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Time for Sales Managers to Tip the Boat

Ongoing management. Low performers, mid-level performers and even high performers need it. It does not assume high performance, and once high performing, does not assume it will always continue. Everyone needs to be managed on a consistent basis. In sales, the goal of ongoing management is participation rate. 

Participation rate is the percentage of sales team members who are at or above plan. For a sales team, participation rate is easy to calculate. On a team of 10 people where four are above their sales plan on a  YEAR-TO-DATE basis, the participation rate is 40%. 

Participation rate is a statistic that rarely scrutinized. Why? Sales managers are measured for making their quota. If the quota is $100 million, the sales manager’s goal is to get each sales person to deliver an average of $10 million. Some will produce $15 million and others will produce $5 million; the sales manager only needs the total to add up to $100 million. The sales manager is incentivized to keep average performers. A sales person who only delivers 50% of their quota is better for the sales manager than the 0% they would contribute if the sales manager let them go.

Research reveals that a participation rate of 60% or less will give sales managers a 10% chance of making their revenue plan. Sales managers must aim for a high (70%) participation rate to have a good chance of making plan, although it is not guaranteed.

Given this, why do sales managers tolerate poor performance? What stops them from having tough conversations? Sales managers are nice. They do not want to rock the boat. Their strategy is hope. 

A sales rep’s performance can be evaluated on two criteria – behavior and results. Assessing whether a sales rep is or could be delivering results is fairly straightforward – it’s a math problem. There are four performer categories a sales manager works with:

  1. - High Performers = Deliver results + behave correctly
  2. - Coachable Performers = Behave correctly but results are not 100% yet
  3. - Tough Performers = Deliver results + behave poorly
  4. - Poor Performers = Poor results + poor behaviors

In an ideal world, a sales manager would have 100% High Performers. Neat concept, most likely not going to happen. What is the next best thing? One hundred percent High Performers and Coachable Performers. This is attainable but it’s not the norm. 

Most leaders will have some Tough Performers and some Poor Performers. Imagine having 10 direct reports with two in these groups. Not bad, manageable. Now imagine four out of 10. Life is tougher and tough moments happen on a daily basis. At six out of 10, it is probably tough to get out of bed in the morning. 

Ongoing management of performers involves monthly (minimum) One-on-ones, observational coaching with feedback, sit downs to try and help – all the day-to-day routines to try to lift behavior and results. When these fail to work, that’s when it’s time for the performance conversation, which has five key steps:

  1. Set a clear standard and set milestones of performance for the direct report.
  2. Inform the direct report where they are not meeting the standard and set milestones.
  3. Give the direct report the opportunity to meet the standard and set milestones.
  4. Offer assistance to meet the standard and set milestones.
  5. Advise the direct report of the consequences of not meeting the standard and set milestones.

Sales managers know how to do this – the issue is getting up the nerve. Sales managers need to have the conversation as soon as needed – putting it off spares no one. Sales reps who want to be with you will step it up and improve. Those who are not capable/not interested will show very quickly (weeks not months) after the performance conversation. If things still don’t improve, the sales manager can move to the final warning, consulting with HR to effectively handle this and how to go your separate ways if that is required.

Kevin Higgins is CEO of Fusion Learning in Toronto.

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Boat sales in Ohio rebounding from Great Recession

Ohio boat dealers are looking for a rebound in 2014, and some are optimistic they’re seeing it.

The state posted $294 million in sales of boats and related goods last year, but that was down 14.2 percent from 2012, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Part of the drop might have been because 2012 was a “big growth year,” with sales up almost 11 percent in Ohio from the year before, said association spokeswoman Sarah Ryser.

“We’re kind of in another growth period,” said Patty Ackers, a manager at Ask Powersports Superstore in Columbus, which sells personal watercraft such as Jet Skis. This year has been “ phenomenal. Even with the bad weather, it’s been really good.”

U.S. boating-related sales rose 3.2 percent to $36.7 billion in 2013, according to the marine association. Ohio, with the nation’s seventh-largest population, ranked 18th with sales of $294 million.

Sales at Buckeye Lake Marina were up last year and are on the right track again this year, said Tim Levacy, marina manager.

“In between a few of the snow (storms) we had, we got a little slow, but we’re (further) ahead at this point than we were last year,” Levacy said. “We’ve had a huge half of an April, and this May has been one of the biggest I’ve ever had.”

Buckeye Lake Marina’s bestsellers are pontoon boats, which range in price from $18,000 to $120,000 and offer more seating and a “more-comfortable ride” than some other boats, Levacy said.

The marina sells more than 100 pontoons each year, he said.

Outboard boats, a category that includes pontoons, were the most-popular new powerboats sold in 2013, according to the marine association.

Despite signs of a rebound, Levacy said the market remains soft in some areas.

“I’ve talked to other dealers, and it’s hit or miss whether they’re doing better or not,” he said.

Personal-watercraft sales also were up last year, growing 2 percent, according to the marine association. Prices range from $4,999 to $17,000, a range that fits more budgets.

“There’s a price point for everybody,” Ackers said. “They’re much, much easier for folks to maintain. The cost of ownership is very low.”

Ackers said her customers take their personal watercraft out “mostly in Ohio,” including Buckeye Lake, Deer Creek and the Ohio River, but sometimes also take them to the ocean.

“They might go to Florida on vacation and take their watercraft with them,” she said.

Lancaster resident Allen Wentz bought a pontoon boat from Buckeye Lake Marina two weeks ago to use at the family’s summer house nearby. He has noticed Buckeye Lake getting busier the past few years.

“We also had a boat on Lake Erie for a while,” he said. “I think more people have been buying boats at Buckeye Lake. … People are staying closer to their area.”

Todd Hammond, a 54-year-old Newark resident who also owns a home on Buckeye Lake, said he has noticed more people buying boats as well.

“Where we built, there’s new homes, so that has picked up, and along with that … the people out here are also buying boats as well,” Hammond said.

Hammond bought a pontoon boat from Buckeye Lake Marina about three years ago.

“Three years ago, we bought a place down here at Buckeye Lake, so we needed a boat,” Hammond said. “(I) just like being on the water.

“Being able to go out on the weekends and the evening, it’s just a nice experience.”


By Liz Young – The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Nighttime race on the lake




Buy This Photo

For more than 100 years, there has been a Mills Race on Lake Erie. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitive sailing events on the Great Lakes. The 91st running of the Mills Trophy Race will be this Friday.

The first Mills Race, named for race founder Merrill B. Mills, was held in 1907, and four boats participated.

This picturesque scene was captured by Toledo Times photographer Carl Gifford on June 24, 1939. Some of the best-known sailing yachts on Lake Erie were among the 28 boats that participated in the race that summer. In this photo, the second boat on the left, the Siren, is edging into the lead.

TOLEDO MAGAZINE/OUTDOORS: The Mills Race‘s silver lining

The Mills Race was designed to be a test of navigational skill, so the sailboats begin the race in late afternoon in staggered starts near Toledo Harbor Light and sail through the evening until they reach the finish line at Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island. There are different race courses, based on class and boat rating. The event is sponsored by the Toledo Yacht Club.

The weather, wind, equipment reliability, and possible fatigue of the crew all factor into the nighttime sailing experience for the race participants. There was no race during the World War I era, and the 1978 race was canceled by the Coast Guard due to bad weather and large waves.

Last year, about 130 boats representing many Great Lakes yacht clubs along Lake Erie, Lake St. Clair and Lake Huron participated, along with Michigan and Ohio sailing groups from LaSalle, Monroe, Detroit, Port Huron, Cleveland, Sandusky, Port Clinton, and Toledo.

Go to​Memories to purchase photos by our award-winning staff of photographers, past and present.

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