It goes without saying that businesses are continuously looking for ways to meet--or exceed, if at all possible--their sales goals. To do so, CEOs and sales operation teams often focus heavily on the heavy hitters within their company. We all know them when we see them: the salespeople who are the absolute best sales team members within their companies because they are always the hero in any sale. You can probably name a few within your own company who fit the description.
Focusing heavily on these superstars may be natural for CEOs and sales operations teams, but regardless, it doesn’t make them any less wrong. The unfortunate part for company leaders and sales operation teams who take this approach is that these sales superstars make up a rather small number of their overall sales force. Beyond that—and perhaps even more important—is that this superb subset of salespeople is not the group that’s going to lead to a serious increase in sales because they are never going to improve.
You Heard That Right…
That point is worth repeating as we let it sink in: the top salespeople in your company are more than likely performing at the highest level they can perform. So throwing more attention, support, and even money their way will not lead to significant increases in sales. Think about it: If they are already performing, for example, at a 97 percent success rate, increasing one percentage point is going to be incredibly difficult.
But here’s the good part: like we already mentioned, this group makes up a smaller percentage of your salesforce. That means there’s a larger group on your team that will not only benefit from extra attention, but will help drive sales with their improvement. This group with so much potential is the middle of the pack, those who aren’t shattering quota records or consistently hitting high levels but truly care about doing their best and are influenceable.
Meet in the Middle
It’s often referred to as the 20/60/20 rule. Twenty percent of a company’s employees are those who strongly reflect the company’s culture and are the leaders of the pack. It’s these 20 percent that include a company’s top salespeople. The 60 percent are those in the middle who are the followers and can be influenced, good or bad. Then there’s the last 20 percent who are at the bottom of the barrel and don’t care to adopt the company’s culture or get on board with opportunities for improvement.
SellingBrew Playbook refers to it a little differently and believes there’s an even bigger middle of the pack: the top 15 percent are the “superstars who put up stellar numbers like clockwork,” 70 percent are the meaty middle, and the remaining 15 percent are the laggards.
Whether it’s 60 percent or 70 percent, the reality is that companies must invest in the middle group in order to truly increase sales. These salespeople are the best opportunities for a company to improve its sales force, and because they have more room for improvement than the top performers, the change will be more significant and the improvement will be more sustainable. They will also be much more likely to listen and see the value of accepting help.
Ignore the Naysayers
That also means to drive change, CEOs and sales operations leaders shouldn’t care about what the best salespeople think (it sounds odd, I get it). The top salespeople will never see the need for help—and why would they? They are already getting the results needed, so extra support or attention doesn’t significantly benefit them or change their bottom line. Those at the bottom of the bucket will be naysayers as well because they don’t care enough to take advantage of extra support, so their lack of effort will always be viewed as your failure. So though the goal is certainly to help any and every salesperson improve their sales, accept that it’s not going to happen and focus on where true improvement can be found. The salespeople in the middle will be not only willing to listen, but they also will want the help to improve their sales performance. And for those that don’t want to listen? That’s OK. Sales operations leaders cannot help everyone, and they must be OK with that and ignore the chatter.
It's Time to Follow the Science
It’s clear that the majority of your company’s sales support and help should be focused on the middle-of-the-road salespeople, but you may not want to make a major change in your company’s sales support strategy based on a nonscientific theory like the 20/60/20 rule. There is, however, a proven science that makes the change completely worth it: cognitive sales and marketing. Cognitive sales and marketing is a transtheoretical model of behavior that helps navigate the complex sales process. It’s an incredibly powerful framework that, if understood and implemented, can help a salesperson go from sub-par sales record to superstar status.
Cognitive sales and marketing empowers your salespeople by providing them with insight into how to proactively manage the expectations and needs of the prospect and prove that you can solve their problem or help them meet their goal. This scientific theory also equips the salesperson with positive substitutions or alternatives if the prospect backslides—as they so often do—during the late stages of a sale.
Are you ready to provide your sales force with the support needed to start closing more sales and improve both short-term and long-term sales goals? That’s where we can help, starting with one simple test: a Sales Barrier Analysis. Our Advisory Services team will sit down with your sales team—from the top performing superstars to the lowest performers and everyone in between—to understand their tendencies, sales behaviors, and what marketing technology and infrastructure exists within the company to support them and then help implement a strategic plan to drive that revenue higher.
As a CEO or sales operations leader, you’re typically too close to the problem to see it. You know there’s an issue surrounding sales performance, but you struggle to see how your sales and marketing strategies simply don’t align with how your potential customers make decisions. Our free Sales Barrier Analysis worksheet will measure your efforts and provide real-time data to help you better align those strategies so that your sales force is set up for success.