It seems managers are always asking for and conducting reviews. Salespeople complain, sometimes fairly, about managers “micromanaging,” and wasting time. Some managers seem to take refuge in staring at reports and doing reviews.

A lot of managers, if they were honest, probably don’t know why they are conducting a review. “It’s something we’ve always done, my boss is asking me to do them, ……” Too often, managers seem to be simply “checking the box,” saying they have done it, but not creating great value for salespeople, themselves, or their management.

A lot of time seems to be wasted with meetings that don’t accomplish anything. So there’s some good argument to support, “The hell with them……”

Having said that, I happen to be a strong proponent of reviews–we just need to design and execute them much more effectively, making sure that both salespeople and managers get value and learn from them.

Just for clarity, when I talk about reviews, they fall into lots of different categories, pipeline, forecast, deal, account, call, territory, prospecting, 1 on 1’s, QBRs and more. Most managers are pretty sloppy about the cadence and execution of many of these, and don’t execute all that should be done.

Some thoughts to add impact, relevance, and improve the whole review process.

First let’s look at it from the sales person’s point of view (most managers never even think of this). A great review process should help:

  1. Sharpen the sales person’s thinking about whatever it is that is being reviewed. For example, “Do I have a healthy pipeline, will I make my numbers, what are things that I can do to improve the quality of the pipeline and be more certain about the attainment of my goals.
  2. Help in building better strategies, “How can I prospect more effectively, producing more from those leads I’m pursuing? What are some of the things I can do to “unstall” this deal? How do I more effectively deal with this competitive threat? How do I compress my deal cycles? How do I increase my win rates? What are some of the things I can do to more effectively defend value and pricing?”
  3. To get help/support, “I need some help or resources to move this deal forward…. I need to get a specialist to work with me on this account… We are going to have do some customization or some special things…..”
  4. Coaching on how to be better as a salesperson or to move into a higher level job. “What can I be doing to improve my overall performance, skills, and capabilities…..”
  5. You need to know what I’m doing, “I recognize, you need to be aware of what I’m doing and how I’m performing….. Also, how can I improve my performance in this area……”

Of course for the salesperson to get value out of the time spent in reviews, the manager has to recognize her responsibility to be coaching and developing the people. Too many focus on their own needs forgetting the needs/help/support the salesperson is expecting from the review process.

On the manager’s side, we need to think of reviews in two senses, the business management purpose, and the coaching purpose.

As managers, we have a business management responsibility. “Are our people likely to meet their goals? How do I keep management and the rest of the company informed of what’s going on, what likely attainment will be? Is my team meeting our expectations of performance, are there people in trouble?”

There’s a coaching/development responsibility. “How do I help my people maximize their short and long-term performance?” You can see how closely intertwined the business management and coaching aspects of reviews are. If you conduct the review process well, you can accomplish so much.

Unfortunately, too few managers think to leverage the review process in this way, as a result, they waste their time and their people’s. Mostly it’s just a data collection exercise to provide information to managers–this is a waste, most would be better off just looking at CRM if this is all they want to accomplish. Some think its an excuse to dictate what people should be doing. Rather than be in listening/learning mode, the diminish the value for all by being in tell mode.

Remember, the manager’s job is to maximize the performance of each person on the team. The review process is a very powerful way of doing this through understanding what people are doing, helping them improve and produce better results, and helping keep the manager informed of how things are going.

There’s another aspect that makes reviews less effective than they should be. Our objectives in the review are not clear, as a result, we wander and don’t achieve what we can. Or we mix different reviews into a single conversation. For example, virtually every pipeline review I sit in, becomes a deal review. The objectives of pipeline, forecast, deal, call, prospecting, account, territory and other reviews are different. We and our people need to be very clear about what type of review we are doing and what we are trying to achieve.

For example, a pipeline review focuses on pipeline integrity/quality, volume, and velocity. A deal review focuses on what it takes to win a specific deal. A call review focuses on how we maximize the impact of a certain “meeting” we want to execute.

When we don’t have clarity on the type of review and objectives of each, usually we don’t achieve much of anything.

Finally, there is a structure to effective reviews, if you practice executing this structure, you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a very short period of time. The formula is simple-it’s applied to each review type (remember each has a different objective/goal). It’s Prepare, the “Review Conversation,” Agreeing on Next Step/Actions and Follow Up.

We waste enormous amounts of time by being unprepared–both the manager and the salesperson for what we are trying to achieve in a review. We waste more time through lack of clarity in our goals in the conversation. That conversation must be purposeful. In any purposeful conversation there are agreements on actions and next steps. Finally, if we don’t follow up, we lose discipline in the process. While well intended, people get diverted by the next urgent things. Follow up is critical if we are going to build the business, maximize the performance of our people, and build capability/capacity in the organization.

There’s a lot wrong with most reviews conducted by sales managers and salespeople. Effective reviews can achieve so much more and it doesn’t take a whole lot to make that happen.