Survey Results and Report: "The State of Motivating Salespeople in 2016"

Posted by James Pember on 6/1/16 4:49 PM

For the second year in a row, we surveyed over 200 sales managers, sales directors and VP Sales to gain insight into sales management heading into the mid-part of 2016. With this short report, we aim to highlight some of the ways in which sales management is changing, but also touch on some of the area’s where we are clearly lagging behind.

Modern Sales Performance Management is all about ACTIONS, not OUTCOMES

Posted by James Pember on 5/16/16 10:37 AM

Being able to quantify performance inside an organization is one of the hallmarks of efficient management. Knowing exactly how your employees are tracking against goals and targets allows you to be able to react, coach and change direction as necessary.

However, there is a fine line between measuring KPI’s and full-on micro-management. That line is becoming finer and finer with each new generation of staff that come through our businesses.

I’ve written a lot about managing millennials (those born after 1980), and there is little doubt that when it comes to managing performance, the times, they are a’changing.

First though, a little background

Former GE CEO Jack Welch is often attributed to popularizing an intense focus on KPIs and annual performance reviews. Every year, the GE management would rank their staff on a number of core KPIs, and then fire the bottom 10%.

Staff would be placed on a curve, comprised of “A Players”, “B Players” and “C Players”. A players would be showered with bonuses and praise, B Players are are tolerated because they are such a large group and are often seen as the “core performers” and C players are let go.

During the 80’s and the following decades, this “rank and yank” methodology was picked up by the world’s biggest enterprises including IBM, Accenture, Adobe, Yahoo, HP, Cisco and many more. According to Dick Grote, a consultant who specializes on the topic, 60% of the Fortune 500 companies used some form of ranking in 2012.

Suffice to say, ranking and an intense focus on core KPIs has become a hallmark of business school teachings and operational management. However, what does the future hold for performance management?

A new era of management

As you may have already guessed, this level of ranking has become less popular over the years. I don’t want to dig into the theoretical details of why stacked ranking and Welch’s “Rank and Yank” model is becoming less popular, there are plenty of great articles to read on that topic. Here are a few.

What I want to focus on today is whether we should continue to vigorously rank and rate our salespeople.  

Sales is obviously a hyper-quantifiable function, where progress can be measured extremely efficiently and easily. In addition, sales is also an already competitive occupation, based on a) the easily measurable nature of sales, but more importantly b) the fact that most salespeople have a competitive personality type.

Whilst you must measure and track progress in order to drive engagement, the best way in which you do so is almost the most important question on the minds of management and sales leaders today.

“Command and control is what Jack was famous for. Now it’s about connection and inspiration”.

I love that quote above. Whilst the “stacked ranking” methodology was very much about Command and Control, the best managers now are thinking about Connection and Inspiration.

The key to engaging your staff is to give them purpose, make them feel recognised and steer them to perform the behaviours that lead to successful work.

The future of performance management

Adobe, GE and Accenture are just 3 examples of Fortune 500 companies who have ditched Annual Performance Reviews in over the past 36 months.

Interestingly, GE who popularized the rank and yank methodology, have also given it up - moving towards a more continuous feedback system, not purely focused on performance KPI’s, but pulling in other sources as well such as engagement and customer satisfaction.

When I think about the future of performance management, I think about 3 fundamental shifts that I think will define how we manage and measure our productivity and staff:

  1. A move from Annual to Continuous Feedback Loops
  2. Less focus on the past, more on the future
  3. More focus on softer values and “core behaviours” rather than purely results (remember, the right actions lead to the right outcomes - measure actions, not outcomes)

The world isn’t really on an annual cycle anymore for anything. I think some of it to be really honest is millennial based. It’s the way millennials are used to working and getting feedback, which is more frequent, faster, mobile-enabled, so there were multiple drivers that said it’s time to make this big change.Susan Peters told Quartz.

Ok, so finally - should we continue to rank and rate our salespeople?

The short answer is yes. Sales is a fundamentally measurable work and output must be measured. However, the ways in which we measure, report and deliver feedback must change. 

Performance Reviews look in the rear view mirror, and tell us how we performed last year. Best-in-class organisations will review performance on an ongoing basis and steer direction continuously based on that. Pretty exciting if you ask me.


"Comments" are now "Details" in competitions!

Posted by Anders Hassis on 5/3/16 4:02 PM

We have added a custom field called "Details" by default when creating a competition. This is where your users can type in additional administrative information relating to the activity they are logging. You can find these entries, and more, inside the "Logs" tab once inside the competition.

By removing the old "Comments" field when logging an activity, we've made the chat feed more engaging, social and relevant. Post as many photos as you want and never lose them in the ocean of activity logs again. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Can you build high performance sales culture in regulated and sensitive industries such as banking and healthcare?

Posted by James Pember on 5/3/16 9:05 AM

There has been quite some debate recently as to whether “sensitive” industries such as Financial Services, Healthcare and Elderly Services should run activities such as sales competitions, or use a variable compensation model built on commissions and bonuses.

Many critics have commented that staff within these industries should be only incentivised to think of the customer, not their own wallet. In other words, the incentives must align the goals of the customer with the goal of the staff member.

Many of these industries, for example financial services, are so heavily regulated that staff are not actually allowed to “sell”, rather they can only inform prospective clients and customers of their product or service.

With this in mind then, how should a leader within one of these companies think about driving high performance and a culture of improvement, quality and progress?

Bottom line, regardless of industry, great teams in any company are driven by a will to succeed, to improve and endlessly improve the value they deliver to their customers.

However, in these industries - measuring and ranking your staff on financial results (as such total value of insurance sold in $$$) does leave you open to being criticised and of course, the risk is that your sales reps goals are not aligned with the goals of your customer.

Here are 2 simple ways you can focus on building a high performance culture within a regulated or sensitive industry:

Measure Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

As I noted above, to run a high performance sales team, that doesn’t encroach on the rules and regulations, you must incentivize your staff to work in the best interests of the customers. Measure loyalty and satisfaction and reward and recognise your top performers by this metric instead.

Measure Activity Levels and Core Behaviours

As a leader, analyse which behaviours, KPIs or activities correlate with success and satisfied customers - and then measure and compete on those vigorously. That could be - time on the phone with customers, it could be  solved cases per day per rep or even dollars saved per customer.

Running a high performance sales team inside a regulated, sensitive industry is tough - but a simple tweaking of which metrics you measure and incentivise can lead to solid results and get you closer to running a high performance team.


Will we need salespeople in 2030? Yes, sales isn’t going anywhere, and here’s the stat that makes me so sure.

Posted by James Pember on 4/25/16 10:15 AM

At the start of every year, I read a handful of articles online predicting “The Death of The Salesperson”. E-commerce, the internet and an increasingly globalized world have many predicting the death of the salesperson. 2016 they say, is the year that we finally get rid of those pesky salespeople.

New Feature: View your Sparta competition schedule in your Outlook calendar or Google Calendar

Posted by Anders Hassis on 4/18/16 11:50 AM

Whether we like it or not, we all live in and live by our calendars. That’s why today we’re making it even easier to keep track of your team’s Sparta usage within your calendar. From today, you can now see all of your Sparta competitions within your calendar view, so you can see what is ongoing and more importantly, what’s coming up around the corner.


Being a sales manager today is an impossible task. The future is bright though.

Posted by James Pember on 4/11/16 5:38 PM

I was watching a video from global consulting firm BTS the other day, and I was particularly struck by something that Lou Schachter said.

Managing sales teams in the era of #winning

Posted by James Pember on 4/4/16 8:50 AM

An MTV survey from 2011 noted that 60% of surveyed millennials thought that “#winning was the slogan of their generation. This statistic, whilst somewhat amusing is however highly relevant for sales leaders whose teams are increasingly made up for younger, millennial salespeople.

The importance of “fun” inside a sales environment

Posted by James Pember on 3/17/16 11:23 AM

If your sales organization is crushing it, but no one is enjoying themselves, if no one is laughing, if few people are having fun, you haven’t built a world class organization. You’ve built a sales factory and nothing more and that’s nothing to be proud of.” A Sales Guy

For sales teams, transparency is the new black

Posted by James Pember on 3/8/16 8:00 AM

I was reading a great article on TechCrunch the other day entitled, Digital Transformation Requires Total Organizational Commitment. It touched on people, digital change and how enterprises need to adapt to the changing business environment that technology has forced upon us.

What is Sparta?

Sparta is an end-to-end sales performance solution that helps you coach, train and drive your team into higher performance.

Create sales competitions, set collabarative team targets and inspire your team to crush their goals! 

Click here to request a demo today.

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