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The people cycle, a new approach to develop your people and grow your company

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Imagine that the people in your company are high performers and are constantly improving themselves. Would that drive growth in your company?

There are countless quotes about people being a company's most important asset. Whether it is true or not, they are certainly important assets in your company, so it is essential to have an approach to manage and develop your people on an ongoing basis. This approach is the people cycle, which is repeated annually.

A few stories

Over the years, I have followed the activities of several companies that illustrate the importance of having the right approach to manage and develop people.

In a company in the insurance sector, the CEO asked me to help him plan the agent channel, whose historical performance was systematically below expectations. He showed me a ladder diagram illustrating what the growth of an agent's portfolio should look like and said that this was the basis used for planning. I asked how many agents each commercial manager was responsible for and he told me that this was secondary, the important thing for planning was to estimate the evolution of the number of agents and the size of their portfolio and the rest would follow. At the time, I said that I wasn't surprised by the unsatisfactory results, because agents don't sell insurance without proper support from a sales manager, so it was necessary to complement channel planning with people planning. After some discussion, in which I also explained the advantage of later being able to set ambitious and achievable goals for sales managers, the CEO admitted that the new planning method would be more constructive.

As a partner in a consulting firm, I hired several people over the years and I have always been aware that recruitment is both a process of "buying" people's time to dedicate to the firm and "selling" the firm to the candidates. At a certain point in each interview, during the "buying" part, I usually asked the candidates why I should hire them. Very few candidates answered what I expected to hear, although it wasn't difficult to anticipate that my main interest was the growth of the firm. Over time, I found that, with very few exceptions, the best consultants were those who had answered the above question adequately.

In a group of media and marketing agencies, the CEO asked my company to give training on corporate sales because he needed to increase his presence among his clients and improve efficiency and profitability in acquiring new clients. A few months after the training, the managing director of one of the media agencies told me that the team still spoke highly of the training, unlike previous ones, adding that it had an impact on their daily lives, on the manner in which the team approaches situations and manages clients, using techniques that had been taught which are now intrinsic to everything they do.

In a company where I was CEO, a telephone sales team had irregular results. When the sales campaign was for our brand, absenteeism was high and the success rate was low. When the sales campaign was for an affinity partner's brand, absenteeism was low and the success rate was high. After an analysis of the situation, we concluded that the main reason for the difference in performance laid in the definition of the sales campaigns objectives, which were the same but shouldn't have been, because our brand's product (i) was priced three times higher than the affinity brand's, (ii) had the requirement of an initial payment of three months which the other didn't have and (iii) was sold to a new client, whereas in the other case it was to an existing client of the affinity brand. After calibrating the objectives, the difference in absenteeism disappeared, our brand's success rate increased and people were satisfied with either campaign.

In a consumer products company, the CEO asked me to coach the commercial director because she felt that he still didn't have enough skills to mobilize the team to achieve objectives. I ran several coaching sessions with the commercial director, and it was rewarding for both of us. In one of the sessions, he asked me what makes a good leader, and I replied that he must do many things, but in everything he does, a good leader develops his people. He internalized and adapted his practice, progressively giving more autonomy and responsibility to the people in his team, guiding them like a coach.

In a company that manages a virtual platform for placing digital ads, articulating the relationship between advertisers and publications, it is essential not to have service breakdowns because it means placing fewer ads and therefore having less revenue. Keeping this in mind, a remuneration system was defined for IT technicians in which, in addition to a fixed salary, a variable monthly incentive was given according to the worst day of the month, which creates positive pressure for the technicians to minimize breaks in service.

In a service company, the CEO asked me for advice on how to solve a sales performance problem. In an attempt to solve it, the commercial director had already decided to promote his best salesperson to leader of the largest sales channel, but the results didn't improve and even started to get worse. After analyzing the situation, it turned out that the new sales channel leader was an excellent salesperson, but didn't manage her people well. She had in-depth knowledge of the company's products, knew the competitors and their advantages and disadvantages, spent most of her time in contact with clients, was focused on results and systematically exceeded targets. However, she demanded too much of her channel's salespeople, who lacked her skills and experience, being very demotivated. As they say, they lost a good salesperson and gained a bad channel manager. The alternatives to solve the problem were to provide her with leadership skills, move her to another area of the company, demote her or fire her. The CEO chose to start with the first alternative, but later had to take the second. She learned not to promote people without basic skills to the new position.

At one bank, the commercial director hired my consulting firm to provide training tailored to the bank's needs. While preparing the training, I asked for the recording of some phone calls to identify good practices and points for improvement, but the department director said she preferred not to, so as not to risk embarrassing the managers. At that point, I asked how they learned as a team and she said that they didn't do that, they just held preliminary meetings for each campaign. So I suggested including role-plays during the training, hoping that some managers would volunteer. She accepted and the role-plays were a success because they allowed the team to discuss the pros and cons of the approaches each manager used daily, and the director committed to start holding regular team learning sessions.

The people cycle

The eight stories above illustrate the importance of each of the macro-activities in the people cycle.

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The people cycle represents the annual cycle of managing the company's people, from planning up to learning from the experience and the results achieved.

The people cycle is applicable to any role in the company, however the description below covers salespeople (this term is used in a broad sense, it can include sales managers, commercial managers, sales assistants, etc.). In other functions, instead of sales objectives that cover the entire activity of salespeople, there are other types of objectives, such as the number of clients served, the purchasing amount, the number of processes, the volume of transportation.

The people cycle has eight macro-activities:




This activity, which complements global sales planning and the planning of each sales channel, aims to mobilize and retain salespeople, and includes:

  • Defining the categories of salespeople.   
  • Dimensioning the sales teams.
  • Drawing up the development plan for salespeople.
  • Defining objectives for salespeople.
  • Defining the total
  • remuneration model for salespeople.

This activity consists of establishing collaboration contracts with salespeople, according to the size of the sales teams.

Establishing collaboration contracts is a mixture of buying the time salespeople dedicate to the company and selling the company to prospective salespeople, and it is a process led by the human resources area, but which should involve the heads of the other areas.


The better the salespeople are trained, the better the sales will become. Not just because they are more competent, but also because they have more self-confidence and more trust in the company.

It is up to sales managers to ensure that each salesperson progressively gets closer to the ideal profile within their category. To do this, they must implement the salespeople's development plan, in which training, team integration, mentoring and career development processes are defined.


The metrics and objectives for each category of salesperson are defined in the planning. In this activity, intermediate metric objectives are set for each salesperson, to be monitored throughout the year, which can be higher, equal or lower than those of the category, depending on the sales manager's specific knowledge of each salesperson's potential.


Coaching salespeople is an ongoing activity focused on shaping behavior, its intensity varies according to the skills and experience of each salesperson. To effectively coach a salesperson, you need to:

  • Understand their motivations, what results they want to achieve and what their development expectations are.
  • Identify competence gaps in relation to the ideal salesperson profile and the next step in their career.
  • Analyze the results and compare them with the objectives and with the results of other salespeople, to understand the positive aspects and those that need improvement.
  • Provide inspiration (individual and team vision of the future) for self-motivation.
  • Alternate the coaching style depending on the situation (indicate, exemplify, question).
  • Recognize good results and celebrate successes, promoting self-motivation.

This activity concerns the payment/delivery of the three components of total remuneration: remuneration, benefits and incentives. It is good practice to communicate to salespeople every month which components of their remuneration they receive in cash and in kind.

There is also another type of reward in kind, which is recognition for good work or good results on the part of salespeople. Recognition, shared with the rest of the team, contributes to both their motivation and their loyalty to the company.


The aim of this activity is to update the category of salespeople, considering the possibility of promotion and the need for demotion. It is in the mutual interest of both the company and the salesperson to have the most advanced category possible because this means more sales. In addition to promotion or demotion, it may also be necessary to consider moving to another area of the company or leaving the company.


Learn means acquiring knowledge, understanding and skills by analyzing and reflecting on accumulated experience. Learning is a team effort, requiring constant monitoring, discussion and analysis of successes and failures, and sharing knowledge with salespeople.

With the above approach, your company carries out all the necessary activities to manage and value its human assets.


The people cycle is an innovative concept, based on many years of research of best practices around the world in all types of business. By implementing it, your company is using an important approach to gain a competitive advantage over your competitors.

Now you know what you must do to permanently manage and develop your people, boosting their growth and, consequently, the company's growth.

Filipe Simões de Almeida

Managing Partner, FI Consulting

Published on 13-05-2024