You will never improve sales performance by managing your people with sales assignments.
Sales Managers must change their management style from managing people to coaching before they will see long term sales transformation.
Although sales assignments are a critical tool in every Sales Manager's tool belt, these assignments only assist managers and sales people in assessing accountability to the organization.
What is a Sales Assignment?
Let's make a few assumptions:
1. Your organization provides quality products backed with quality service.
2. You have hired a quality sales team, and every meeting with your sales team members, you go through this checklist of items:
- New opportunities
- New proposals submitted
- Conversion rates
- Closing ratios
- Contacts made
- Action items not met
- Additional follow-up actions/items assigned
Your sales people know the drill. They show up with the appropriate responses to every question you throw at them.
As the Sales Manager you look for holes in their responses. When a hole is revealed, you direct the sales person to fill those holes with a list of follow-up items we call "sales assignments."
There is nothing about sales assignments your staff doesn't already know how to do. In fact, sales assignments are nothing more than making sure your sales people are doing their assigned job.
Follow up with a client on a proposal? Got it! Need to put in a few more hours next week to wrap up a proposal? Done! A fellow team member is ahead by a couple sales? Bring it!
The problem with sales assignments is they don't impact underlying skills or a knowledge base, nor do they provide opportunities for real improvement or sales development.
Every sales person has room for improvement. "Development assignments" are coaching assignments given to build on current strengths and improve weaknesses. Consistent development assignments build on knowledge, skill, commitment, and capacity.
What is a Development Assignment?
Development assignments are not workshops, seminars, or other short-term in-depth programs where a lot of information is given at one time. Development assignments are learning assignments created to develop skill or knowledge.
These assignments are designed to provide small incremental improvement. They are items a sales person can do without creating added "chores" to their to-do list. Development assignments are logical solutions to build on knowledge or fill a skill gap.
Why is it important to understand the difference between a sales assignment and a development assignment?
Eventually new products come out, a new competitor is on the street, the market shifts, products change, and innovation happens.
To stay ahead of the market, Sales Managers must develop sales people by providing the necessary skills to adapt to quickly changing environments. Ultimately, sales assignments do not prepare or develop staff to adapt, development assignments do.
Ed McAdoo is a Guest Author for AXIOM. He is a 20 year veteran of the CRM and Sales Enablement industry with experience in a variety of highly successful private and public companies. Ed has worked with CRM systems from Siebel, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com.