How to Assess Your Sales Force

Published: 03rd June 2010
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Without regular individual assessment, changes in performance that are early indicators of a need to provide corrective sales training will be missed. It is, therefore, inconceivable that any sales manager would attempt to manage their sales department without such assessment as to do so would lead to declining results.

In practice, there are various different methods that can be used, each with different advantages and disadvantages. Some assessment sytems are based on turnover in pounds or market share but such systems are prone to being influenced by factors outside the control of the sales person, so do not accurately assess the sales person's ability. This can then jeopardise the assessment as a whole.

Effective assessment systems are neutral. For effectiveness the assessment must be carried out regularly, so any assessment is not based on a single point in time, also it must comprehensively cover every area in which the sales team have to prove their ability. Areas to include are product knowledge, self and work organisation, selling techniques and development of personal traits. Finally, a good assessment system should only assess those factors that can be either measured and counted or observed and described and, which ever system you use, it should also be completely undertood by those you are assessing - the sales people.

Assessment systems that fulfill the above criteria should also evaluate each individual criteria according to its importance to the company's success i.e important factors have a greater influence and less important factors are accorded less influence in the overall assessment process.

E. Gnuschke, a sales expert, has developed an approach to testing which meets these requirements. Details of his approach to sales force evaluation to objectively determine sales training needs are described below.

The first stage in the process is setting appropriate test or assessment criteria. These factors should be tailored to your own company such that they are fully appropriate. As a good starting point to developing your own check list I have provided some examples.

Product knowledge: Can the sales person describe the uses of the products they sell and put forward a financial justification for purchase? Does the sales person understand the references for the various product categories in different sizex companies?

Work organisation: Does the sales person plan their travel in such a way that maximises the number of client visits per week? Does the salesperson have different systems of acquiring new clients?

Sales technique: In sales discussions does the sales person lead? Can routine customer objections be countered by the sales person?

Personality development: What steps does the sales person take to improve their personal presentation to customers? Is the sales person honest and reliable?

Once you have identified the assessment criteria you will need to expand the check list. To do this you will have to formulate all the criteria you have set down in every area in a way that is appropriate for every salesperson. You also need to incorporate particular 'emphases'.

An example "I can explain the features and advantages of the ABC system completely (1) very well (2) mostly (3) some (4) a few (5) not at all (6)."

The test should not put any pressure on your salespeople to give the "right" answer: If the assessment is going to be useful it must be an honest evaluation.

In order to evaluate the individual criteria according to their importance to the company's success, it is best to use a multiplier where, for example, a multiplier of 3 used for very important criteria, 2 for important criteria, and 1 for less important criteria. Thus for a given criteria the total score awarded would be the salespersons assessment of their ability (1 to 6) multiplied by the multiplier (3 to 1).

The next step is to fill in the check list. To do this, you should meet with each sales person individually and work through all the assessment questions. The sales person should be encouraged to assess themselves and you, as manager, should discuss and agree the score with them. You should accept the sales person's assessment if you can not initially agree on a score. When you have finished the assessment and filled in the check list you should arrange to observe the sales person at work. Jointly completeing the assessment with your sales person and then going out on site visits to observe them and encouraging discussion will allow you to identify genuine weak points in their performance.

After the assessment, decide the measures the sales person should or could take to work on the weaknessess identified. You will find it beneficial to re-do the assessment at regular intervals.

To give accurate results the sales person being tested must have faith in the test and not be concerned about negative consequences. Great tact and diplomacy are required when dealing with the test results. The assessment should never be used as a way of exerting pressure on the sales person; it should be solely used as a way of increasing the salesperson's ability and success by identifying any sales training needs.


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Richard Stone a Director for Spearhead Training Ltd that runs management and sales training programmes aimed at improving business performance.

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