Diagnosing Why Your Sales Reps Are Under Performing
Imagine going to your family doctor for your regularly scheduled check up and after catching up and discussing your your holiday plans and how your kids are doing, your doctor instantly gives you a clean bill of health. Your doctor never asked any questions about how you feel, didn't listen to your heart or check your vitals. This would never happen right, right? Doctors take their job and responsibility pretty seriously and because doctors take a holistic approach to diagnosing their patients.
I often see staffing managers respond with quick knee-jerk reactions and quickly jump to quick conclusions when they see a dip in sales or recruiting activity and performance. For example, if a recruiting team is getting few submittals or few interviews the recruiting manager says "we need more candidate and more candidate interviews." Or, if the sales team is receiving fewer job orders, many sales leaders will say “we need to get more sales meetings and get more job orders!”
Instead, staffing leaders should be doing what doctors do, take a holistic approach to diagnosing activity and performance issues before prescribing a solution.
Here are 5 critical steps to diagnosing why your sales res and recruiters are under performing & how to prescribe solutions.
Step 1: Review your key performance indicators
The first step in diagnosing a sales or recruiting performance or activity issue is to review key performance indicators (KPIs). Reviewing these three KPIs will help you identify and diagnose the issues and ultimately prescribe the proper solution(s).
- Percentage of recruiters/sales reps achieving goal/quota – Sales quotas can be difficult to establish. If 100% of your sales reps and recruiters are meeting quota month after month, it is likely your quota is too low. If on the other hand a very small percentage of reps or recruiters are meeting quota, you are likely setting it too high. For these reasons, you can't look at this metric in a vacuum. You will need to benchmark them against the KPI's I have listed below to get the full picture of what is really going on. Keep in mind that you need about 12-18 months to gain accurate bench marking data to use in decision making.
- Sales Win rate (Fill Ratio for Recruiters) – Sales win rate or fill ratio is a key indicator of recruiter performance and sales rep performance because it allows you to easily identify changes in the individual and team wide performance. Analyze fill ratios for your recruiters month-over-month and year-over-year to identify trends in performance. Do the same with your sales reps.
- Length of sales cycle – Analyze what your historical length of sales cycle is. You know you have a red flag if your historical data shows that the length of your sales cycle has increased significantly over recent weeks or months. You will need to drill into the details to understand why this change has occurred. For example, the change could be attributed to unqualified job orders, lack of candidates, inability to properly screen candidates or it could be unique to a specific account. What is important is that you uncover the root cause issue for why this change has occurred. One approach to diagnosing this issue is to examine your sales cycle by stage and your recruiting life cycle by stage.
Step 2: Diagnose by stage of sales and recruitment life cycle
This is where managers have to be ready, able and willing to "roll up their sleeves" and get their hands dirty. This requires digging into the data in your CRM/ATS. Keep in mind that in order to diagnose by stage you need to have a clearly defined sales process with verifiable outcomes. This will enable to you coach your sales reps to their sales pipeline and quickly and easily identify skill deficiencies and bottlenecks that may be hindering your sales performance not to mention your sales forecast.
To begin, compare sales velocity by stage, or how long it takes a job order to progress from stage 1 to stage 2. Assess how long it takes for one rep or recruiter vs. the next rep or recruiter. You want to compare it from recruiter to recruiter (keeping tenure & experience level in mind), across territories, accounts, verticals and/or industries, as well as over time. For example, if it used to take 6 days to go from stage 2 to stage 3 and now it takes 15 days, that may indicate something has changed within the buyer's journey that your sales rep is unaware but needs to account for. Finally, be sure to analyze conversion rates by stage. What you're looking for is, are there a large percentage of opportunities that aren’t making it past a certain stage or stages? What is happening at that stage that is causing candidates or clients to stall? What specifically are your reps and recruiters doing at that stage? What could and should they being at that stage?
Step 3: Shadow your recruiters and reps on calls
One of the quickest and easiest exercises to diagnose a problem with a recruiter or sales rep-and the most revealing-is to simply listen in on their calls with candidates and customers. Ideally you should be conferenced into the call so that you can hear what the customer or candidate is saying on the other end of the phone and hear how your rep or recruiter is presenting and responding within the context of the conversation. Actively coaching is critical to diagnosing the root cause issue.
Step 4: Assess the recruiters' and sales reps’skills
Once you’ve been on several calls with multiple recruiters and/or multiple sales reps you will develop a keen sense for their overall skill level and competencies including their strengths and weaknesses. To take it a step further you can continuously analyze your employees performance and progress for improving specific skills sets by adopting a training platform that allows you watch your employees skill sets in action by audio and video recording them rehearsing candidate and customer conversations.
With each set of sales and recruiting performance gaps, you can create "challenges" or role play scenarios for your teams to practice executing in those areas where they've struggled. For example, suppose you have diagnosed that your recruiters are struggling with moving candidates from the pre-close stage to the offer acceptance stage. You can have your recruiters practice rehearsing and role playing their candidate negotiations in front of their computer webcam and then you-the manager-can watch and listen to those recordings and see exactly where your recruiters and reps are falling short. From there, you can assign just-in-time training or additional coaching challenges so your people can master the required skills.
Step 5: Establish process for conducting a win/loss postmortem
A win/loss postmortem process is key for staffing firms to identify why candidates accept and don't accept offers and why sales reps win and lose deals. A win/loss postmortem entails interviewing the candidate and customer at the conclusion of the sales or recruiting life cycle. The purpose is to get candid and unfiltered feedback from both parties. When a recruiter fails to deliver his or her candidate and when a sales rep loses a deal, you want to find out why. When a sales rep wins a deal, and a recruiter makes a successful placement, you want to know why.
By interviewing the customer you can find out why they chose you (or your competition) and your firm or your candidate. Was is something specific about the candidate or did it have to do with your sales process and how the sales rep conducted him or herself? In essence, you want to uncover the reasons for why the customer chose you over the competition and vice versa. If a rep lost a deal, what did the competition offer the prospect that your rep didn't? Did the sales rep lose because he or she failed to sell to the ultimate decision maker or did the rep fail to properly understand the customer requirements or was it another reason?
The answer to these questions will give you the insight you need to improve upon your strategy and how you execute on your next opportunity. This is yet another way in which sales reps and recruiters can improve their sales and recruiting effectiveness. Just as importantly, this process will allow you to identify and understand required competencies which you will want to incorporate into your sales onboarding strategy that you would have otherwise overlooked had you not done a win/loss postmortem.
There are many ways in which a manager can go about diagnosing why their sales reps or recruiters are under-performing. Download our ebook and learn how to take the coaching path and diagnose like a top performing leader.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.