Recently, I was speaking to a number of sales execs. We were talking about how to improve the performance of their teams. One manager in frustration said:
“I’m drowning in reviews, it seems I spend all my time in deal, account, pipeline, forecast, prospecting, and other reviews. And I’m falling further behind, I feel I have to review every deal, every account, everything—I can’t possibly do it! I feel so out of control!”
This broke the dam in the conversation with this management team, all jumped in stating that they felt out of control, they didn’t know what was going on with their people, the felt compelled to review everything, but didn’t have the time to review everything.
I hear similar comments from too many managers. They feel out of control and their method for getting back into control is a drive to “know” everything that’s going on.
Clearly, that’s impossible. Worse, it’s a waste of time—not only the manager’s time but their people’s time. Inevitably, people spend too much time in review meetings or updating CRM or preparing reports.
And it’s a constant cycle, since things are always changing, managers are going through the same cycles week after week. In the conversation referenced above, another manager said, “I feel I have to review the top 5 deals for each of my sales people every week….. Otherwise, I don’t know what’s going on and whether we’ll make our numbers.” This manager had 8 direct reports, that meant he was doing 40 reviews a week on the same deals he had reviewed the previous week. If each review was only 30 minutes, that’s 20 hours a week on those, not to mention the account reviews, pipeline/forecast reviews and other reviews.
Effective reviews are critical–both from a business management point of view, but in helping our sales people grow and improve their effectiveness. The problem is, we conduct reviews incorrectly, as a result we accomplish little more than an information exchange and waste a lot of time.
Most reviews are information exchanges. Managers asking for status reports and information. Whether it’s about a deal, an account, the pipeline, or prospecting results. In these reviews, managers seek a lot of data to help them “be in control.” They often get into tell mode, instructing people on what to do next.
What if we changed our review process? What if, rather than looking at information exchange, we dug deeper. What if we started trying to understand how our people are executing the process–for example the selling process in executing their deal strategies? What if we started coaching them, helping them think better about what they are doing, how they are improving their ability to execute the process?
We can learn what our colleagues in manufacturing learned decades ago. It is impossible to “inspect” quality into manufacturing. This meant they had to inspect everything. By focusing on the process, they learned that if the process was working effectively, they could expect the results would be good.
We need to focus our reviews on understanding how well our people are executing the process, we have to help them improve their ability to execute the process. We have to understand how they think about what they are doing, and develop their capability to improve their ability to execute.
The magic of this is that we see our people consistently executing the process, as we see they are thinking about what they are doing and improving their ability to execute, we move from having to inspect everything.
If they are executing the process in a few reviews, for example our account planning process, we can safely expect they are applying the same principles in every other situation. If they aren’t, we can also expect they aren’t doing those things in other situations.
Focusing on the process, improving their ability to execute the process and think about what they are doing drives huge improvement. Doing this means we can spend more time on those situations where our people really need help and where we can add value.
As long as we view the review process as information sharing and updates, we will never be in control and we can never conduct enough reviews. When we change our perspective to a coaching and process focus, we have to conduct fewer reviews and have a greater impact in those we do conduct.