Can the Worst Salespeople be Saved?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 @ 06:03 AM

failure2

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo

Recently, I was asked to explain what a company can do with the bottom 74% that I write about so frequently.  It's a great question...and I will share several examples...Depending on the size of your sales force, the relative effectiveness of your sales coaching, the degree to which you embrace sales best practices, and your track record at selecting and hiring only A players, your sales force might not have a top 6%, next 20% and bottom 74%.  Nope.  It could be better - or worse.  Your sales force might have salespeople that are all in the top 26% or all of your salespeople might belong to the bottom 74%.  What's interesting is how that plays out.

For example, let's look at a business where the sale is fairly easy, like providing snack food to convenience stores, where salespeople in the bottom 74% can get that job accomplished without a problem.  Take another business, where the salesperson must sell a 7-figure consulting deal, to the C-Suite, against formidable competition, with a sales cycle that could take 12 months or more, and a salesperson from the top 26% probably won't be good enough.  For this scenario, a person will need to come from the top 6%!

With that as a foundation, let's take a deeper look at the bottom 74%.  First, there are two things we need to acknowledge:

  1. You probably don't know if any of your salespeople are in the bottom 74% unless you have had your sales force evaluated by Objective Management Group (OMG).  The only accurate observation that you can make without our data is that they are either performing or not performing at your company.  You can guess that the performers are in the top 26% and the non-performers are in the bottom 74%, but both guesses might be very wrong.
  2. You absolutely need to know if your non-performers can be saved.

With that said, let's pretend that you do have some salespeople from the bottom 74% who aren't performing, and that isn't acceptable to you.

Focusing on the data representing the bottom 74% of the  salespeople that we evaluated and studied, it shows that 14% of this group should not be in sales at all.  30% of this group are not trainable, can't be saved and won't ever change - no matter what you do.  Take a look at this sample slide below, which has an analysis of one company's non-performing salespeople and you'll see that in this particular company, 70% of the underperforming salespeople can't be saved, while 1 (green check) and perhaps 2 others (yellow flags) are savable.

 savable

There is good news though.  Statistically, 56% of the bottom 74% can be saved under the following circumstances.  The company must have:

  • The luxury of time
  • Energy to spare
  • Desire to see these people succeed
  • Patience to wait for it
  • Effective sales coaching
  • Financial resources to wait for them to become productive and to pay for their training, coaching and development. 
Plan for it to take around 18-24 months of training and coaching to help these ineffective salespeople become productive.  In comparison, salespeople in the top 26% can improve on their existing skills and strong performance in as little as 4-8 months of the right training and coaching.


Sometimes, talking about the bottom 74% makes the state of sales seem a lot worse than it is.  If improved performance is one of the things that you need to achieve, it's entirely possible with salespeople in the bottom 74%.  You simply need the data to make a good decision.  Learn more about a sales force evaluation by clicking the image below.

evals

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force evaluation, sales under achievement, salespeople that don't sell,

A Hidden Weakness that Makes Salespeople Procrastinate

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, May 15, 2014 @ 10:05 AM

perfectionYesterday, I was on three separate calls with sales managers whose salespeople needed to fill their pipelines, but hadn't.  They needed those salespeople to schedule meetings, but they weren't doing it.  They needed those salespeople to make calls, but they wouldn't make them.  They needed to get those salespeople moving, but those salespeople were stuck.  

For the salespeople, it was their own doing.  Self-imposed.  And they knew it!

Would you like to know which mysterious, hidden weakness was holding them hostage, preventing them from taking the action they knew was crucial to their success?  Of course you would.

All of them were perfectionists.  You may be wondering what could be wrong with that?

When it comes to salespeople doing something they haven't done before, everything is wrong with that.  A perfectionist must do things perfectly and if ever there was a sales activity that was ripe for imperfection, it would be the prospecting call.  After all, a new salesperson might have to speak with 10 or more prospects to schedule one meeting or call.  And in their perfectionist minds, that would be 9 failures.

So they procrastinate.  And they'll continue to procrastinate until they are certain that they can get it right.  Make it perfect.  And the more they prepare, rehearse, wordsmith and prepare some more, the worse they'll be.  It won't sound like a conversation, they won't sound real, but they will sound like a telemarketer reading from a script and nobody will want to speak with them.  They will fail.  It's a catch-22.

So what can you do?

If you're a sales manager, give these salespeople permission to fail.  Not only permission, insist on it.  Force them to get someone to say "no" to them and praise them for their effort, remind them that they lived to tell about it and ask them what they learned from it.

If you're a salesperson, give yourself permission to fail.  But even more than that, remember this:

If you make the worst prospecting call in the history of selling, who, other than you, will even know about it?  The chances that a prospect will remember you are in direct disproportion to how bad you were!  The worse you are, the less you'll be remembered.


Image Copyright: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

Topics: Dave Kurlan, call reluctance, cold calls, empty pipeline, procrastination, perfection, sales under achievement

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned a medal for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for six consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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