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OK, Let's Review

Appraising your sales staff's performance doesn't have to be the biggest pain in anybody's year.
October 1, 2002

Many sales managers regard performance reviews as a ghastly task. The process has such a bad reputation, it's regular fodder for corporation-lampooning comic strip Dilbert. In one scene from the comic, the boss in Dilbert's world says to employee Alice, "Good news, Alice. I'm going to have quarterly performance reviews to boost morale."

Alice's reply: "Wow! In addition to working 16 hours a day in this big box, now I'll get 300 percent more criticism."

Though evaluations may seem to be more job than joy, the task is a vital part of managing a sales team. In fact, Dick Grote, author of The Performance Appraisal Question and Answer Book (AMACOM), suggests performance appraisals "can be the most important tool in the sales manager's arsenal to develop a high-performing, totally committed sales team." Perhaps because the process is so daunting, Grote explains that too often the sales manager "squanders the chance to build sales excellence because of a lack of courage to tell people the truth about how they're doing."

Get in the habit of praising performers and weeding out dead weight by using the following guidelines to firm up your review process.

One of the reasons reviews lurk at the nadir of your to-do list is that there may be bad news to deliver. If a rep isn't selling, Grote suggests an entrepreneur do the thorny work of firing. "Don't undertake the burden of improvement-think replacement," says Grote. "Managers tend to wait way too long to fire obvious losers."

Blade concurs with that position on firing: "The only thing worse than [too much] turnover is none when there should be."

Kimberly L. McCall is president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. (, a business communications company in Freeport, Maine.

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