or her income from existing accounts.


  • Do not substitute “buddy” counseling for real coaching. Role-play, for example, when necessary. Have the rep observe you on a call if you feel that would be useful.


The Coasting Rep


This veteran does well enough to be satisfied, but not well enough to satisfy you.


  • Review with the rep your completed Appearance and Readiness and Sales Call Rating Charts. Coasting reps tend to cut corners and allow standards to slip. Just talking generally won’t help. You must get very specific about needed changes.


  • Spend an extra, unplanned day coaching in the field, if only to get the seriousness of your message across.


  • In lieu of further coaching and discussion, write up a detailed contract. Include new sales goals that the rep agrees can be made, and specify deadlines for new goals.


The Rep In a Slump


Reps who hit a stone wall sometimes attribute the problem to bad luck. This helpless attitude can prolong the slump.


  • Have the rep watch you sell on a string of sales calls.






  • Look for basics gone awry: call routing and scheduling, qualifying prospects, number of callbacks on prospects, number of service calls on existing accounts, gaining appointments.


  • Coach in sales thoroughness and attention to detail. The Rep With Personal Problems


The rep who makes it easy for you to find out that there is a problem with alcohol, drugs, health, family, money (gambling/debt) may be telling you, “That’s why I can’t concentrate on what I’m doing.” While anything that affects sales is your concern, you can be neither cleric, doctor, nor banker to this person.


  • Empathize with the rep; don’t moralize or issue warnings.


  • Suggest the rep seek professional help.


  • Cut short the visit if the personal problem neutralizes the coaching.


  • Stick to sales business if the rep chooses to continue with the field coaching.

There is nothing you can do during this visit in regard to the personal problem.


The Touchy or Defensive Rep


This thin-skinned person feels put upon by all criticism and needs to be handled accordingly.


  • Talk in terms of suggestions or ideas. Begin sentences with “What if?” or “What do you think?” For example, “What do you think was bugging that buyer?”


  • Let the rep unload some of the defensiveness. Then ask, “Got any ideas for handling that buyer on the callback?” This type of rep rarefy thinks they are wrong but feel the customer always is, so focus on dealing with the customer.


The Argumentative Rep


This person fights off everything, including coaching. You’ll need patience here.


  • Persist. “You may have a point.. still…”


  • Explain. “Here’s why I think it’s worth a try..


  • Yield, but with a certain tone in your voice. “Well, if you won’t even consider it…” Often, that line will bring a response like, “I’ll give it a shot if that’s what you want.”



The Inappropriately Dressed Rep


A sloppy or flashy dresser may be more of an irritant to you than an actual threat to sales. But unorthodox appearance or demeanor can do damage.


  • If the rep is a top producer, you may want to let it pass with little or no comment.


  • If the salesperson is anything other than star quality, just tell it straight: “Phil, the first thing I’d like you to do is start out each morning with your shoes shined,” or, “Mary, I’d like to see you dress the way you did when you interviewed for this job.”


The Irresponsible Rep


This rep has a cavalier attitude, makes rash promises, fails to keep appointments, exaggerates service capabilities, is habitually late, and shifts blame. These types of reps sell in spite of themselves, yet leave a trail of problems.


Your coaching recommendations need to be taken seriously, agreed to fully, and acted on immediately. Do not give this rep any room in which to maneuver.

The Multi-Problem Rep


A coasting rep, for example, may also be a touchy one. Your best bet is to coach this rep as you would any rep that is coasting, but at the same time accommodate the defensiveness. This may call for more disciplined pre-planning. It’s a useful approach to develop, because multi-problem reps aren’t all that rare.




Date Completed

Conduct Time and Task Analysis. Understanding how your sales team utilizes its selling day is a critical component of transitioning to a more effective sales force. Remember that your team only has available eight hours of selling time per day. Anything that reduces the amount of selling time (meetings, administrative tasks, interfacing with personnel, traffic, etc.) permanently reduces your team’s ability to produce new and recurring revenue.


Announce Weekly One-on-One Sessions. One-on-one sessions should be conducted each week with each member of your sales team. During this session, you should cover issues such as last week’s wins, losses, and postponements (of new account and new proposals), as well as any and all internal problems (billing, production, etc.).


Personal Development Activities. Remember, your primary role is to be a coach, and in this role you need to help each member of your team develop an optimal level of proficiency and production.


Identify Marginal Performer. All sales teams have a worst performer. A critical component of your job is to identify and act on this marginal performer. Keep in mind that a marginal performer need to be an individual who is about to be terminated. New employees will be the worst until they ramp up. The purpose of this program is to identify your most marginal sales representative and help him or her either improve or move on to other forms of employment. Emphasis is always on improvement.


Create a Team Stack Ranking. Rank your sales representatives from top to bottom based on current revenue. The most productive sales representative needs to be at the top of the list. The least productive belongs at the bottom. As the sales manager, you should focus on improving those at the bottom.


For this and each of the following 7 weeks, it is important that you spend time in the field with some, if not all ,of your sales reps. A sales manager who never goes into the field is a sales manager who has no visibility on how the team is performing. In other words, until you spend time in the field, you will not really know whether the accounts are making your people successful or if your people are making the accounts successful. Be sure to schedule field time every week.


Inspect your inquiry generation program. A sales team that is forced to generate 100% of its own leads is a sales team that cannot optimize production. If you do not have a passive (from the sales rep’s point of view) inquiry generation program, develop and implement one immediately.



Calculate Year-End Sales Shortfall. The smart sales manager focuses sales efforts on overcoming the sales goal/revenue/quota shortfall. In order to calculate this, take your annual revenue goal, subtract from that all revenue that is contracted and a “sure thing” (or as close to it as is possible), subtract from that your revenue forecast for the balance of the year, and the remainder is your shortfall. Through the course of this action plan, you will learn how to build programs to attack and overcome the shortfall. This is the incre­mental revenue needed to achieve your organization’s annual sales objectives.


Calculate and Assign Activity Quotas. Activity quotas are benchmarks that you will use to inspect your team for compliance with your management game plan. The game plan is the outcome of the above shortfall calculation. In other words, if your team will require closure on 50 new accounts in order to meet the shortfall, then you must determine how many proposals must be presented, how many first calls must be kept, and how many presentations must be made in order to successfully close the required number of new accounts. Keep in mind that this number must offset the accounts that will be lost through the normal course of account attrition.


Week TWO                                                                           Date completed


Conduct Your First Series of One~on-One Meetings with Sales Representatives. Use this first meeting to establish ground rules and launch the planning process.


Complete a Sales Potential Calculator with Each Sales Rep.

Keep in mind when doing this that you and your sales representa­tives must define the word “opportunity” j~entically. In other words, is an opportunity a new account, a new contract with an existing account, an upgrade with an existing account, or something else?


Calculate Your Conversion Ratios. In week one, you should have established activity quotas. As you and your sales reps work towards these quotas conversion ratios will become evident. In other words, what percentage of your proposals converts to new orders? In what timeframe? When a manager has a clear handle on conversion ratios, he or she can proactively plan the activities of the sales team to assure achievement of sales goals. These conversion ratios can be calculated either on a team basis or an individual sales rep-by-sales rep basis.


Meet With Marginal Performer. During this meeting, you must inform the marginal performer why he or she is considered marginal. If this individual is an experienced sales rep, then the meeting will likely follow the lines of an “up or out” program. If, however, the marginal performer is a relative neophyte~ the focus of the program must be on improvement and development. You should meet with your human resource department before announcing that this pro­gram may end in termination of employment (assuming the marginal performer continues to perform unsatisfactoril’JY Prior to this meet­ing, you should have established an improvement plan complying with your organizatiOn1s human resource directives. This plan should be measurable, clearly understandable, and based on activities and results. The marginal performer must be advised of the severity of the situation.


Field Time. Again, the sales manager who does not spend time with his or her sales reps is the sales manager who is on the way to being blindsided.


WEEK THREE                                                                     Date Completed

Conduct Weekly One-on-One Sessions. Don’t forget to focus on the forecast and changes to the forecast since last week’s session. What opportunities have been closed, lost, and postponed? Com­municate each sales rep’s activity quotas at this meeting.

Create Account Stack Ranking. Your account stack ranking should reflect the revenue potential of each account. The purpose of stack ranking is to understand what you are getting from which accounts, and to interpret and correlate this data into the amount of time invested by your team in each account.

Train on Corporate Presentations. During the week, you should make sure that each and every member of your sales team is capa­ble of giving a feature, function, and benefit oriented presentation of (1) your industry, (2) your company and (3), the unique selling propositions you have within your market. In the event the presentations are unsatisfactory, you should engage in basic training immediately.

Inspect Prospecting Skills. Failure to be involved with decision makers when they decide to change their vendor or service provider is the number one reason for sales failure. This directly correlates with the prospecting skills manifested by your sales reps. Inspect each sale rep’s prospecting programs. This applies to those who have a few large accounts, as well as neophytes looking for the smaller customers. Prospecting should be an ongoing program that occurs constantly.


Monitor the Marginal Performer. Now that you have established a marginal performer improvement program, it is essential that you monitor this individual’s participation and progress consistently.


Launch Client Surveys. Conducting surveys of your clients to determine why they chose your services, as well as why they have hesitated or decided not to buy them, will be very beneficial to you and your team. Your surveys should be designed to address the issues and needs of your current clients, as well as discontinued, inactive, and prospective clients.


Field Time. Get out into the field with your sales reps. You cannot manage a sales team from the sales office. You must observe the actions and skills of your team members where they count.. .in front of prospects and clients.


Date Completed


Conduct Weekly One-on-One Sessions. Again, keep your eyes open for changes in the forecast and ensure that each sales repre­sentative has a good reason for each win, loss, and postponement. Remember, it is just as dangerous to win without knowing why as it is to lose without knowing why.


Inspect Corporate Presentations. Continuing last week’s corpo­rate presentation activity, you should continue engaging in training and role-playing with your sales reps.


Determine Whether Product and/or Industry Training is Appropriate.


Monitor the Marginal Performer. Yes, it seems like extra work… but your constant involvement with the marginal performer will ensure that he/she either improves, or leaves your organization


Determine the Reach and Frequency of Your Sales Team. How many decision-makers must be contacted in order to land a new client? How often must you contact those decision-makers? How many appropriate opportunities exist within your market? The answers to these questions will allow you to calculate your current reach and frequency as well as your desired sales levels. As a starting point, you should assume that each account has two to three decision makers who must be contacted seven times each year in order to optimize your marketing message. The market penetration analysis discussed in upcoming weeks will provide you with an esti­mate of the number of opportunities available within your market.


Train on Cost Justification. “Pencil selling” techniques can work for you. In other words, laying out the numbers in front of the deci­sion-maker can convince him or her to move forward with an account with your organization. If your sales reps are uncomfortable with cost justification or ”pencil selling” approaches, you must conduct training on this immediately.


Announce Account Reviews. Account reviews should be scheduled for the following weeks to address issues relating to all accounts. These account reviews should follow the guidelines of any sound large account-planning program.


Field time. The more time you spend in the field, the better off you and your team are. Get out there with them and watch how they work. Be sure to position yourself as a coach.




Conduct Weekly One-on-One Sessions.


Conduct Month-End Analysis. During this month-end analysis, each member of your team is responsible for clearly explaining why he or she won, lost, or had any opportunities postponed. They should be able to discuss any shortfalls in their sales objectives and present detailed, activity based plans to assure that last month’s shortfall will be overcome in the upcoming month. It is important to segregate recurring revenue from the new revenue that reps are charged with acquiring.


Inspect Cost Justification Skills.


Inspect Activity Quota Performance. In week one, you estab­lished activity quotas for each member of your team. They have had approximately one month to work towards these activity quotas. Now is the time to inspect compliance with these quotas. There are very few valid reasons for failure to meet or exceed an activity quota. The only reasons that come to mind are either severe personal crisis or lack of willingness to try.

Train Your Team on Negotiating Skills. More and more, negotia­ tions are becoming a component of the sales arsenal. The sales representative who is a poor negotiator can inadvertently become an ambassador working on behalf of their client, against your company’s best interests. Ensure that each member of your team is a strong, aggressive negotiator. Drill them repeatedly on negotiating techniques. Determine Future of Marginal Performer. By this time, you have worked with your marginal performer for about one month. Now is the time to decide if it’s “up or out.” Again, before terminating this sales representative, be sure to verify the correctness of your actions with your human resource department.


Conduct a Market Penetration Analysis. This analysis is available from any number of list brokers for only a few hundred dollars. It will tell you how many opportunities you have successfully closed versus the number available in your market. This can be an eye opener. Usually, if a sales team perceives that the market is covered, their behavior follows suit. Conversely, when the facts show that there is potential for expansion, the opposite holds true and the sales team works hard to get these accounts.


Field Time. Again, the sates manager must keep in touch with their sales team performance by watching what they do, not just by listening to the blow-by-blow after the fact.


Review Results Quota. Remember that each member of your team is responsible for achieving a certain sales objective. This objective will not be realized unless you constantly refocus their attention on their results quotas. Make sure each sales representative has an action plan in place for generating enough incremental revenue, based on his or her activity quotas, to overcome any shortfall in sales performance


Adjust Activity Quotas. During your one-on-one meetings this week, you should readjust your team’s activity quotas to reflect any increase in shortfall based on last month’s performance. Remember that you should always focus on overcoming the shortfall.



Inspect Negotiation Skills.


Conduct One-on-One Meetings.


Identify the Next Marginal Performer. This is one part of the sales managers job that never ends. There will always be a worst per­former. Your job is to constantly identify this person and help him or her either improve or move on to other, more mutually suitable employment situations.


Conduct Account Reviews. The account reviews you announced previously should be conducted this week. You should use a stack ranking approach to understand which accounts deserve maximum time and attention versus those that should be ignored.


Determine Account-Specific Action Plans. Account reviews typically show glaring weaknesses in knowledge of the whys, hows, whens, and wheres of the prospect’s decision-making process. If this is true for you, these gaps must be closed with specific action plans. Make sure the action plans are in writing and contain time­tables, benchmarks, and clearly assigned responsibilities. Failure to do this will produce wish lists rather than action plans.


Train on Overcoming Objections. This week’s training topic is overcoming objections. Make sure each member of your team understands how to overcome the most frequently voiced objections facing your sales representatives. This is an ideal topic for role-play, whether one-on-one or in a group environment.


Monitor the Marginal Performer. The newly identified marginal performer now begins the process of continuous monitoring.


Field Time. Stay out in the field with your sales reps.




Conduct Weekly One-on-One Sessions.


Inspect Team’s Ability to Overcome Objections.


Monitor the Marginal Performer.


Inspect All Account Plans. A large account action plan without timetables, benchmarks, and milestones is nothing more than a wish list. It also needs a clearly written objective statement as well as a delineation of responsibilities.


Train Your Team on Proposal Writing. Proposals are the silent sales rep, designed to sell in the rep’s absence. A proposal that does not sell is a waste of paper and ink. The key ingredient to sell­ing is to determine whether the benefits outlined in your proposal specifically address the unique needs of the prospective client.


Field Time.


Create a Written Description of Sales Productivity Obstacles. Create a written description of the sales productivity obstacles you have observed as a result of the last seven weeks of activity.


Inspect Sales Team Automation Requirements. Sales automa­tion is one of many tools available to today’s sales representative. Like all tools, it is extremely powerful, yet completely useless unless it addresses a real need. The written description of sales productiv­ity obstacles created above should allow you to clearly understand the obstacles preventing your sales team from selling more. If sales force automation will impact these obstacles, then you should move forward with it. If not, identify other tools, such as pagers, cellular phones, sales assistants, etc. that may benefit the sales team.


Conduct Weekly One-on-One Sessions.


Build a Transition Plan. This plan should be written to overcome the sales productivity obstacles identified in Week 7.


Build Development Plans. Development plans are individualized plans addressed to each of your sales reps. They are written docu­ments describing the developmental needs you have identified and documented with each member of your team (regardless of his or her production ranking). These are not “up or out” plans. They are designed to help you improve the productivity of each member of your team on a continuing basis.


Determine the Next Marginal Performer


Inspect Proposals. Remember, proposals should sell, not tell. They should address the specific needs of each prospect.

Review Results Quotas. If members of your team are still failing to achieve the dollar or results quotas assigned to them, you must take a hard look at their activity levels. In no other profession does activ­ity drive results as in sales. However, it is quite easy for a sales rep to be busy with activities that will not bring in incremental revenue. Your job is to monitor this carefully. Again, you should adjust activity quotas appropriately and move forward.


Adjust Activity Quotas. If the shortfall has not yet been closed, your activity quotas must be adjusted. Increase quotas on activities that will lead to sales success.


Determine Future of Marginal Performer Determine the future of your marginal performer, and identify the next one.

Determine Needed Sales Tools.                                                                          _____________







The sales manager who works intensively, with focus and discipline, is the sales man­ager who will achieve his or her goals consistently. Follow this plan on an ongoing basis. Feel free to repeat any part of it as necessary, or modify it as you see fit. What is important is that you create a plan and follow it. Good luck and good selling!




The following form is a sales management success checklist. It is designed for the person who manages or supervises the sales manager. We consider these activities to be the minimum a sales manager must meet on a regular basis. Regular use of this form will help the manager’s manager keep the inspection process consistent.


Upon completion of this review, the manager’s manager should create a list of action items. This list must include timetables and clearly define all responsibility. Ideally, this list of action items will be created with the sales manager’s involvement.


If a sales manager demonstrates a significant level of non-compliance with the checklist of action items, he or she should be asked to complete the commitment form.


When conducting an inspection of this type, you should always utilize the “sandwich” technique of coaching/criticizing. The sandwich technique, discussed on page 3 of this manual, wraps bad news — your concerns and critiques — with good news. Even the worst operation has some correct activities in place.


While it is rare to find an office that is perfect, it is important to have an action item for improvement in place with each of your offices. If each office is constantly working on improving one critical performance component, then your entire operation will be in a constant state of improvement.

Date: ____________________________






Office: ___________________________ Sales Manager: ______________________

Activity quotas are in place                                                                        ______

Revenue/growth quotas are in place                                                          _____

Executive marketing program is in place                                                    _____

Account stack ranking is completed                                                          ______

Rep stack ranking is reviewed regularly                                                     _____

Monthly activity planners are being utilized                                                ______

Recruiting program is active                                                                       _____

S.O.F.T. reporting is active and accurate                                                   _____

Manager is maintaining skills training program                                          ______

Sales forecast is accurate and reviewed frequently                                   _____

Field coaching occurs regularly and is documented                                 ______

Manager complies with activity objectives                                                  _____

Salespeople comply with activity objectives                                               _____

All team members know and use a one-minute monologue                       _____

Win/loss/postpone reporting is current and accurate                                ______

Sales skills role-play is satisfactory                                                            _____

Activity levels exceed objectives                                                               ______

Office appearance is professional and satisfactory                                   _____

Sales job descriptions are in writing and measurable                                 _____

Sales vehicles are professional and well-maintained                                  _____

Sales time maximization is in place                                                             _____

Large account reviews are current                                                             _____

All salespeople have written sales plans                                                     _____

Activity tracking system is in place                                                             _____

All major marketing events are on calendar and assigned                         _____

Appropriate use of vendor reps/resources is noted                                   _____

Specialized business development is in place                                            _____

Sales compensation rewards for desired performance                              _____


Sales Effectiveness Planning Guide for Sales Managers

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