What Do You Expect?

By Heather Baldwin

If your sales team has more turnover than the Arizona Cardinals or your reps have a hard time living up to your expectations, it may be time to take a good look at how clearly you convey those expectations. A Gallup Organization poll recently found that the number one cause of employees’ failure is the boss’s failure to convey clear expectations. “Managers ask me why their employees fail or leave, but they don’t like my answer,” says Sam Allman, a motivational speaker, sales trainer and president of Allman Consulting (www.iwillact.com). “I tell them that it’s usually not the employee’s fault. I tell them that it’s the boss’ fault. If an employee chooses to quit, the reality is that he has really fired the boss.” Allman offers these tips to help managers better convey their expectations:

1. Get feedback. Don’t assume that just because you’ve told your team what you expect of them, you’ve clearly conveyed your message. Get some feedback. Ask employees to express to you their understanding of your expectations. Explain the results you’re looking for, and then ask them to restate what you’ve said. If necessary, put your expectations in writing and review them often with employees. “When you fail to clearly define the results expected, you put your employees in a race with neither a track nor a finish line,” says Allman.

2. Do it yourself. Don’t rely on intermediaries to convey your messages to employees. When you do that, you not only dilute your message, but you can’t be sure employees receive the message you intended. Communication between you and your reps should be just that – between you and your reps, not between your reps and a third party.

3. Start early. Begin communicating your expectations during the hiring process to ensure nothing is left to chance. During the interview, read the prospective sales rep a description of the standards and ask, “Do you have any questions about what I expect of the person who fills this position?” Watch the candidate’s response carefully, says Allman. It may reveal how well the new hire will abide by your standards.