Break the Chain of Non-Performance

“Why have you not achieved the target?” asked the VP of Marketing. The monthly sales review was in full swing.

“Sir… I tried, but the stockist did not place the order”, replied the Regional Manager.

“Why did the stockist not place the order? He is supposed to maintain stock as per company norms” persisted the VP.

“Sir the stockist is not cooperating!” said the Regional Manager, looking for support from his colleagues.

“Can you elaborate on what do you mean the stockist is not cooperating?”

“Well, sir… we could not liquidate existing stock in the market.” The Regional Manager was now visibly hot under the collar.

“At the beginning of the month, did you have a plan to liquidate the products? What efforts did you put in to generate demand during the month?” thundered the VP.

“Sir, I told the sales team to get prescriptions. Till the 23rd   of the month, they were confident but suddenly they lost heart and could not achieve the target. Sir next month it will be better, I promise.”

The above exchange will resonate with anyone who has been a part of monthly sales reviews. The details may vary but the tone and drift are the same. There is the promise of 100% achievement at the beginning of the month and there is the month-end gap with excuses for non-performance. From my interactions with teams across organizations over the last 3 decades, I have witnessed such scenes way too often. Unfortunately, the underlying issues are not resolved and leading to a repetition, month on month,  almost in a loop.

To break the chain of non-performance, a deeper analysis is warranted. I have enlisted some reasons here for reflection.

1.  Lack of data mining and analysis

Although automation has made analysis easier and all sorts of data accessible at the click of a button, it has also made sales managers sluggish when it comes to data mining for action. Perhaps the most important time every month is the time spent on analysis and planning to achieve 100% results. Yet, a log of time spent by managers will quickly reveal that their planning and analysis, is only as much as is needed to face the sales reviews.  Often with a focus on justifying deficits in sales and giving reasons for non-achievement.  A shift in focus with more time spent figuring out what went wrong and planning to achieve 100 % would yield far more success. We at InteGreat People have achieved good success in training managers in the techniques of Sales Analysis and Planning thus helping them to ‘Break the Chain.’

2.  Over-dependence on team

When you ask some managers “HOW” they will achieve their sales targets, you will hear a familiar plea for time. “Sir/Madam give me some time to talk to my team and get back.” They will then revert to the figure decided by the team and no matter that it is below the target, they will not budge.  Probing on the HOW will not yield many details.

In other words, as a leader, they don’t have a  plan to achieve. Sometimes it is due to an overdependence on team members. At other times it is a lack of confidence and a fear of taking accountability. Often it is because the leader is not confident of being able to address objections from the team, so he chooses to get their opinion on what they will achieve, and communicates that upwards.

3. Selling targets vs buying reasons

Targets need to be sold on the basis of the HOW they are to be achieved. My experience is that more often than not, they are just passed on, with no real METHOD communicated to the team to achieve 100%. Plans are not tailormade to the territory and its peculiarities and perennial problems are often not resolved, creating the base for ‘Buying Reasons” at the end of the month.

4.  Reliability Index

Each manager knows at the gut level what are the strengths and weaknesses of his team members. He also knows which of them will deliver as promised and which one will give him a shock at the last moment. In other words, every leader has to create a reliability index for his mates. If a member is 100% reliable, the manager can delegate with some degree of control. However, for teammates whose reliability is low, he may need to work on detailed plans and maintain very close supervision throughout the month.

Achieving 100% performance is a commitment to oneself first. But it does not come only with commitment. Delivering targets consistently needs detailed planning based on hard facts and insights. It necessitates deep knowledge of teammates and markets. It entails understanding territory issues and resolving them and a relentless follow-up to ensure plans are executed. Perhaps a few months of this rigor will break the chain of non-performance.