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Creating a Performance Plan that Works

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Performance Plans.  They are unfortunately something we all have to deal with at some point or another.  I remember early in my career having to put them together as a new leader.  I remember meeting with my boss and Human Resources and asking for help on how to do it.  I was then given some examples of previous ones that had been written.  I remember thinking to myself “Man, these are long!”

In this particular situation I had someone in a Sales position who was not performing.  He was expected to bring in money to help secure long-term funding for the company I was working for at the time.  It was basically investment dollars he needed to bring in.  He had been bumped along from person to person because nobody knew how to manage him and he never seemed to live up to expectations.  I was the first person who had the guts to say he needed to be put on a performance plan.  It was very simple, he needed to focus on the right activity with the right prospects.  His outward bound activity was much lower than it should have been, and he let himself get caught up in administrative details.

What I recognized was the performance plans I was handed were largely a regurgitation of the job description basically saying “do everything on here better and you might keep your job at the end of 90 days.”  This didn’t make sense to me because it virtually made it impossible to track for me or the person I would be giving it to.  I decided to make the performance plan very simple by focusing on two questions:

  1. How do I get this underperforming sales professional back up to par?
  2. What do they need to do to accomplish that?

In this uncomfortable situation, when you approach the sales producer, they are usually overwhelmed by their circumstances.  They’re looking at a huge number they have got to hit for the year, and they don’t quite know what to do.  So, I set up a plan that broke it down to basics.  I literally put together a weekly plan for him focused on the right activities with the right targets giving him goals for the day and the week.

Bring Focus

Why?  To bring Focus.  Focus to his daily routine.  Focus to his priorities.  Focus to his and my conversations.  When someone is overwhelmed already, the worst thing you can do is give them a performance plan that has too many metrics to track and too many activities to execute.  The only reason to do this is if you are truly trying to get rid of this person, versus trying to help them perform better (that is why it is called a Performance Plan – right?).

Note:  If you are trying to get rid of them, let them go now instead of pretending to want to help them.  You are wasting both of your time.  You need to step up and have the “why” conversation as discussed in the earlier tip, and help them move on.

The Basics

In the end, my philosophy was this:  If I could get him consistently executing daily and weekly on the right activities, he is going to fill his pipeline with the right opportunities, and close more business.  In the end, it worked.  My one page, simple plan was something he understood.  I was probably the first person to have the right conversation with him and get him focused.  Within 30 days he was back on track and consistent.  He was able to change his work habits so he did not get caught up in the minutia.

Simplify and Be Genuine

So when faced with the dreaded “Performance Plan”, simplify the equation for yourself and your sales professional.  Be genuine about wanting to help them perform better, and if you keep them focused on the right activities they’ll begin to succeed, gain confidence and grow their pipeline so they can perform at a level they and the company expect.

Jack Kelly
Jack Kelly
Jack founded the Corlea Group in early 2009 with his first client coming on board in January of that year. Jack loves to coach. He coaches his clients and he helps coach his kid’s teams – it’s his passion and has been for over 25 years as a professional, father and volunteer. Why? Because he likes to help a team succeed.
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