There is a fairy tale told about the Princess who kisses a FROG. An ugly FROG. In fact, it was so ugly, most people believe it was really a TOAD. The fairy tale explains that once the Princess kisses the TOAD he turns into a Prince because her kiss breaks the spell of an evil witch.
So, what does kissing the toad have to do with Sales Effectiveness?
Kissing the T.O.A.D. is the cornerstone to improved sales effectiveness because T.O.A.D. stands for:
This is a discussion that must occur monthly and focuses on targeted account growth and territory success.
Management may refer to these meetings as a monthly performance review, but they are not individual performance reviews. They are a review of territory performance based on objective performance metrics only. These meetings must be considered by both management and the territory salesperson as Territory Opportunity Action-planning Discussions because that is exactly what they are.
The T.O.A.D. is the most important component of improved sales effectiveness. Critical performance issues are discussed during the T.O.A.D. It provides the forum for Sales Management and the Territory Manager to discuss, plan, and measure success. These discussions introduce accountability and identify opportunities for improvements with action planning specific to each objective. It is the Sales Manager's job to not simply participate in this process, but to use these opportunities to coach, counsel, and correct issues regarding performance. If conducted properly, the T.O.A.D. process will become an effective tool in improving both the Sales Manager's and Territory Manager's performances.
The only purpose of the monthly T.O.A.D. is to improve territory performance. T.O.A.D. should not include any activities that do not directly support this goal. If the Territory Manager does not find the review helpful, it has not served its purpose.
These sessions are not intended to be disciplinary in nature. They support rather than replace the existing annual performance appraisals. Remember, you are primarily reviewing territory performance, not individual performance, although the two are obviously linked.
How Important is the T.O.A.D.?
All companies are in constant need of aggressive, creative and resourceful salespeople to have their products specified, accepted and used by customers. Without informed and capable field salespeople, no distributorship could hope to compete in the marketplace today.
But how often have any of us stopped to consider the fact that good salespeople, the kind who can help a company really grow, don't just happen to come along by chance or fate? There is no such thing as a "born salesperson," because selling ability is much more than an intangible given that a person either has or does not have.
Granted, selling does require certain attributes in a person. He or she should, for example, be basically outgoing in manner and capable of making a genuinely favorable impression almost immediately. Also, the person must be intelligent, able to grasp ideas and details easily, retain them and recall them for use whenever necessary in selling situations. These factors and many others relating to personal and emotional characteristics are contributing elements in the makeup of the successful salesperson.
But are these characteristics all that are required to make a successful territory manager? Obviously they are not. A salesperson must have adequate tools, resources and leadership to maximize his or her effectiveness. That is why you should kiss the T.O.A.D. That is why the T.O.A.D. is so vital. It provides the support and the resources to ensure each salesperson has the opportunity to maximize his or her personal effectiveness.
Have You Kissed The T.O.A.D. Lately?
The monthly T.O.A.D. is the platform for sales effectiveness. It is vital that the T.O.A.D. follows a structured process. This is not because there is a single, best way to approach a T.O.A.D., but because the discussion needs to minimize subjective, personal issues and maximize creative thinking and the free flow of information. The T.O.A.D. reduces subjectivity by using clear, objective measurements and by making all commitments between the Territory Manager and the Sales Manager explicit rather than implicit.
To kiss the T.O.A.D., you must show respect.
Creating Enthusiasm and Mutual Respect
Establishing intent is critical. This is not a session for reprimand or criticism. The Sales Manager should ask if he or she truly has the desire to:
Increase Territory Managers' incentives
Help them achieve preset objectives
Help them improve performance
Remove obstacles and provide resources and support
This is the only way to get the respect necessary for the T.O.A.D.
A generally positive attitude is necessary to promote the maximum and optimum use of knowledge and skills in the selling situation. Such an attitude is also critical to the dynamic of the T.O.A.D. If the majority of your selling force is not receptive toward change at the start, very little can be done to create an atmosphere conducive to success. This attitude problem must be corrected before another step is taken.
There are a number of fundamental steps that can be taken to improve attitude. Some of these are:
Demonstrate your respect for the Territory Manager by listening first.
Constantly communicate the value of improved sales effectiveness and demonstrate your commitment through 100% participation and support.
Create enthusiasm by displaying enthusiasm. (Enthusiasm is contagious!)
Focus your time with the Territory Manager on coaching and mentoring.
Display leadership characteristics by making sure the Territory Manager has a thorough understanding of targeting, goal setting and action planning.
Preparing to Kiss the T.O.A.D.
The Territory Manager should prepare for the T.O.A.D. ahead of time by reviewing action plans and objectives for target accounts, checking the commitments made, and defining the support necessary from management. A quick checklist of what went right and what went wrong for each objective will prove very helpful to the T.O.A.D.
The Sales Manager should prepare for the T.O.A.D. by studying the Territory Manager's monthly and year-to-date sales and profit numbers, and making note of any performance that is above expectations as well as any performance that is below expectations. He should also review his notes from the prior T.O.A.D. for the mutual commitments made and any supplemental territory performance information to be checked. Preparing questions on each specific numeric measurement may be helpful. The Sales Manager should write down specific goals for the T.O.A.D. (what he or she hopes to accomplish) and create a brief agenda. Depending on the situation, he or she may want to forward the agenda and any preparatory information or questions to the representative a few days before the session.
The Actual Act of Kissing the T.O.A.D.
The T.O.A.D. should maximize the participation of the Territory Manager. After all, if he or she does not find the session helpful, it is a waste of time. As much time as possible should be devoted to realizing this goal. Strong Territory Manager participation in the session is one of the most effective methods of developing both an attitude for learning and a desire for successful accomplishment of goals and objectives.
The structure of the T.O.A.D. should follow the diagram below. Remember, you are trying to minimize subjective content and maximize coaching, mentoring and support.
Objectively Assess Performance
A primary source of performance measurement is the scorecard. If you don't have one, create one. A scorecard is nothing more than a summary of actual performance against identified targets and the objectives set for those targets. The T.O.A.D. should generally begin with a quick look at each measurement, along with the trends the numbers indicate.
Next, progress on action plans for each target account should be checked. If action plan tasks are being completed but the corresponding growth of the account is sub par, the Sales Manager and Territory Manager should discuss the reasons and consider changes to the plan and/or account goals. If the Territory Manager is consistently failing to complete action items on time, a discussion about time management may be warranted.
The Territory Manager and Sales Manager should also verify that the specific commitments made at prior T.O.A.D. sessions have been fulfilled. It is critical that, after kissing the T.O.A.D., both the Territory Manager and the Sales Manager have a clear, shared understanding of territory performance.
Coach, Mentor and Support
The bulk of the time with the T.O.A.D. should be spent on these activities. The Sales Manager should generally approach the T.O.A.D. by listening to the Territory Manager. Where is he or she having problems? What resources does he or she need? Where are his or her key skill and knowledge gaps? How is his or her attitude? Does he or she understand the targeting process and other sales effectiveness concepts?
Items to consider include:
Improving the Territory Manager's time management
Improving the Territory Manager's use of team-based selling
Modifying target account goals and action plans
Providing key resources such as training
What you, as the Sales Manager, could do better or different to support the Territory Manager
Understanding the reasons behind a bad attitude or lack of enthusiasm
If you would like to request a free Territory Opportunity Action-planning Discussion checklist, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Agree on New Commitments
When you have finished kissing the T.O.A.D., the Territory Manager and Sales Manager should write down each commitment that both have made to each other. By recording them, you are ensuring that they are explicit rather than assumed and that both of you are in full agreement. Verify any change in the action plans. Reassure the Territory Manager of your support.
The Territory Opportunity Action-planning Discussion (T.O.A.D.) can be as powerful as the kiss of the princess that turned the Toad into a Prince. It can be the cornerstone of sales effectiveness that maximizes revenue, improves profitability and increases market share for your company.
So, even though some may think fairy tales are for kids, don't be afraid to Kiss the TOAD. It may be the first step to maximizing sales success in your organization.
Dr. Eric "Rick" Johnson (email@example.com) is the founder of CEO Strategist LLC. an experienced based firm specializing in Distribution. CEO Strategist LLC. works in an advisory capacity with distributor executives in board representation, executive coaching, team coaching and education and training to make the changes necessary to create or maintain competitive advantage. You can contact them by calling 352-750-0868, or visit http://www.ceostrategist.com for more information.
Rick received an MBA from Keller Graduate School in Chicago, Illinois and a Bachelor's degree in Operations Management from Capital University, Columbus Ohio. Rick recently completed his dissertation on Strategic Leadership and received his Ph.D. He's also a published book author with four titles to his credit: "The Toolkit for Improved Business Performance in Wholesale Distribution," the NWFA & NAFCD "Roadmap", Lone Wolf-Lead WolfThe Evolution of Sales" and a fiction novel about teenagers called "Shattered Innocence."