This is based on my experience, so not sure it applies to everyone and every role, but here it goes.
- Know your KPIs and your business: Even if it's just quota, you need to understand how you are being measured, and what are the expectations behind those metrics. Some companies give you a quota but really expect you to diversify your sales, or do more than 100%.
- Be close to your champions and stakeholders: Connect with your manager. An open, franc communication will help her/him reach out to you before the PIP is inevitable. Also, your boss is probably not the only person you need to be close to. What about that person's boss, and other business leaders?
- Keep an open eye and ear: The telltale signs are always there. If it's not performance, you probably pissed someone. If that's not it, the company must be looking to "cut away some fat", and if you're underperforming or just performing well that might not be enough, Watch out for what other people are saying and doing.
- Forecast your success and keep some extra pipeline: Plan and execute, hit your numbers (not your quota, YOUR numbers) and keep some under your sleeve in case you need a backup.
- Keep it real: No one will put you in a PIP if you're overperforming...but no one cares about smartasses either. If anything they'll wait for you to fail, and the minute you stop being the golden child, they'll throw a PIP at you. Be humble and crush your numbers.
- Get a mentor: That's what saved me once. A guy who was not my manager but senior to me agreed to mentor me, and one of the first things he said was "you have a communications problem, you need to stop saying things the way you do" and back then it was the best advice I got. I didn't realise it but I was pissing people off and I was just an "ok" performer.
Hope this helps anyone facing a PIP.