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How to Effectively Set Clear Sales Team Expectations

By Norman Behar

Learn how to effectively communicate clear sales team expectations to ensure that your team understands what you want them to do and achieve.

If you can't see the video thumbnail below, click here to watch the video.

***Video Script ***

Managing Sales Performance is arguably the most important skill for sales managers and consists of the following four steps:

  1. Communicate expectations
  2. Monitor and manage specific behaviors
  3. Monitor results
  4. Provide regular feedback

Unfortunately, managers tend to hyper-focus on the third area, “results”, without realizing that results are backward looking (lagging performance indicator) and are really contingent on steps one (communicating expectations), two (monitoring and managing specific behaviors), and four (providing regular feedback).

Holding Sales Reps Accountable, Starts With Clear Expectations

Perhaps the most overlooked step in the first one which is to communicate sales team expectations clearly. Does your sales team really understand what you want them to do (behaviors) and what you want them to achieve (results)?

Sales managers often confuse what they think they have clearly communicated with what their sales reps have taken away from their discussion. This is because managers often use vague language or poorly drafted e-mails that are not specific enough to be understood and internalized by the recipient. As an example, a manager may send out an e-mail saying: "we are tracking behind this quarter and need to take up our game to the next level.”

Unfortunately, this statement is pretty close to meaningless. At most, a sales rep will understand that results are not as good as they need to be and that they need to work harder. While this may be true, it lacks clarity and purpose. Additionally, it doesn’t address what specific behaviors are expected from each individual sales rep.

Communication Guidelines for Setting Clear Expectations

To avoid this type of confusion, managers should make sure that they clearly set expectations by adhering to the following communication guidelines:

  1. Personalize the communication and make sure it is realistic. The communication should be specific to the sales rep you are speaking with, not a general message that could be interpreted as not applying to them.
  2. State the desired result(s). Make sure your communication includes what you want them to achieve.
  3. Include the behaviors required to produce these results: These are the specific actions that, if performed well, should lead to the desired result.
  4. Define metrics for assessment including the time frame: It should be clear how you will measure performance and over what period of time.
  5. Check for understanding. Have the sales rep recap their understanding of your expectations.
  6. Follow up in writing. Send out an e-mail recapping your communication making sure it adheres to rules 1 – 5 above.

It is also important to remember that the mutual goal is the achievement of the result(s) and to keep the message upbeat and encouraging. Going back to our example above, a sales manager would have much better shot at helping their reps achieve quota if they used the following type of personalized communication.

To achieve your quarterly sales goal of $500,000 this quarter, you will need to close an additional $267,000 by the end of the quarter (December 31). In order to accomplish this goal, I would like you to conduct in-person meetings with at least five of the seven customers that are in the “agreement” stage of your sales pipeline by next Friday (December 12).

Given your history of success with customers (70% close rate of opportunities in agreement stage), this should allow you to exceed your goal if you can get these meetings set quickly. Please let me know if this makes sense to you and what steps you will take following this discussion.

[Pause, listen to response, and check for understanding]

Great. Let’s plan on reconnecting next Monday (December 8) to review where you stand on appointments, discuss the specific goals for each meeting, and how I can help.

In a sales world hyper-focused on results, it is easy to lose site of the importance of clear communication to set expectations. However, it is by clearly setting expectations that we can hold our sales reps accountable and proactively help them succeed.

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About Norman Behar

Norman Behar
Norman Behar is Chairman and Managing Director of the Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He has over 25 years of senior sales management experience, and is recognized as a thought leader in the sales training industry. His blog posts and whitepapers are frequently featured in leading sales enablement publications including ATD, TrainingIndustry.com, and Selling Power.

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