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Sales Performance Reviews: 8 Tips to Make Them Valuable

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Sales performance reviews are supposed to help your sales team gather the insights they need to become even more successful. If your reviews are done correctly, you’ll come out of them with a clearer understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your team, as well as a course of action for department-wide sales success.

Suffice to say, it’s important to get them right. We’ve compiled a list of the most helpful sales performance review tips for you to start implementing to make the process more rewarding and helpful for your team.

What is a sales performance review?

It’s pretty simple: a sales performance review is an evaluation whereby sales managers and individual sales reps meet to discuss important topics like sales processes, productivity, personal development, team-wide goals, and more.

Most companies conduct sales performance reviews on an annual basis, though (as we’ll cover in a bit) there’s nothing wrong with conducting them more frequently. This is actually the preferred option for some companies.

Now that we’ve covered what sales performance reviews are, let’s get down to business, specifically about how you can improve your performance reviews ASAP.

What are the benefits of conducting sales performance reviews?

Sales performance reviews can be highly beneficial for your individual salespeople and for your entire company. Regular sales performance evaluations are necessary for creating a well-rounded sales team. Here are a few of the top benefits of implementing performance reviews:

  • Providing constructive feedback for salespeople: Feedback is how we all learn and become better at our jobs, whether it’s actual results or feedback from a colleague. When handled correctly, sales performance reviews can be a fantastic opportunity for examining the areas where your salespeople are doing great — and where they can improve.
  • Improving engagement: Regular feedback about job performance can be a huge motivation in any field. Sales performance reviews can help increase engagement and drive reps toward even greater success.
  • Better communication between managers and reps: A sales manager who is out of touch with the performance and needs of their reps isn’t the most effective manager. Sales performance reviews are important because they give sales managers the opportunity to critique, praise, and encourage sales reps—all essential things when attempting to improve your company’s sales numbers. Keeping communication open is vital for giving salespeople the support they need to work effectively.

8 tips to improve your performance reviews

Now that we’ve learned the value of conducting performance reviews let’s learn how to evaluate sales performance effectively. Here are eight tips to help you conduct more effective sales performance reviews:

1. Use a sales evaluation template

How do you judge your team’s performance? If you don’t have a clear answer to this question, you aren’t ready to conduct a sales performance review.

Without clear performance criteria, you won’t be able to evaluate your team in a fair and effective way. Fortunately, there’s an easy fix: create a performance review template, i.e. a standardized set of criteria you’ll use to judge each member of your team.

Every sales performance review should touch on these three themes in one way or another:

  1. An evaluation of each rep’s sales process
  2. A list of things the sales rep does really well
  3. A list of things the sales rep should improve upon

Once you’ve created your template, share it with your sales reps—preferably during the onboarding process. That way they know what’s expected of them from the jump.

2. Analyze sales processes, not just results

Sales is a results game. So we understand the temptation to judge reps based solely on what they’ve achieved since the last time you conducted a sales performance review.

But here’s the thing: results-based evaluations are rarely effective.

Yes, the number of sales a rep has made, as well as the amount of revenue they’ve generated for your company, are important and should be talked about during your review. But we suggest focusing more of your time on each individual rep’s sales process.

Why? Because your team’s processes are the foundation of their results.

If they have subpar processes, they’ll achieve subpar results. If they have winning processes, they’ll achieve the amazing success you want them to. Your job as a sales manager is to help your reps identify the flaws in their sales processes and fix them.

Here are a few process-oriented metrics to cover during your sales performance review:

  • Number of leads generated
  • Number of sales meetings held
  • Upsell and/or cross-sell rate
  • Length of sales cycle
  • Average cost per lead

A process-first approach to sales performance reviews also prevents managers from simply blaming their reps for not meeting quota, which will destroy team morale.

3. Set goals and suggest ways to achieve them

Sales performance reviews should be actionable. What do you want your reps to do after you meet with them? Make sure these things are understood before your review ends.

And, no, “meet quota” is not the only goal you should set for your reps. Do your best to give them practical objectives that align with company plans and take into account each rep’s individual career aspirations.

What does this look like in a real-world scenario? Meet Jeff…

Jeff is a sales rep who’s been working in your department for the last two years. He’s an ambitious guy and hopes to lead the company in just about every sales metric one day. But, after analyzing his sales process, you realize he has a ways to go before he gets there.

See, Jeff is great at finding high-quality prospects to contact. He’s also a hard worker and sends plenty of outreach emails on a daily basis. The problem is, Jeff’s close rate is lower than many of the other reps in your department. This is because Jeff is too pushy.

He tries to sell at all costs, rather than identifying exactly what each potential customer needs and providing them with the right solution. This annoys a lot of Jeff’s prospects.

So, what do you do? As part of Jeff’s action plan, you ask one of your company’s top sellers to take Jeff under their wing. That way they can teach Jeff how to close at a higher rate.

This plan helps the company because Jeff will learn how to make more sales. It also aligns with Jeff’s personal goals because once he learns the art of the close, he’ll be that much closer to becoming your company’s top seller.

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4. Frame your critiques in a positive way

Your sales reps don’t want to hear about how bad they’re doing—especially if they’re doing really, really bad. That doesn’t mean you don’t offer them constructive criticism. But the best sales performance reviews frame feedback in a positive way.

For example, you could say something like, “Jeff, your sales numbers aren’t where we need them to be. After analyzing your sales process, I see that you do a great job with outreach. I love how much effort you put into emailing potential customers. The problem is your close rate. It seems that you’re pushing prospects too hard, which can be a turn-off. I have a few resources for you on how to close, and it might also be helpful to shadow Randy to learn some techniques he uses.”

This critique was completely honest, addressing Jeff’s shortcomings, as all good sales performance reviews should. But it also made a point to recognize Jeff for what he does well, and framed the solution to his problem as an opportunity.

Pro tip: Be sure not to overdo it. People can spot a compliment sandwich a mile away, so keep your positive feedback genuine and relevant.

5. Conduct sales performance reviews more often

A lot can happen in a year. Company objectives can change. Customer preferences can shift. Email sequences that worked like gangbusters in Q1 might fall flat in Q3. That’s why it makes sense to meet with your team every three months and assess progress.

The data backs this tip up, too. According to a 2021 Gartner survey, only 44% of employees update their goals after changes in expectations for their roles. When employees review their goals with their managers on a regular basis, it helps them identify what changes have occurred that demand a shift in their actions.

So make the time for evaluating sales performance on a quarterly basis. Will it be more work? Yes. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely! Your goal as a sales manager is to increase sales. Quarterly reviews will help make that happen.

6. Make sales performance reviews collaborative

It might seem easier for sales managers to handle all the preparation for sales evaluation themselves. After all, they’re supposed to provide feedback for their sales reps, so they’re the only ones who need to prepare for the meeting, right?

A better way to get salespeople thinking about their own performance is to make your reviews collaborative. Asking your team to reflect on their achievements before their sales performance review can help them develop a growth mindset and identify ways they can improve.

Ask salespeople to consider a few questions beforehand and bring their answers with them. A few good questions to ask include:

  • What do you consider your biggest win from this quarter?
  • What do you consider your biggest loss?
  • What are the three most important things you’ve learned recently?
  • Where are some areas where you could grow next quarter?

7. Create a plan together

When you get to the end of your sales performance review, it’s time to make a plan for improvement. And instead of just assigning sales reps the steps you want them to take, work on a plan together. 

As the sales manager, you have access to resources and tips that can help your team improve. Work with salespeople to determine what solutions might best address their needs, whether it’s continued coaching or training, adjusting their sales process, or other resources.  

It can also be helpful to create a timeframe for their improvement plan and set up dates to check back in with them on their progress before their next sales performance review. This gives salespeople a chance to work on their goals before their next evaluation. 

8. Ask for feedback during your performance reviews

If you really want to make the most of your sales performance reviews, ask for feedback.

How can you help your reps become better sellers? Do they need more support in certain areas? Are there specific tools you can buy that will help them become more effective in their jobs? And how can you adjust the review process to make it more enjoyable?

These are all questions you should ask your sales reps. Once you have answers to them, take action. Implement their suggestions and see what happens.

If your sales reps don’t feel comfortable critiquing you to your face, give them an opportunity to leave anonymous feedback. You can get software for this specific purpose. Or you can put a “tip jar” in the office and let reps share their thoughts on little pieces of paper.

At the end of the day, how you get feedback doesn’t matter. Just make sure you get it, one way or another so that you have the chance to improve as well.

Boost sales with the right CRM

Sales performance reviews are important, as they give sales managers like yourself the chance to critique and congratulate the sales reps they manage.

To take advantage of this important opportunity, use the tips we shared in this article. If you create a review template, analyze sales processes instead of just results, set goals for each rep, frame your critiques in a positive light, and ask for feedback, you should do just fine.

Another important way to boost your company’s sales is with the right customer relationship management (CRM) platform. At Nutshell, we’ve filled our CRM with robust features like sales automation, team collaboration, reporting, email marketing, and more to help your team nurture relationships and sell better.

Try Nutshell for yourself with a 14-day free trial

This article is part of our Playbook for Managing a Sales Team.

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