Feedback + Transparent Communication With A Sales Leader Missing Targets
However, it would be irresponsible of me to allow this madness to continue and not say something.
As a leader you should memorize this phrase and use it often “It would be irresponsible for me not to say something”.
Many people don’t like delivering bad news or confront people with hard issues, because everyone loves to kill the messenger. This is a talk track you can utilize with a sales leader who isn’t hitting targets and you are afraid to confront them because you don’t want to be pulled into their web of stories and excuses.
It’s an instant paradigm shift in the conversation when you say that. You elicit empathy while being the bearer of bad news.
Start with facts.
Let them know you will give them a chance to speak their part, but first you want them to understand your position. Start with facts, tell them you see that the targets haven’t been hit week over week and month over month. This is leading you to believe that the quarterly target is in jeopardy of being missed.
“It would be irresponsible of me to see this and not say anything.”
So before we continue with this conversation, do you also see that we are in jeopardy of missing the target? and what do you plan to change in order to ensure successful achievement of the quarterly target?”
The reason you want to curb their position is because it will only serve to drag the conversation down a road of different perceptions and drama, and not serve the purpose of progress. Allowing them to “speak their peace” is just venting and typically a waste of time as it only allows them to further root their misconceptions and validate drama.
Keep in mind, this isn’t for collaborative conversations, this is to win consensus. You aren’t looking to have a dialogue about whether or not the goals haven’t been met; you already know they haven’t been met. You need to not belabour that, it’s a given. This conversation is about understanding what the problem is and how to solve it. Most CEOs have a difficult time getting to that point because the sales leader usually muddies the water about what the goals are, whether they were reasonable//achievable or not and what contributions we should be measuring. Make the missed targets a foregone conclusion and move past it. Look to now solve the problem.
Ensure everyone knows what the desired outcome is.
At the start of a conversation about your sales leader’s poor performance, ensure you tell them your objective and state it as;
“at the end of this conversation, I’d like to have alignment on clear steps of how we will hit our revenue target this quarter. That is what great would look like for me. What would great look like for you?”
This will prevent the talk about all the things that are missing like good or bad leads, discounting or competition. As that isn’t something that can be accomplished in the meeting. Once we accept an agreed sense of reality and stop fighting, the decisions we make are focused on accomplishing the task at hand rather than hoping something changes, because as we all know ‘hope isn’t a strategy’.
Do not tell them what to do.
Regardless of whether or not you have the answer. And candidly, it’s unlikely you know the answer, you typically aren’t as close to the problem as they are.
Get them to pose the solution, ask questions, keep asking questions so they create their own plan, they will explain it, it will give you assurance that they are doing it right and you’ll have asked the questions you need answers to in order to feel comfortable moving forward.
If they can speak it, they can do it, otherwise if you tell them, they can blindly say yes, and have no clue how to execute.
Also if it fails, they will blame you and it’s more likely to fail because it’s your idea and they won’t execute with the same conviction as if it was their idea.
If the person isn’t capable of arriving at that conclusion or they refuse to own it, they are clearly the wrong person for the job.
Help me understand how you will hit this goal. This enables and empowers the sales leader to create an action plan. You are asking them to verbalize it. They can now own it and imagine themselves engaging the appropriate activities. This is the most appropriate way to address missed targets and being off track. Now knowing this, and if you don’t have this conversation, you are allowing your organization to fail. Just ask yourself, would you rather have an uncomfortable conversation and hit targets? Or would you rather avoid direct, honest communication and put your goals on pause. You are putting feelings ahead of hitting targets and making progress.