September 19, 2018

Beverly James photo

Every sales manager knows that managing up is as important as managing the reps who report to you.  When the day comes that you are given a budget that you know in your heart is impossible to reach, how do you motivate your team when you don’t believe you can reach the goal? Changing this dynamic was the topic of the 2018 PMDMC 2018 session “Managing Budget Expectations for Your Sales Reps.”

Jared Blass from Atlanta Public Broadcasting, Tracy Roe from NET Nebraska, and Tom Smith from KEXP in Seattle shared their advice, offered great worksheets (available in the slides) and emphasized the key role data can play in setting expectations for your sales reps and for your superiors. 

Position your department at budget time.

In fact, telling your department story throughout the year and not just at budget time is important. Make an effort to educate your upper management team on key data such as:

  • Pacing by station/product
  • New business
  • Attrition
  • Renewal

This allows a better understanding of the numbers to set realistic budgeting goals accordingly.

Tom Smith says, “Share your data, all the time, good or bad.  #Sharing is caring!”

Communicate what can be expected of a new rep.

A new rep can seem like an obvious way to solve a budget shortfall, and certainly it does add capacity. But first consider things like:

  • Market demand on your product
  • Inventory headroom; if you add a rep is there enough inventory?
  • Sales capacity; are your existing reps maxed out?  

Use your historical data to define expectations of a new rep, and then share this data and your conclusions with upper management.  A new rep takes time to get established; all of our PMDMC panelists agreed that it takes longer than ever in today’s sales environment. Your boss needs to know this is a long-term investment and the ROI may not be realized for one or two years.

To manage a new rep most effectively it’s important to challenge them, with patience. Set expectations based on past first-year- rep performance. Determine average sale value and potential number of those sales for a forecast model. Map out a three-year plan and be prepared for attrition, first from inherited accounts that may have bought on relationship, and then attrition from new accounts that are small and may not be the best fit. You can expect more productive new business development after the second year.

Drive the budget conversation by sharing important data.

Tracy Roe at NET Nebraska provides a weekly sales report to upper management that shows YTD numbers for all platforms compared to that which was budgeted, as well as individual sales to showcase rep performance. It’s how she keeps upper management informed on an ongoing basis.

Jared Blass of Atlanta Public Broadcasting reminds us that history points to what the future might look like. Using historical data can reinforce “reasonable” expectations. To build trust with your boss, he suggests sharing the following information on an ongoing basis:

  • Account by account info
  • Sell-out ratios and average unit rates
  • Historic levels of new business
  • Historic attrition levels
  • A rolling forecast of up to 12 months out
  • Industry and market economic indicators and trends for comparison

And don’t hesitate to show your work to lend even greater credibility to your numbers. 

Tom Smith of KEXP believes that pacing data is the most valuable tool for assessing progress towards a goal as well as the health of your program. It tells a stronger month-to-month story than performance against goal, and it’s a great tool to get management and your team invested in what’s possible. Here are a few percentages he aims for:

  • Day one of fiscal year:  30% towards goal
  • End of Q1:  50% towards goal
  • End of Q2:  75% towards goal
  • End of Q3:  90% (or better) towards goal

Check out this pacing worksheet for reps.  

Boost new  business expectations among senior reps.

One of the biggest challenges with senior reps is fighting complacency toward new business development. The truly great reps are always actively seeking new business, but not all reps fall into this category. Set the following expectations for all of your reps:

  • Estimate account list attrition.
  • Determine minimum new business needs to show desired growth.
  • Compare to historical trends.
  • Map out potential for target accounts.

Roe rolls up each rep’s individual projection into the entire station’s projection so the numbers are transparent and reps can have ownership over their contribution toward the bigger goals. It also allows each rep to see trending on quarterly basis and what gap-fillers are needed to achieve their final number.

Smith uses detailed weekly reports for the team and individual reps to show progress against goals, with pacing as a major component. He adds that this info can help demonstrate what a new desk may be able to contribute.

To redistribute accounts: Good, bad, or both?

Taking a billing account away from a rep is not a fun conversation. While this is not something that any of our panelists likes to do, sometimes it must occur for the benefit of the company. Panelists encouraged considering the following before acting:

  1. The goal is to gain revenue. However, many clients buy based on relationships.  Would moving an account affect their spend?

  2. Moving accounts can be demoralizing, especially after someone has worked so hard to grow. Can you work with rep to identify “time-wasting accounts” that could be transferred to someone else to develop?

  3. Compensation. It may be important to “make them whole” by increasing their base or increase their commission rate for new business for a short time. The great reps love the chase and, in the end, this may be the best thing you can do for them to make them love their job all over again. 

All panelists agree that accounts belong to the station in the end, not the rep. However, missteps here can actually hinder instead of grow revenue. Knowing your data will help you understand the implications of your decisions.

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Beverly James photo