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The Front Lines of Sales Performance Management

We've arrived at the new frontier of performance management - and it's not run by HR.

The workplace as we know it is in an unprecedented state of flux.

Massive changes in business IT and workforce demographics have disrupted nearly every industry, leaving companies of every shape and size struggling to keep pace.

In this post, our goal is to headline a pivotal strategic shift that leading-edge companies will be making en masse moving forward: a new paradigm for managing front office employee performance.

The New Front Line of Performance Management

The full reinvention of employee performance reviews is already occurring. Companies like PriceWaterhouseCooper, Deloitte, Accenture, Dell, Gap, and KPMG have conspicuously begun transitioning to proactive, data-driven, real-time management strategies. 

A new era of employee performance management is upon us, and it's driven by 2 key factors:

  1. The emergence of the millennial workforce / acceleration of business IT.
  2. New discoveries into how corporate culture impacts employee mindset.

These transitions have created a new rally point of employee performance management: the front office. Unlike Human Resources, it is incumbent upon sales, marketing, and client services departments to serve as profit centers and maximize the return-on-investment in their management and personnel. 

The business leaders that adopt these new-and-improved management styles stand to gain significant advantages in the form of vastly improved employee engagement, quality and quantity of activity, and top-line revenue. The next three sections of this post illustrate how and why every sales, marketing, account management, and customer support leader should make the switch.

The Sea Change in Performance Management 

Employee performance reviews are undergoing a full-blown sea change. Since 2011, companies Kelly Services, GE, Adobe, Amazon, Intel, Medtronic and IBM have done away with annual reviews.

As verified in groundbreaking studies like the The Progress Principle, there is plenty of hard data behind these transformative shifts. Here are four illuminating data points that Progress Principle co-authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discovered by rigorously analyzing nearly 12,000 diary entries provided by 238 employees in 7 companies:

  1. High-performing teams share 6 times more positive feedback than others.

  2. 28% of small wins trigger powerful emotional responses in employees.

  3. 95% of managers worldwide misidentify the top employee motivator.

  4. Sense of progress is top employee motivator (over pay/recognition).

Because of these and other findings, supervisors are now giving people instant feedback, tying that feedback to individuals’ own goals, and handing out small weekly bonuses. Josh Bersin estimates that about 70% of multinational companies are moving to this model. Deloitte reports that 88% of the U.S. companies it surveyed in 2015 are planning to rethink their performance management systems.

Fundamentals of the New Performance Management Paradigm 

Let's return to The Progress Principle and take a look at 3 sets of findings the authors made as to what drives high employee performance. Taken altogether, these 3 sets provide a 360° analysis of the high-level strategies and granular tactics to employ in your day-to-day business operations.

Set #1. There are four key drivers of employee performance:

  1. Creativity.

  2. Productivity.

  3. Work commitment.

  4. Collegiality

Set #2. Activating these drivers requires a positive state-of-mind. The authors found that an employee's daily mentality is contingent upon three things:

  1. Emotions

  2. Perceptions

  3. Motivation.

Set #3. There are 7 catalysts that create the right kind of employee mentality and drive high performance. 

  1. Setting clear goals. (Goals; Benchmarks)

  2. Allowing autonomy. (Performance Dashboards)

  3. Providing resources. (Clear Roles and Hierarcy)

  4. Low-to-medium pressure time contraints. (Benchmarks, Goals, Challenges)

  5. Offering help with the work. (Ambition TV and Team Contests)

  6. Learning from both problems and successes. (Productivity Quadrant)

  7. Allowing ideas to flow. (Anthems; Profiles; Goal Management)

Working backwards, these 3 sets of principles can be read: 7 catalysts → enhanced sense of progress → mental state → keys to performance. Hence the term, progress principle.

Why the Front Office is the New Front Line for Performance Management

What makes the front office the perfect collision point for shifting performance management strategy? It's the place where your business is most likely already keeping score.

Numbers matter the most in today's marketing, sales, and service teams. Just look at these statistics from CSO Insights and their corresponding attachments to the major challenges and objectives facing sales, marketing and support teams.

1. Missing Goals: According to CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Mgmt Study, only 54.6 percent of sales professionals produce enough revenue to meet quota.

2. Complex Methodologies: 74% of sales organizations entered 2016 with a hybrid inside-outside go-to-market sales strategy. In 20.4% of companies, customer support has a formal lead generation process in place. Over 20% require that support take on selling tasks such as cross-sell/up-sell/renewals.

3. Low returns on strategy: In a 2015 CSO Insights survey of 1,200 firms worldwide participants rated the success of the sales effectiveness initiatives they had undertaken over the past two years. Only 30.4% felt their sales effectiveness initiatives met or exceeded expectations.

4. Improving sales process: To become an elite sales organization, a sales force must ascend 4 levels in the sales process hierarchy.

Level 1. Random Process: A company that lacks a single standard process.

Level 2. Informal Process: Process exists. Neither monitored nor measured.

Level 3. Formal Process: Defined. Enforced. Periodic reviews and adjustments.

Level 4. Dynamic Process: Monitored closely. Proactive feedback and tweaks.

All told, the progression from Random→Informal→Formal→Dynamic Processes applies to front office teams in support, account management, and lead and demand generation as well.

Front office teams who are at Levels 2-4 in process development will gain the most from shifting performance management strategy. Expect these roles to see the earliest initial adoption and benefit from new paradigms drawn from Bersin and the Progress Principle.

Ambition: Sales Performance Accountability Software

Ambition is a sales management platform that syncs every sales organization department, data source, and performance metric on one easy system.

Ambition clarifies and publicizes real-time performance analytics for your entire sales organization. Using a drag-and-drop interface, non-technical sales leaders can build custom scorecards, contests, reports, and TVs.

Ambition is endorsed by Harvard Business Review, AA-ISP (the Global Inside Sales Organization), and USA Today as a proven solution for managing millennial sales teams. Hear from our customers below.

Watch Testimonials:

  1. FiveStars: Adam Wall. Sr. Manager of Sales Operations . 
  2. Filemaker: Brad Freitag. Vice-President of Worldwide Sales.
  3. Outreach: Mark Kosoglow. Vice-President of Sales.
  4. Cell Marque: Lauren Hopson. Director of Sales & Marketing.
  5. Access America Transport: Ted Alling. Chief Executive Officer.

Watch Product Walkthroughs:

  • ChowNow. Led by Vice-President of Sales, Drew Woodcock.
  • Outreach. Led by Sales Development Manager, Alex Lynn.
  • AMX Logistics. Led by Executive Vice-President ,Jared Moore.

Read Case Studies:

  1. Clayton HomesHBR finds triple-digit growth in 3 sales efficiency metrics. 
  2. Coyote Logistics: Monthly revenue per broker grew $525 in 6 months.
  3. Peek: Monthly sales activity volume grew 142% in 6 months.
  4. Vorsight: Monthly sales conversations grew 300% in 6 months.

Contact us to learn how Ambition can impact your sales organization today.

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About Ambition
Sales Leaders, HR Professionals, and C-Level Executives use Ambition to recognize, motivate, and develop employees into more engaged and productive versions of themselves. Funded by Google, used by the Fortune 500, endorsed by the Harvard Business Review.

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