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Sales Leaders, Are Your Reps Completing their Action Items?

Sales Leaders, Are Your Reps Completing their Action Items? - SalesLatitude

how-to-coach-reps-to-complete-action-items-1Recently, I’ve been having lots of conversations with sales leaders who tell me that their teams do all the right things when it comes to working deals. But, they’re stumped when it comes to getting their sales teams to follow up on and complete action items. When I hear these two statements together, they seem to be at opposite sides of the spectrum. How can they truly be doing all the right things if they don’t complete action items?

This naturally begs the question, “Is this happening when you are not there to coach?” Understandably, you cannot “be there” all the time. You have to expect that if your teams ARE doing all the right things when working a deal, then following up on the action items they’ve agreed to would be paramount. So what’s the problem?

Excuses, Excuses

I think much of the problem is excuses. I could think of a million of them. Ask your sales reps what’s happening with those follow-up action items and listen carefully to their responses. Here are a few you might hear:

  • Other things have taken priority
  • I did not have the time
  • The buyer told me to stop asking questions
  • No one would answer my follow-up calls
  • I agreed to action items, then decided they were not that important
  • My kids spilled milk on my action list
  • My dog ate my action list

Now, some of these responses are silly. They’re meant to be. But the other ones tell us something about what sales reps are NOT doing when there’s an absence of formal coaching. So listen to their excuses. Some of their responses will give you some insight into what you should concentrate on when coaching going forward.

Have a Plan for Completing Action Items

If your sales team takes the time to get their key resources together to discuss a deal, and comes up with an action plan to fill in the gaps in their knowledge – then what could be holding them back? Are you confident that the good business practices you coached will show in your reps’ follow-ups when you’re not there? Do you only coach when it is a formal review?

When I coach strategic account teams, I always ask them to show me a list of the follow-up action items they agreed to. I don’t dictate a timeframe since I don’t know what else is on their plates. However, when we get back together, after the agreed upon dates have passed, I do expect that they’ve addressed each and every one. Or, at a minimum, have an action plan specifying the people and timeframes for getting the information they need.

Are your sales teams doing all the right things when it comes to working deals? Are they following up on and completing the action items they agreed to? I know I shouldn’t have to babysit the action list – and neither should you. After all, the action list is all about filling in the gaps, which only helps your selling team progress the deal efficiently through the sales cycle, spending their time where it matters most to their buyers. So what’s the disconnect?


Janice Mars, Principal and Founder of SalesLatitude, is a sales performance improvement consultant and change agent focused on growing top performers to impact bottom line growth. With more than 30 years of experience as a senior business and sales executive, she helps companies build successful sales teams by maximizing their time and resources, selling from the buyer’s point of view, and strengthening the effectiveness of leadership. View my LinkedIn profile | Twitter


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