Denial Over a Sales Force Evaluation

Sales Managers have a difficult time with the results of a sales force evaluation.  While some handle it quite well, a significant percentage just can’t deal with the fact that some of their “superstars” are weak salespeople who have succeeded because they are good account managers and have been able to get some growth from the accounts they inherited.

They tell us things like, “our business is different”, “I could see how this would fit a short sales cycle”, “I could see how this would work for a longer sales cycle”, “perhaps this was created for complex sales”, “this must have been designed for a one-call close”, “this doesn’t fit for a transactional sale”, or “it doesn’t really apply to a business where we sell through others but don’t reach the actual decision maker”.

Good excuses all of them.  Here are some more: “I can’t match the data points to my observations”, “it doesn’t match up with their performance”, and “are you telling me the people I hired are no good?”

When a sales manager is in denial over the findings it is so easy to hide behind the excuses.  When a sales manager can’t tell the difference between performance and account management it’s reflective of the sales manager’s attempt to protect the status quo.  When the sales manager doesn’t recognize an opportunity to grow the sales force it is very short sighted.  When they won’t share the results of the evaluation with the salespeople who took the time to take the assessment because they’re afraid of what will happen it’s just plain bad sales management.

Results are based on the data provided by the salespeople.  They choose their answers.  The assessment is just a way of helping them look in the mirror, a way to show them how their thoughts, tendencies and behaviors impact their ability to sell.  To fear their reaction to findings that they will likely agree with is poor leadership.

After seventeen years of evaluating sales organizations and with a predictive validity of 95%, I’ve come to trust the results of the evaluation far more than sales managers’ knee-jerk reactions to them.  I would stand behind the findings any day before I would trust a sales manager’s observations as more accurate.  Why?  Because sales managers don’t typically observe cause and effect as much as they observe the numbers on the spreadsheet.  They don’t see that their reps are collecting a harvest on seeds planted by others.  They don’t see that their reps aren’t able to sell as much as they’re very good at taking orders, holding their customers’ hands and solving problems.  That’s customer service.  And while customer service is important, it’s not the same as selling, overcoming resistance, providing cost justifications and getting deals closed.

If you have a sales manager that’s fighting through the results and the results aren’t for that sales manager aren’t very favorable, perhaps you’ve misjudged the sales manager too.