Look past performance data: The importance for sales leaders to assess their team members with a Humanistic Management Approach

Humanistic management is emerging as a vital approach for transforming the new normal into new opportunities. But what does ‘humanistic’ really mean for the future of sales management

Contrary to popular belief, humanistic management doesn’t mean being nice for the sake of it. It means treating teams kindly in a bid to push them forward; it means being constructive in a way that supports and guides teams through their challenges. It means putting people first, and prioritising those that the business heavily relies on to achieve its goals. 

It’s clear to see how a humanistic management approach is important to remote team performance. It’s even clearer to see how it’s important to culture in any sales environment. Sales reps, by their very nature, are extroverts. They thrive when they’re connecting with people, and new situations arising in the future of sales could well be difficult for them to handle. A humanistic management approach helps to address some of the biggest challenges of remote working, including isolation, loneliness, feelings of separation, and worries about maintaining relationships with their leader. It can work to protect mental health and wellbeing at a time of change.

Many sales leaders know this. What they may not know is that a humanistic management approach isn’t just important in terms of wellbeing. It can also be a powerful tool in performance assessment, making it one of the key skills a sales manager should have to remain successful in the future. As the rest of the world is being blinded by big data, the sales leaders of the future are looking beyond facts and figures to drive results through applying humanistic management to individual sales rep assessment. 

Performance data vs. humanistic leadership

Sales figures, new contracts, opportunity-to-win ratio, average deal size, rejection and churn rate… these are all classic KPIs that are commonly used to monitor performance in sales teams. But these metrics are limited; they only tell you how each individual rep has performed within a blanket system. It’s a bit like assessing whether a cat or dog is better by seeing which one returns a ball. Data wise, the dog will win. But if we were to look beyond the data at the cat’s own distinct characteristics and skills, we’d see that the cat was talented and performing in its own way… just not in relation to the criteria.

This is how things are with your team. Your team is diverse. Or at least it should be given the value of diversity and inclusion in sales. Diversity is critical, with teams consisting of people from a variety of experiences and backgrounds better positioned to navigate and adapt to change. But when dealing with a diverse team, it’s important to remember that individual performance can’t be monitored using the same blanket KPIs. There has to be a more personal approach. 

In diverse teams, humanistic leadership is a better solution for tracking performance. 

Humanistic management means getting to know your team members on a deeper level, beyond their surface actions. Building this sort of relationship creates unique opportunities to ask meaningful questions and generate real engagement, rather than simply shallow interactions. The real benefit of this is that leaders can observe team behaviours, rather than just see them happening; they can better understand why these behaviours are being exhibited, which provides unique insight into the internal processes of each worker. We see why they’re doing what they do. We’re seeing their thought processes. And this allows us to more accurately assess individual performance. 

Should performance levels be found to be waning, a humanistic management approach can address this. By understanding what motivates individuals and learning what makes them happy, it’s easier for leaders to adapt processes and make tweaks to the way of working to help each sales rep fulfil their potential. 

Seeing people for who they are - not as a statistic - is a powerful tool. It enables leaders to better understand which people are best in which seat, ensuring they are in the right place to take the team to new heights. Sales figures matter. Of course, they do. But when it comes to assessing the performance of your team, they’re not everything. 

How to assess your team’s performance humanistically

The exact ins and outs of how you can apply the humanistic management approach to performance assessment will largely depend on you and your team. However, if you’re looking for a little inspiration, here are some highly effective ideas:

  • Host e-lunches or e-coffees to chat informally about performance
  • Hold 1-2-1 meetings that allow you to focus on each individual 
  • Go off-script. Use a flexible conversational style to encourage more open chat
  • Experiment with hours, seeing if different people work better at different times
  • Set an unconventional challenge to assess performance in a fun way

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