At some point, most sales managers have asked themselves why their relationship managers aren’t selling. Clearly, there are many factors involved in the business of selling, and there is not always an easy way to determine where the problems lie.

Likewise, as any salesperson can attest, the sales process can be a complex and daunting experience fraught with obstacles like aggressive competition, tight economic environments, shrinking budgets and incumbent vendors. While there are many obstacles that are outside of our control, there are many others that we can control, like the number of phone calls and appointments made, good selling techniques, and personal discipline.

There are many possible reasons that a group of salespeople may not be selling, but there are some predominant dysfunctions that organizations can address. Energetic and dedicated sales managers can significantly impact the results of their sales teams if they consistently implement the directions in this article.

In order to address problems, it’s important first to acknowledge that the sales management activities the organization is performing today are creating the results it is achieving today. Many or few, consistent or irregular, planned or impromptu, the behaviors and activities that sales managers use to motivate, train and hold their sales teams accountable are, at least partly, responsible for the success of those teams. As a result, sales managers must ask themselves, “What am I doing now that creates my current unsatisfactory results?” After all, as the adage goes, if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

Truly successful people welcome the opportunity to explore and implement new ideas and practices. Sales managers cannot achieve different results until they are receptive and welcoming of analysis. As a sales or training leader, you may find some unexpected value in the following information that will positively affect your team’s sales:

Setting Standards

Most companies set annual standards for sales teams and salespeople, establishing, communicating and tracking goals on a somewhat regular basis. Typically, the process for setting goals is part of an annual business planning process — usually an arduous ordeal in which the sales team has little say. Thus, the people who are actually responsible for achieving the goals often neither enjoy nor embrace them.

However, if you approach this process with the right attitude and with the goal of helping the relationship manager make more money, this annual business and goal planning process can be a positive experience that will motivate individual salespeople and bring sales teams together.

The following exercise will help you align your thinking and, thus, your expectations regarding acceptable sales performance. Use the table to analyze and set standards for your entire team’s annual gross sales number goal and for individual salespeople as well. (You can change the annual gross sales number to any other metric you wish to identify and set, such as the number of prospecting calls, the number of first meetings or the number of new loans.)

Sales Performance Management Exercise

Step 1

Write your team’s current annual gross sales number goal in the box next to “good.” This number is what you expect this year, and you should consider anything less than this number to be poor performance.

Step 2

Now, pick the annual gross sales number of an “OK” previous year — one when your team worked hard but did not reach its goal. Write that number in the box next to “poor.”

Understand that this number is poor because your team did not reach its goal. If you frame the year as pretty good (i.e., “We almost made it”), you have communicated that you will accept less than good from your team. You have accepted mediocrity, thus eroding the new standards you are trying to set.

Step 3

Select a number that would be completely unacceptable for your team, and write it next to the “failing” box.

Step 4

Select a number exceeds your team’s goal, and write it next to the “excellent” box.

Step 5

Select a number that would make a truly amazing year, which far surpasses the sales goal. Write this number in the box beside “extraordinary.”

With this exercise, you have clearly identified and raised the standards you set for your sales team. These new levels of performance will become your communication platform for setting extraordinary expectations for you and your salespeople.