Why every new hire should raise the team’s standard (or you’ll be out of business)

Daniel Wikberg

CEO & Founder of Upsales

Daniel Wikberg

CEO & Founder of Upsales

To become an effective organisation, you need to keep raising the standard.  

The primary corporate finance principle of present value – that one dollar is worth more today than tomorrow – is equally applicable to your team. It doesn’t matter if they’re killing it right now. You’ll be outrun by competitors if your team’s standard doesn’t improve over time.

The majority of companies set the wrong standard

Most companies follow key performance indicators (KPIs). However, that isn’t nearly the same thing as having a standard. 

Let me explain the difference. 

A KPI tells you how things are going, like how many appointments your team booked last week.

A standard tells you what the expected level of performance is. 

The majority of companies set the team’s average performance as a standard. That’s, however, a terrible way to do it if you have ambitious growth targets.

Make the impossible possible. And then do it again. 

Instead, I encourage you to look at your best-performing sales reps. What did it look like when they succeeded? 

That’s what you should have as a standard. 

You can do it again if one person has already proved it possible. And, as more team members achieve the standard, keep raising it. This cycle will help you accomplish things you thought were impossible. Top performers do lay the foundation for exceptional growth. 

For further reading, I can recommend the book The Score Takes Care of Itself on how to stretch your perspective of what’s possible when setting goals.

To be in a high-performing team is not everyone’s cup of tea

I speak from experience when I say that not everyone is cut for a team like this. 

Once, I had a team member who consistently performed 80% of his target. When he came into my office one day asking for a raise, I humbly had to let him down.

“According to the results, you're not doing your job,” I said. 

He was stunned. It wasn’t the feedback he expected. He had been the best one in the team for a long while. Suddenly, when the team grew to a higher calibre, the results showed that he was the worst-performing sales executive.

Thankfully, he took my feedback gracefully and was grateful for being told the truth. In the coming months, we continued our conversation, and he gradually improved. However, the team kept raising its standard to the point that this person came to me and resigned. He felt he didn’t qualify for the team anymore, and we parted ways. The perhaps most significant upside to this kind of coaching is that the team’s standard was immediately raised once again as the bottom performer was removed.

And to be honest, this is not an unusual scenario when raising the standard. People tend to either buckle up and get ready to compete or look for opportunities elsewhere. 

And that’s okay. However, it’s essential to be clear about expectations from the start, for both parties' sake. 

Putting the standard into practice

We’re extremely thorough when recruiting since we know how essential it's to recruit the right people. They need to have a growth mindset and the capacity to help the team raise the standard.

My best advice for finding these people is to communicate the standard early on. This will help you distinguish who’s suitable and not for what you’re trying to accomplish. 

We give potential hires a sense of our standard (and the fact that it’s increasing) already in the first interview. I know many companies that avoid this because they’re afraid it will scare them off. 

From my experience, however, communicating your expected level of performance clearly is the single most effective way to spend time on the right people. Besides, it prevents bad recruitments that could’ve been avoided, to begin with. 

You’re largely accountable for if a new hire succeeds or not

I want to highlight the fact that the responsibility isn’t solely on your team members. As a manager, you’re ultimately the one creating the prerequisites to succeed. 

To do this, I suggest that you get your hands dirty. Dissect the selling process and analyse it in detail. What amount of customers should you prospect every day? How should you approach them? What are you looking to accomplish in the first call? After figuring out the core success components, make a sales playbook out of it. This book can function as a guide for new sales reps to lean back on in the beginning.

Don’t let the fear of micro-management stop revenue growth

Whenever I go into this discussion, I hear objections from some industry colleagues out there. 

“But I don’t want my team to feel micro-managed.”

So, let’s make it clear. Setting a standard isn’t the equivalent of hammering up big signs on the wall with the text “big brother is watching you”. This fear of turning the workplace into something similar to George Orwell’s novel “1984” is highly irrational. 

I personally believe that the amount of freedom you get is dependent on the track record you have. It’s important to remember that standards and goals are there to help. The employee needs to understand whether they’re doing well or not. It’s unfair as a manager to sit on information and not share it with the affected person. If you know they’re falling short, tell them. If you know what could’ve helped them succeed, don’t withhold it.

Now, go set your standard

So, if you don’t have a standard - set one. Right away. And if you do have one, make sure it’s based on top performance. Otherwise, change it. Leaders of fast-growing companies need to raise the stakes gradually to stay ahead of the competition.


/ Daniel Wikberg

CEO & Founder of Upsales

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