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How to evaluate a salesperson

by Troy Harrison

One of the things that surprises a lot of clients is my insistence on doing formal annual written evaluations of salespeople. “But, they know how they’re doing,” I’m told. Nonsense. Annual evaluations are a great tool for improvement; unfortunately, too many of the evaluations used don’t really cover the important areas that salespeople should be evaluated on. Worse, they can be too complicated to deal with. Here’s a simple four-point evaluation criteria that can work for any salesperson, working for any company, in any industry

Criteria one – the numbers: Obviously, the most important measure of achievement is results. Compare your salesperson’s performance to your goals, and give him a 1-5 rating by the following criteria:

  • 1 if they’ve never gotten close enough to quota to see it.
  • 2 if they’re usually under quota, but every now and then, they’ve had a breakout month and made it. 
  • 3 if they’re usually at or close to quota.
  • 4 if they’re usually well over quota, but still miss every now and then.
  • 5 if you can’t remember the last time your salesperson missed quota and they’re usually 20% or more over.
  • Now, multiply this result by 2.

Criteria two – the funnel: You should have targets for your salespeoples’ sales funnel activities; i.e. appointments, proposals, etc. Maintaining a full funnel is vital; the first criteria is about past results – this one is about future performance. Rate the salesperson 1-5 again, with this criteria:

  • 1 if they’re consistently 20% or more below your targets.
  • 2 if they’re usually below target, but sometimes make it.
  • 3 if they almost always hit target.
  • 4 if they always meet and sometimes exceed targets.
  • 5 if they’re always over by 20% or more.

Criteria three – customer relationships: In this criteria, we will evaluate the quality of the salesperson’s customer interactions and relationships, as this is a predictor of their future ability to make their numbers. For the purpose of this exercise, focus on those customers that generate the top 80% of business. We’ll rate relationships in terms of the salesperson’s ability to retain this business in the face of adversity as well as customers’ willingness to evangelize for the salesperson and your company, again on our 1-5 scale.

  • 1 if 50% or more of the salesperson’s top customers are one service failure away from leaving.
  • 2 if 20% to 49% of their customer base is one screw-up away from leaving.
  • 3 if 0-20% of their base is one mistake away from leaving.
  • 4 if they can withstand a screw-up with all of their customers.
  • 5 if they can withstand failure with all their customers, AND at least 25% of them are willing to refer or serve as testimonials.

Criteria four – internal relationships: Some people don’t believe that it’s important for salespeople to be good internal citizens of their companies. Nonsense. If a salesperson is a negative influence inside your company, they’re costing that company money in lost productivity from those who are negatively affected by their poor attitude. On the other hand, being well liked and respected can pay career dividends in many different ways.

Rate the salesperson 1-5 again on this criteria:

  • 1 if a conference room or office clears within 2 minutes of their entry (because no one can stand them).
  • 2 if they’re usually afraid to ask co-workers or support personnel for favors because they’re not willing to grant them.
  • 3 if they have at least three “go-to” people that you can get favors and help from, AND have people that they avoid because they can’t.
  • 4 If they are nearly universally respected, and have at least three “go-to” people
  • 5 If everyone is your “go-to” person (or even better, they are everyone else’s).

By now, you should have a feel for the criteria. 1 is awful, 2 is bad, 3 is average, 4 is good, 5 is superstar-level. We double-weighted sales results because, frankly, that’s the most important criteria. But it’s not the only criteria. In any criteria that you ranked your salesperson a 1 or 2, they have work to do. Seek help from co-workers, customers, and offer it yourself to develop them. Overall, here is the scale:

25 to 30: They’re either a superstar or on the edge of superstardom.
20 to 24: They’re good, a cut above average, and unlikely to have job worries anytime soon.
13 to 19: They’re average. Very, very average.
7 to 12: They’re below average to the point that you’re constantly worried about them.
1 to 6: Unless they’re brand new with no experience, in this category, they need overnight change of either behavior or career.

Professional Development Goals: Any good evaluation should identify areas where the salesperson can improve and build their skills during the time period between now and the next evaluation. Again, any 1’s or 2’s are easy targets for this. Besides those obvious deficiencies, look at areas where they can make a substantial leap in performance. Your goal as manager should be to improve someone at least two points; in other words, don’t shoot for taking a 1 to a 2. Shoot for a 1 to a 3, or a 2 to a 4. Identify at least three skills that can be improved on.

Overall summation: Write a summary paragraph about your salesperson’s performance and how they fit into your sales force, now and in the future. Make sure to include positives as well as areas for improvement.

Salesperson’s comments: Allow the salesperson to write down their own comments, if they desire.

Sign it: You and the salesperson should sign the evaluation. Give them a copy, keep a copy for your own file, and you’re done. See, wasn’t that simple?

The truth is that a quality performance evaluation is a vital part of your sales management processes, and it shouldn’t be neglected. Do this at least annually, if not semiannually.

Troy HarrisonTroy Harrison is the author of “Sell Like You Mean It!” and a speaker, consultant and sales navigator. He helps companies build more profitable and productive sales forces with his cutting-edge sales training and methodologies. For information on booking speaking/training engagements, consulting, or to sign up for his weekly E-zine, call 913-645-3603, e-mail, or visit


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