It seems I spend half my life in reviews–territory reviews, pipeline reviews, deal reviews. Most of the reviews leave me with a slightly uncomfortable feeling. The discussions focus mostly on what’s happened. Most of the time is spent in talking about history, when it seems the bulk of the discussion should be about “what do we do about it, what’s next?”
There are several objectives to reviews. The first is to get a snapshot or status updated of the “state of the business,” whether it’s a deal, territory, pipeline, account–whatever. The second is a collaborative effort focused on “what do we need to be doing next.” It’s where the sales person and manager explore what needs to be done to win a deal, expand share of account/territory, drive greater pipeline flow, and so forth. The third is the opportunity to assess the sales person, coach and develop them.
But if we spend most of our time on the first (or even getting up to the first), we don’t ever have time to do the latter two which are really the most impactful in growing the business and individuals.
I think there are a number of factors that contribute to making reviews less impactful than they should be:
Preparation: The biggest problem impacting effectiveness of reviews is both the sales person and the manager are unprepared. Sure a certain amount of historical review is necessary, it provides context and color to the CRM notes. But too often, this takes the majority of the time in the review. Regardless the type of review, the CRM system or whatever tools are being used to track what’s happening with deals, accounts, territories have to be updated and current. Then sales managers have to take the time to review them! Before the meeting, not in the meeting!
This is typically where I get the first push back: “But Dave, you don’t understand that I’m too busy to take the time to do this. I’m a quick study, I can do it in real time.” My response (at least what I’m tempted to say) is, “So you have the time to waste both your time and that of the sales person in a review that accomplishes nothing, but you don’t have the time to prepare and focus on producing results.”
Come on! Get real, if you know your stuff, if the people are using the tools the way you want them to use them, it takes only a few minutes to prepare! Whether it’s looking at the deal notes, pipeline volume/flow, or where the sales person is in executing the territory plan. In those few minutes of review, you get a sense of what’s happened, you can frame your questions to validate what’s happening, and you can begin thinking about how to shape the conversation about what’s next.
Think about it, if people are using the tools the way they should be, they provide the historical background you need. You also have the actions and commitments from the previous review–what’s happened with them, how do we leverage those understand where we are at and what’s next. All of these won’t capture the context or provide the color, but the questions you prepare should elicit that.
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes! Trust me, I do hundreds of reviews every year and it works. If you don’t have the time, then shorten the scheduled time of the review by 5 minutes. Take that time to prepare and you will save 15-20 minutes of discussion of past history in the meeting itself.
If the rep isn’t prepared, cancel the review. Don’t permit the rep to waste your time or theirs. Tell them what they need to prepare, reschedule the meeting for when they are prepared. If they aren’t prepared three times, then you have a performance issue to coach. If they aren’t preparing for you, they probably aren’t preparing for the customer or anything else. They are most likely “shooting from the lip,” and being about as ineffective as they possibly can be.
Clarity Of Focus In The Review: In conducting the review, we are not clear about our objectives and focus. Virtually every review I participate in (territory, pipeline, account) becomes a deal review. Consequently, we do lots of deal reviews in a hap hazard manner–the sales person prepared a pipeline review and is now unprepared to do an effective deal review. Each review has a completely different objective–focus on those objectives. Simply:
- Deal reviews have the following objectives: How do we maximize our ability to win? How do we compress the buying cycle? How do we maximize deal profitability?
- Pipeline review have the following objectives: Do we have the right volume, shape, flow, and velocity?
- Territory and account reviews have this objective: What are we doing to expand our share of the customer/territory?
The objectives are very different. In each they provide the information we need from a business management point of view and they provide the foundation for assessing, coaching, and developing the sales person.
Reviews become less impactful when we lose sight of the objective for the specific review being conducted.
Follow-Up: Effective reviews don’t focus on what’s happened. They focus on what do we do about it, what’s next. This naturally develops actions and activities. These need to be clearly identified and documented in the review, with accountabilities, target dates and desired outcomes. Then there needs to be follow up. Were they done, what was the outcome, how do we need to adjust our plans and strategies–what are the next steps?
Effective reviews focus less on what’s happened, but more on moving forward–what have we learned, what’s next, how do we grow. If you aren’t spending at least 75% of your time on these in each review, on this, then you are wasting your time and losing opportunity.