Results and Report: "The State of Motivating Salespeople in 2017"

Posted by James Pember on 3/2/17 6:10 PM

For the third 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 2017.


We focused on coaching, competitions, compensation, training, motivating salespeople and where we, the sales management industry are heading, and most importantly - how we can improve our future!

It’s no surprise that the sales management landscape is changing. You’ve probably heard about these “millennials” taking over our workplace and placing higher demand on management to “engage them” . Think what you want, but it’s a real trend and it’s something that as a leader, you must deal with.

The new breed of salespeople are different, and this difference must be accepted in order to drive high performing sales organisations in 2017 and beyond.

Remember, what worked before won’t necessarily work now. If you’re sales culture isn’t built upon continuous feedback, recognition and praise and incremental progress - you risk being left behind. Too many organisations are still running old-school sales teams focused more on the stick than the carrot.

These new demands mean that sales is changing, and how we motivate, manage and build sales teams needs to change with it.

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 and where there is room for improvement.

The report is split into 4 sections:

  1. Motivating Salespeople - what works and what doesn’t?

  2. Sales Coaching

  3. The use of Sales Competitions as a Motivator

  4. The Future of Sales Management

How to incorporate behaviors and 'soft' metrics into sales contests

Posted by James Pember on 11/9/16 9:00 AM

Results, we all want better and improved business results. More sales, more profits, happier customers. However, do we ever sit back and reflect on how we will reach those results?

What can salespeople learn from Nike, Coca Cola and Apple?

Posted by James Pember on 11/1/16 8:00 AM

The Harvard Business Review (which by the way, is probably one of the only publications that consistently writes amazing content on sales - I do recommend subscribing) recently published an article entitled “The Best Salespeople Do What the Best Brands Do”, in which the author argued that the exact same traits that make the world’s most recognisable brands great - are also what makes the best salespeople stand out in the crowd. 

Should salespeople keep a daily journal? 

Posted by James Pember on 10/25/16 8:00 AM

I came across a fascinating blog post the other day, in which author Manny Alamwaladescribed how he increased his own personal focus by using a daily sales journal. Check out the post here: “How one SDR built a sales journal to take control of his day”.

Why angry customers may be your best source of new business

Posted by James Pember on 10/18/16 9:00 AM

Profit inflection points come disguised as little crises” - Jan Carlzon, former CEO of SAS/Scandinavian Airlines

I just finished reading Moments of Truth, a management book written by Jan Carlzon who was the CEO of the SAS Group (Scandinavian Airlines) from 1981-1994. The book published in 1987 was one of the first books that really spoke about running a “customer-driven company”, something that is just picking up mainstream momentum now, almost 30 years later.

At the core of the book is this concept of the “moment of truth”, which describes each tiny interaction a company has with a customer, in which the customer decides whether they are satisfied with the company, or not. The book has become legendary inside support organisations who use it as a manual to ensure that every customer has a fantastic experience each time they interact with the customer.

However, one of the most fascinating parts of the book is where Carlzon talks about dealing with “angry” or dissatisfied customers, yet argues that those moments are actually the best times to drive increased sales or profits.

Too many companies and sales reps get instantly spooked by a customer who shows the slightest amount of anger, dissatisfaction or frustration. However, that customer is simply experiencing a problem that you now have a chance to solve for them.  

Ironically, it’s the quiet, “happy” customers who leave you, whilst the ones who are constantly giving you feedback, even negative, are truly engaged with your company and are more likely to stick with you, given you can solve their problems.

The next time you get a call from an angry customer, don’t fret - it’s simply a chance to solve a problem, and maybe even generate a sale.

Remember, as Jan says, “Profit inflection points come disguised as little crises”. Every time you interact with a customer, you have a chance to either gain or lose business. It's up to you :) 

PS. The book is great, you can find it on Amazon really cheap, and I recommend it to all leaders.  


How sales managers should be thinking about having more fun at work!

Posted by James Pember on 10/13/16 1:11 PM

How much time do you as a leader spend thinking about fun? Is your workplace fun? Do you have fun at work? What the hell does fun have to do with anything? 

👶📈🏆Are great salespeople born or made?

Posted by James Pember on 8/22/16 11:17 AM

“Although you can teach a turkey to climb a tree, it’s much easier to hire a squirrel”

High performing sales teams are twice as likely to be using activity, coaching and sales performance management software

Posted by James Pember on 6/23/16 11:12 AM

I was digging through the 2015 State of Sales report last night, put together by and I came across some very interesting stats. This will be a short post today, but are my key 2 takeaways.

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.


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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