#8 – Call Reviews (STSF Core Components)

By David Masover

Hi, welcome to episode eight of The Sales Team Success Formula™.

The first 10 episodes of the podcast are designed to be like an audiobook version of The Sales Team Success Formula™, but I didn’t actually write the book – I did these podcasts instead!

In other words, if you really want to take a deep dive into exactly what The Sales Team Success Formula™ is, how it works, what the pieces are, and what it’s going to do for you and your team, listen to episodes one through ten.

It’ll take you a couple of hours to get through all ten core content episodes just like an audiobook would, but by the time you’re done, you’re going to have all the details.

You can start with Episode One that’s going to give you an overview of the formula and then decide if you want to listen to the rest. 

Here in episode eight, we’ll cover individual review meetings between front line sales managers and reps in general and then dive specifically into call reviews.

Call reviews are a chance for managers to help reps refine how they articulate value and express company messaging while working with prospects and also how to move deals along through conversation – one of the most powerful tools we have as salespeople, when done right. By starting with a clear idea of what a good call looks like – as developed earlier in the program – managers and reps can iterate towards increased effectiveness in an efficient and effective cooperation based on the call review format we discuss in this episode.

And here is what you will find in the other episodes:

EPISODE 1:  Introducing The Sales Team Success Formula™

EPISODE 2:  Target Client Profiling

EPISODE 3:  Effective Sales Messaging

EPISODE 4:  The Four Level Sales Process™

EPISODE 5:  Personal Sales Plans

EPISODE 6:  KPIs & Metrics

EPISODE 7:  Sales Tools & Tech

EPISODE 8:  Call Reviews

EPISODE 9:  Deal Reviews & Pipeline Reviews

EPISODE 10:  Putting the Formula Into Action

Thanks for your interest in The Sales Team success Formula™ – and here’s to your success!

Transcription

Hi – David Masover here – host of the podcast and creator of The Sales Team Success Formula and I’m really glad you are here for this episode.

We’ve come a long way in the seven episodes of the podcast that have preceded this one, let’s take a quick look back before jumping over to the third and final corner in our triangle that represents your front line sales organization and the key focus areas of The Sales Team Success Formula.

In the first episode we mapped out the problems that many sales leaders are feeling in their B2B sales organizations, and how the word “chaos” is one that I’m hearing a lot of, in addition to the common themes and complaints that there is little transparency, too many reps are not performing at a high enough level, that the company as a whole just needs to do better at generating revenue, and the things that have been tried so far just are not working.

Also in that first episode we talked about what The Sales Team Success Formula is, how it works and how it helps with all of that – and that’s where we mapped out this triangle graphic I just referred to, so if you missed that and are interested in that background please check out that episode as well, and remember that you can also download a graphical representation of this magical triangle from the episode notes of episode 1.

As a quick reminder, this triangle – of course – has three corners and each one represents a key component of your front line sales organization and a key focus area for The Sales Team Success Formula.

The first corner is about your salespeople, and in episodes 2-5 we went deep into things like where they should focus, how they can communicate more effectively with prospects and customers, how they can successfully navigate deals, and how they can stay on top of all of their deals and provide a framework for accountability around that.

The second corner is where we start to move into the management side of things and in episodes six and seven we focused on how to take what we co-created with salespeople around what they do in the field and leverage that into effective KPIs and metrics that have substance and integrity and that give us meaningful and useful insights into what we need to know to understand and lead our sales organizations, and we also talked about how to select tools and tech that will not only help reps execute better, but to help provide the data to drive those KPIs and metrics as we go.

And all of that leads us to right here – episode eight – the first episode about the third corner of our triangle graphic.

This third corner is the corner that is about our friend the front line sales manager – the person in the sales organization – regardless of title – who is the person that reps report to directly, and how this front line sales manager can support the team and all of the reps in it efficiently and effectively while holding them accountable to the clear expectations that have been agreed to and that are built around the things that will help each rep and the organization as a whole grow and thrive.

Now remember, the front line sales manager can be any number of job titles – a sales manager, the CEO of a smaller firm, and lots of other possibilities – it’s just a way of saying the person that reps report to, and remember as well, that this is the person who has the most potential to directly impact the effectiveness of each rep and the team as a whole.

Now in this episode, we’re going to get into exactly what the person reps report should be doing to optimize and maximize total team results, how they can do that efficiently, effectively, and how they can leverage everything we’ve build so far in The Sales Team Success Formula to help them get all of that done in spite of all of the other things that are surely on their plate.

So what have we done so far that will help our front line sales manager optimize sales for each rep and the team as a whole in a lot less time and with a lot more focus and precision than many initially think possible. Let’s take a look at that, because we’ve done a lot already to build the infrastructure to support this critical job function – and it’s important to recognize that.

Success here is not just about having some talented or highly motivated front line manager come in a magically get results, it’s about establishing an infrastructure for success – so let’s quickly review what we’ve already done through this program to achieve that.

We started by co-creating clarity, agreement, and buy-in across the organization about who the reps should be talking to, what they should be saying say, how they should be managing each opportunity, and how to manage all of their opportunities.

We then identified critical KPIs and metrics to measure progress and identify areas for potential improvement, and we established a list of criteria that will help us select and deploy tools to help both the execution of real sales work and the capturing of data to drive management analytics.

Now – and only now – are we ready to talk about how the front line sales manager can impact the sales organization both efficiently and effectively. The core infrastructure for front line sales manager success has been established, now we can get to what the front line sales manager can do to support the team and each rep in it, hold them accountable, and do so by leveraging this infrastructure that we have just created.

Let’s start by recognizing an absolute fact that sadly and unfortunately is not baked into the collective DNA of most sales organizations.

There is a lot that the front line sales manager can do to support the reps and the team team as a whole, but in order to do those things, they need to have the time, the knowledge of what to do, and the infrastructure to support all of that.

We know what the infrastructure looks like now, and we’re about to get into the knowledge of exactly how to leverage that, but the first big decision that sales and company leaders have to make is this – will you make time to impact positive change in your sale team?

If the front line sales manager in your organization – even if it is the CEO – has a huge personal sales quota or expectation, tons of administrative tasks, lots of meetings to go to, and many of those “special projects” that often seem to get thrown their way, and the perception – which comes from leadership – is that these things are more important that working with the reps and the team, then the front line sales manager probably won’t have the time to get a lot of the right work done to optimize and grow the sales team.

Think about that for a moment.

If you can’t get past this, give up now.

I’m serious.

Stop listening to this podcast and go back to whatever you were doing before.

If you are not willing to accept that the right kind of time spent with reps from their boss can help make them and the whole team better, this program and The Sales Team Success Formula approach to sales organization optimization isn’t right for you.

Now the time needed to optimize the team, engender success, and establish a culture of accountability doesn’t need to be a ton of time, and by properly setting up the infrastructure and the rules of engagement you’ll maximize effectiveness with minimal time – but you do have to accept that time will be needed here.

In one of the upcoming episodes, probably episode 10, I’ll map out just how much time might be needed depending on the reps on your team which will make more sense one we’ve mapped out the things that the managers should be doing here,, but recognize now that the range will be from 30 minutes a month per rep for a highly effective team – which you can absolutely get to over time by following this program, up to 90 minutes per week per rep for reps that are weak or struggling. There are a few stages in between as well, and those will be mapped out in that soon-to-come episode, but if this kind of time commitment is a non-starter for you, this program just won’t work for you.

If – however – you can make creating this kind of time a priority – maybe a little more at first and less as the months roll by, you can completely turn around your entire sales organization.

Most clients who go through the program at least double the conversion rate from leads to closed deals within a few months of starting this program, but if those kind of results are not worth the time from the front line sales manager described here, you’ll have to try some other way to impact improvements across your sales team.

I sincerely hope you can see a way or at this point at least imagine the possibility that you can make the time happen. Very, very good things can happen for you and your sale team if you do, and you spend it the right way, which is exactly what we’ll get into right now.

Beyond giving them the time, total sales team optimization can happen only when your front line sales manager knows what to do and how to do it, and also needs the infrastructure to execute effectively – and this is exactly what we are building here with The Sales Team Success Formula

If you have taken the time to co-create with the reps and the front line sales manager the elements in the “what should reps be doing” section, you have established real and effective KPIs, you have harnessed technology according to the actual work your reps are doing and are capturing relevant and accurate real data along the way, you have gone a long way towards empowering the front line sales manager for success.

As far as what to do with the reps and the team as a whole, the high level is about support and accountability. Closer to the ground level, this means regular, consistent, and disciplined call reviews, deal reviews, and pipeline reviews.

And just to tickle your imagination here – please realize that these sync up directly to what we worked on with reps – call reviews are about targeting and messaging, deal review are about executing an effective sales process, and pipeline reviews is about how well a rep is on top of all of their deals.

Please recognize that connection, and put tools, tech, KPIs and metrics in between and you can really start to see the power of this triangle that represents your sales organization powered by The Sales Team Success Formula.

Now – call reviews, deals reviews and pipeline reviews are not something you are hearing about here for the first time. They are not new, but like so many things in sales organizations, many believe that these are happening, but they really aren’t – at least not in a meaningful and impactful way

There are best practices for each and all of these meetings, and while there is no one set of best practices, I will outline one way of doing each of them here. More important than the specifics though, is that they are regular, consistent, and focused.

Further, the overarching perspective has to be support and accountability.

Too many sales managers live in the realm of count metrics and chastise if some threshold isn’t met.

There just isn’t much value there.

Let’s explore now how we can do better, and how the work we’ve done so far in The Sales Team Success Formula can help make this both efficient and effective for reps, for the front line sales manager, and the team as a whole and let’s start by digging into call reviews.

I like to start this section on call reviews with a story about one of the Sales Team Success Formula beta clients who went through this program in 2021 that really brings home the core point of why we need to do call reviews.

When we were working on the messaging part of the program, like we talked about in episode 3 of this podcast, both the reps and management participated, and the level of engagement was strong.

Pretty much everyone participated, asked questions, did the homework, read out examples, and gave constructive feedback on each others work. It seemed like the ideas we were trying to communicate in the workshop had reached the students and they not only knew what to say because we did those exercises, but why – they understood the concepts and philosophy behind the tactics, which is absolutely what we want to be going for here.

In other words, they left the workshop knowing what a good call looked, felt, and sounded like.

All good, right?

And then, about a month later, the manager had call recording software installed and started using it.

Her description of the calls that she was listening to – and I quote:

“Total disaster”

So what’s the takeaway here?

It’s not enough to teach people what to say and hope they say it.

Its also not enough to review calls when there is not an established expectation of what a good call should sound like.

The magic only happens when you do both things together:

  • Co-Creating Clarity around what a good call sounds like AND reviewing those calls, preferably together with each rep in call review meetings.
  • And over time, working together towards better and better execution based on a clarified expectation of what a good conversation with a prospect or customer looks and sounds like.

As for the call review meeting format itself, there are a lot of different ways to do call reviews. You can Google to your hearts delight to find the format that feels most right to you. I’ll make three points about call reviews in general that should apply to any format you use, and then offer a suggestion for how to do them that has always worked well for me and my clients, but from there this is something you should play with until you find what works best for you.

Call Review Principle 1: You need to be consistent

I’m going to repeat this for all of the reviews for the sake of – uh – consistency, this is big.

If your salespeople have been in sales for any amount of time, they have almost certainly experienced this common phenomenon where a manager or leader gets a great idea, tries to implement it, goes through the motions a few times, and then forgets about it.

I can practically guarantee that some if not all of your salespeople will be thinking about this the first time you do anything new, including a call review, or a call review based on a different format and set of timing as we are suggesting here.

The first time you do it, they won’t understand what you are doing, so you’ll need to walk them through it. That’s fine. They might think it won’t happen again in which case they’ll probably just humor you and then forget all about it.

So you’ll do it again – at a regularly scheduled time, and with the exact same format.

…and they may still be skeptical, but keep going!

By the third or fourth time you do the review at the same scheduled time and with the same specific format, your salespeople will start to realize that this is going to be a regular thing, and that’s when the magic starts to happen.

In between reviews, when your reps are out in the field doing their thing, they will be thinking about the review meeting coming up. They will know what the format is, what questions to expect, what they will be expected to bring to the review, and what they will be held accountable for.

No-one likes to come to a meeting looking unprepared and foolish. Be consistent in how and when you execute this meeting and you will motivate your salespeople to be ready for it each week or however often you do it.

That’s the point.

You want your reps thinking about this while they do their work, so choose your format carefully, change it if you need to but be deliberate and communicative about why, and be consistent. This is a bigger piece of the puzzle then it should be, but your salespeople are indeed humans, and this is just how we are wired.

Please do yourself the favor of being ruthlessly deliberate and consistent. The huge potential upside of call reviews will loose tons of steam of you are not consistent with how you execute and time them.

Call Review Principle Number 2: You need to start with a clear agreement about what a good call looks like

One of the powerful things we do in The Sales Team Success Formula in the section about what the reps should be doing is that we established what a good conversation looks and feels like. We do this in the messaging section that I discussed in Episode three of this podcast by highlighting the importance of a problem/solution oriented call from the perspective of the prospect and we also addressed this in the Four-Level Sales Process by mapping out what needs to happen at each stage of the sales process.

Because we did this, you can review calls against something that has been co-created and agreed on by you and your reps.

This is a whole different kettle of fish than the typical call review.

In the typical call review, there is usually no clear understanding of what “good” looks like and so the manager will offer random opinions about various elements of a call. Sometimes they make good observations, sometimes the input sticks, but it is by definition random.

I’ve seen the other extreme as well, which is even more ineffective.

I had one personal coaching client some time ago who worked for a company the used AI to make sure that reps stuck to a specific script at least 70%. If they didn’t, they got into trouble – and yes, that was the job that the front line sales manager had, where they spent their time, and this is what the sales organization thought they should be doing to make reps more effective – you just can’t make this stuff up!

Now my client and I were able to work together to make him effective with how he transitioned between these scripted elements, but that’s not the point.

The point is that scripting what your reps say isn’t conducive to the kind of selling that works in the modern era. Your reps need to be having conversations with prospects about solving their problems with your solution.

Giving your reps an understanding of how to position this conversation as we do in the messaging part of The Sales Team Success Formula and giving them a checklist of things to cover for each part of the opportunity as we did when we developed The Four Level Sales Process allows your reps to know what a good call sounds like.

When you have established Co-Created Clarity around what good sounds like, then your call reviews start with an understanding of what a good call looks like, and gives the front line sales manager a solid platform to give constructive input about what happened on a call and how to make it better, which leads us to…

Call Review Principle Number 3: You need to hear the calls

Now please hear this – you absolutely, positively, 100% HAVE to hear the calls your reps are on with prospects in order to have effective call reviews. There are a lot of ways to do this, including call recording software, listening in on a call, or going to a meeting with a rep and trying to stay quiet (that’s important!).

As suggested in the story that opened this section, just because reps know what they are supposed to do doesn’t mean that they will do that when they are on calls. Maybe they fall into old habits, maybe they misunderstood, or maybe they need some coaching to help them execute the concept better – but you won’t know unless you actually hear the calls.

And I’m sorry to say, but those recording software programs that count things like percentage of talk time, number of questions, specific words or phrases identified, and things like that will only take you so far. You need to know how your rep did when engaging with a prospect, and you’ll need to listen to the actual calls to get a feel for that.

Don’t worry though – you won’t have to do this forever. If you are consistent with the how and when of your call review meetings and if you base them on a clear map of what a good call looks like, reps who want to improve will with your guidance over time and you won’t need to keep reviewing calls so often forever.

As for reps who don’t want to improve are another story, we’ll get to that in a few episodes.

So those are the three big guidelines – be consistent, leverage the agreement of what a good call looks like, and listen to the calls.

But what should the format of the call review meeting be?

Here is one suggestion for you to consider

Like I said, you can Google “how to do a sales call review meeting” or something similar you will get no shortage of results. 

Feel free to do a search like that and read up to find or craft together a model that feels the most right for you. What we are working to create with The Sales Team Success Formula is an adaptive, dynamic sales organization that will keep growing and keep changing over time. There is no one right answer here, just an ongoing pursuit of improvement, here and in every element of the program and your organization.

That said, there is a format for call review meetings that has always worked well for me and my clients and I’d like to share it with you here.

It requires that you have recorded the call, but that is so easy to do these days. I hope you embrace the value of that and either have and use or get and use the capability to do that ASAP.

So what is this call review meeting format?

Easy – ask your reps to bring in or send you in advance one example of what they think is a good call and one example of what they think is a bad call for the period between call reviews.

This model does a few things for you.

First and foremost, it forces the reps to pay attention to their calls and to actively consider during the week what was a good call and what wasn’t. That level of awareness is a good thing!

Second, it allows you to have the right discussion with your salespeople during the review. You can easily open the discussion by going over the call one way or the other and then asking the rep what they think made it good or what made it bad. This allows you to get right into the right discussion right away. The point of the call review meeting is to come to a common understanding of what is good and what is bad, and this approach leads you right to the right place right away.

You will almost certainly find that at first reps will define good and bad in terms of what the prospect says. This is natural. Be sure to make it clear from the start that the good and bad you are looking for is about what the rep does on the call, not the prospects reaction or the ultimate outcome. This may feel counter-intuitive, but we can’t control prospects, we can only get better in our own execution so focus on that.

As far as the calls themselves, if it is a short call, to ask for a meeting for example, then you can review the calls together in the call review. For longer calls – like a discovery call, demo call, or a call about a proposal or offer – have your reps send them to you in advance with some notes about the call, then you can review it on your own and go over notes together using the recording and specific points in the call as references during the review. If you are reviewing longer calls, then working on one call per review is probably best, and you can work sometimes on the good and sometimes on the bad as different kinds of calls to work with come up.

There is a third benefit to this kind of a review for the front line sales manager.

By having the rep choose the calls to review this minimizes the front line sales managers time in sifting through calls. The rep may not choose the perfect call each time, but by focusing on what they perceive to be good and bad and working with them on that, the front line sales manager can reach the best results over time by using that as a point of departure and to move together with the rep to a common agreement of what good and bad calls are like over time and over a number of these regular and consistent call review meetings.

This kind of iterative learning process will stick with reps because they will come to understand what good and bad calls are, which is much more powerful than just giving them a script or offering random input on the fly without a framework.

Over time, motivated reps will become better and better at calls, and will become more effective with prospects at each stage of the sales process – which is exactly the outcome you want from call reviews.

One last thing about this kind of a call review

I always liked to start these reviews as one-on-one meetings with individual reps to establish the framework, and I liked to do them weekly at the start. From there you can stay with this format as long as you like, go to bi-weekly one-on-one, as needed one-on-one, or you can even start doing these as a group meeting so that the whole team can participate.

Doing call reviews as a group meeting is a great way to share best practices, but I have found that group meetings works best when you establish the format one-on-one first so that when the group gets together everyone knows what to expect and how this is supposed to work.

What your salespeople say to prospects at various stages on the sales process is a massive part of what will make your reps and your team successful. Call reviews are a focused and effective way to impact improvement there, especially if you are consistent, if you have a clear and co-created understanding of what good looks like, and if you work with the actual calls and not what your rep might happen to remember about them.

So call reviews are the first of the three key review meetings that the front line sales manager should have with reps consistently and on a regular basis to facilitate the support they need to get better and to hold them accountable to the things that will keep them and the team as a whole moving forward and growing.

In the next episode we’ll cover the other two review meetings that lay the core foundation for front line sales management effectiveness – the deal review and the pipeline review, and then in episode 10 we’ll bring it all together and show how all of the piece of the formula work together to enable front line sales management and total team effectiveness for your sales organizations.

If you’d like to find out what the formula can do specifically for you and your team, head over to my website at www dot sales team success formula dot com and sign up for a one-on-one consultation and assessment with me and let’s find out if this program is your best next move for B2B sales growth and scalability.

See you next time for all of that!