Accurately measuring sales team performance is probably one of the most important aspects in building high-performance sales teams. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult to master for sales organisations.

Most organisations have some kind of performance measurement system in place. They’ll measure pipeline data, conversion rates, win rates, call-to-close ratios and other such metrics.

Unfortunately, measurement is the easy part.

The hard part is this: once you understand where performance is lagging behind, you need to take corrective measures in order to ensure improvement.

But where to start ?

After all, there’s a whole host of measures you could potentially rely on in order to improve sales team performance. Should we invest in some sales training ? Make changes to our CRM or sales force automation systems ? Bring in a consultant to help redesign our sales process ? Or call in a motivational speaker ?

In our latest study on the « Top-Performing Sales Organisation », we found that one of the main drivers of sales team performance is how effective the sales manager or leader of that specific team is in coaching, motivating and inspiring the team and its members.

The most important lever in building sales team performance is not improving the skillset of each individual on that team – it’s improving the mindset and skillset of the team manager.

Unfortunately, many sellers feel their manager fall severely short of the mark. According to the research, a mere 31% of all sellers in most organizations feel their sales manager has the necessary skills to effectively manage and coach them.

Before you are thinking I’m picking on the sales manager here, let me just say this : this is in no way their « fault ». Most sales managers are hard-working, well-meaning individuals who truly wants their sales team to excel.

Here lies the rub : they’ve never been taught how. There is a clear lack of formal training for sales managers and leaders, Click To Tweet This means most of them have to build the plane as they are flying it, or rely on « generic » leadership development and training programs.

But we have to start somewhere. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the more common mistakes that I see sales leaders and managers make when it comes to building and increasing sales team performance.

Increasing sales team performance starts with putting in place the right foundation.

If you truly want to increase sales team performance, you need to know first where you’re starting from. What I mean by that is not «  look at your current numbers and take things from there ».

Unfortunately, that only tells you part of the story. Like the speedometer on a car, it only tells you how fast the car is going, not how to make it run better.

And it’s not as simple as telling your team «  from now on, I want you to have 5 new prospect meetings per week». If it were only so simple, every sales team I know would be hitting targets effortlessly – which they’re not.

Put in place a solid foundation for increasing sales team performance takes a much more individualistic, grassroots approach. It starts with understanding the members of your sales team. Their strengths and weaknesses. Their particular sales style. Their hidden beliefs and mental hangups. How they sell, and where they excel.

The only way to truly get to that level, is to do a thorough assessment of each individual team member. I’m inclined to agree with Selleration when they say « Sales assessments are the most efficient way to gather actionable data about the sales skills, selling competency, sales work ethic and even intellectual abilities. Assessments give sales management line of sight into the individual capabilities of each rep, so sales coaching can be tailored to that reps strengths and weaknesses.”

Assessing your people should the first step in laying the foundation to accurately assess and improve sales team performance. But that’s just getting you started.

A sales team is only as good as its manager.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, «people leave managers, not companies ». And when they do, it’s almost never about money – but almost always because in some sense they don’t get the opportunities for advancement and personal improvement they crave.

According to a recent article in Entrepreneur, some of the main reasons people leave is because they feel their boss doesn’t care about them, fails to develop their skills, doesn’t engage their creativity or fails to challenge them intellectually.

There is a clear bias towards coaching low and high performers – because they need it, and because it’s fun. Unfortunately, that also means that middle performers (where most improvements can be made) fall by the wayside.

A lot of their success comes down to an individual manager’s coaching and mentoring skills – after all, a manager’s responsibility is not simply to « weight the pig » ( stay tuned for that one).

And unfortunately, most managers are just not doing enough of that. According to our research, only 28% feel that «  management prioritizes and actively works to maximize the time managers spend coaching their teams versus other activities ».

« Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter ».

I was on a call recently, walking one of our clients through the research results when he said «This makes perfect sense. It’s what I see all the time. Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter.»

When I asked what he meant by that, he said «  Listen. It’s really simple. Most sales managers spend a lot of time looking at data and dashboards, and reporting on numbers. It’s a nice, safe thing to do. It’s comfortable, and within their comfort zone. »

He continued « At the beginning of the week, on Monday morning, they look at their KPIs and stats. Things like average number of calls, pipeline progression, call to close ratio, win rates and other, similar KPIs. »

« And at the end of the week, on Friday afternoon, they look at the same data. If the numbers have gone up everyone’s happy. If they’ve gone down, it’s all doom and gloom. »

« The problem with this approach », he said, « in addition to the fact that it’s demotivating and shortsighted, is that it doesn’t add anything. Simply measuring sales team performance does not guarantee you’ll be able to improve it. »Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter. Nor does looking at dashboards. Click To Tweet

A sales manager’s role is one of the primary drivers in increasing sales team performance – which probably explains why it’s also one of the hardest to master. If you’re interested in learning more about what sales managers can do to increase sales team performance, check out « 5 Things Every Sales Manager Should Do Every Day”.