The Sales Force with Over Achievers That Don't

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 25, 2009 @ 22:03 PM


That's right. Today I heard about a CEO who told one of my colleagues that all of his salespeople over achieve.  In the same phone conversation he mentioned that sales are down 20%.  Can you imagine where sales would be if his salespeople under achieved?  

I think that many CEO's are in a time warp.

Despite the struggles of their sales force in this economy, they still view the sales force as they remember them when times were good. 

The problem with this is that even the good times did not accurately define these salespeople.  Salespeople who succeed when times are good but struggle when times get tough are not over achievers.  They are mediocre salespeople who simply don't get in their own way.  Over achievers find ways to succeed in all conditions, good and bad.

I think that many CEO's are in denial.

Despite the struggles of their sales force, they continue to look at the pipeline and say to themselves, we'll be okay as soon as these deals close.  But the deals aren't closing and with each passing day companies are less okay then they were the day before.

I think that many CEO's are scared shitless (the only truly accurate word I could type there).

Because of the struggles of their sales force, they look at the numbers, down 90%, down 75%, down 50%, down 25% and wonder how they can turn it around.  It can be turned around but they have to be proactive, not reactive.  They have to be aggressive, not passive.  They have to work on the right end of the problem - revenue - not just costs.

Truth is, our data shows that only 6% of all salespeople over achieve.  And another 20% can become over achievers.  Who do you want on your sales force and what are you willing to do to develop them or recruit them?

(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan


Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales hiring, assessments, selling, Management, Sales Force, leadership, over achievement, declining sales, improve sales, assessment, sales candidates, over achieve, Under achievers, hiring salespeople, mediocrity, overachievers, sales increase, Performance, Economy, sales assessments, declining revenue

Bad Apples on the Sales Force - Sales or Sanity?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 18, 2008 @ 20:08 PM

Some of our many readers at Understanding the Sales Force leave their comments when they feel so moved to do so.  One reader, who chips in with a comment from time to time, identifies himself as Chubby Davis.  Look at the tremendous value that Chubby adds to our discussions:

Out of the dozens of valuable comments from the Best Sales Advice in a Single Sentence, Chubby wrote, "Your client is lying to you!"

From the article,  How Long Does it Take for a Salesperson to Get It?, Chubby wrote, "...Bean Town Bullshit !!"

From the article, Verizon Wireless - Tech, Lies and Audio, Chubby wrote, "Welcome to Amerika".

Among the many great suggestions contributed to Managing the Sales Force - The Calendar, Chubby contributed, "Can hit the local 'Titty Bar' !!!" 

From the article, 5 Sales Management Tips From My 5 Year-Old, Chubby wrote, "That's it, me have no kid = not enough sales !!!" 

And in last week's, How to Find the Compelling Reasons for Seth Godin's Intangibles, he commented, "Of course it's a 'fairy tale' ..who wants to hear the f%cking truth" 

Chubby's antics remind me of the bad-apple, renegade, maverick salespeople that many companies are stuck with.  I say stuck because most executives can't choose between having a functional sales force versus a top producer that is also the local cancer distributor. 

I've met hundreds of these individuals during the past 25 years and they're all pretty much the same.  They're loud, arrogant, know-it-alls that crave attention and will say pretty much anything to get it.  Their act includes insults, teasing, and jokes at somebody else's expense; Publicly complaining about company policies, managers and products; Failure to show up when expected and showing up when asked not to; Hitting on individuals of the opposite gender at their own company and at their customers, and late night partying; And running up the company expense account after spending way too much money bringing their customers to night clubs.  These people make Manny Ramirez look like a good citizen!

As bad as these people are, they aren't the real problem.  The real problem is the manager they report to, who enables them,  protects them, gives them permission to do what they want, defends them in times of trouble, and even shares a few drinks with them to celebrate; all in the name of revenue.

You can do more with less.  Addition by subtraction.  That's how the Red Sox looked at it with Manny and that's how companies should look at it when they have people like this.

Chubby, we hardly know you, and until we do, we'll use your invaluable comments and insights to crusade for functionality and sanity on sales forces around the world.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 



Topics: Sales Force, leadership, Motivation

Sales - What the Data Tells Us - The Series

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 13, 2008 @ 22:08 PM

Is there data which actually illustrates and supports what drives sales performance, hiring great salespeople, and developing salespeople?  Is it meaningful?  If the data is compelling, would you modify your views, beliefs, practices and behaviors? 

I've written a number of articles based on my research, our data from assessing 2,086,251 salespeople, statistics and/or pure science.  Some of the articles pertain to sales performance, while others are based on the hundreds of thousands of salespeople whom we have assessed.

This article series is called Sales - What the Data Tells UsWhile some of the articles simply report the research and/or data, others share either my insights about the data or provide data to support my insights.  Here are the articles:

Finally!  Science Reveals the Actual Impact of Sales Coaching 

Why it is so Difficult to Compare Sales Effectiveness from One Salesperson to Another

New Data Reveals Interesting Differences in Salespeople's Ability to Work From Home

Why the Future of Selling Won't Resemble the Past 

3 Steps You Must Take Today to Save Your Company From This Economic Downturn 

New Data Reveals a Finding That Correlates to Sales Success

Is Your Sales Force More Like a Dunkin', Starbucks or Panera Drive Thru?

The Science Behind One Company's Top Sales Performers and Why They're So Much Better

The Deal Breaker That Prevents you From Hiring a Great Salesperson

An Inside Look at Why 3 Good Salespeople Failed and 3 So-So Salespeople Succeeded

Salespeople in Small Companies are 43% Better at This and Other Salesenomics Insights

Good Sales Recruiting is Like Selecting Movies and TV Shows

New Data Reveals a Magical New Score for Sales Effectiveness

A Tale of 3 Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value

How Much Has Video Impacted the Way We Sell?

Good Bob, Bad Bob, The Stockdale Paradox and Sales Success  

Data Shows Sales Commitment and Motivation Changed During Quarantine

FOX News and CNN Can Help You Conduct Better Sales Opportunity Reviews

Data - Top Salespeople are 631% More Effective at This Than Weak Salespeople (The Bob Chronicles Part 3)

Data Shows Your Sales Team is No Different Than Your Lawn
Salespeople in Small Companies are 43% Better at This and Other Salesenomics  Insights
Data Shows Commitment and Motivation Changed During the Pandemic        
New Data Reveals Interesting Differences in Salespeople's Ability to Work from Home     
How Much Has Video Impacted the Way We Sell?     
Companies Surprised by Remote Selling Challenges      

New Data - Salespeople are a Disaster When it Comes to Coaching 
The Correlation Between Sales Process, Sales Milestones and Sales Success 
New Data Shows an Overlooked Finding Correlates to Sales Success

Senate Confirmation Hearings Show us What Salespeople Do Wrong Every Day 

The New 21 Sales Core Competencies for 2020 and Beyond 

Masks and Sales Assessments - You Lose a Little Freedom and Control for Safety and Confidence
Why You Will Finally Pay the Price of Not Selling Value      
New Data Reveals a Finding that Correlates to Sales Success    
The Science Behind One Company's Top Sales Performers and Why They're So Much Better    
An Inside Look at Why 3 Good Salespeople Failed and 3 So-So Salespeople 

New Data Reveals a Magical New Score for Sales Effectiveness

A Tale of 3 Squirrels and Their Human Counterparts in Sales

Sales Process and Why So Many Salespeople Lose Their Way

New Data Shows That Top Salespeople are 2800% Better at Disrupting the Flow

Change in Approach Leads to 304% Increase in Sales Effectiveness

How Big of a Role Does Age Play in Sales Effectiveness?

How All Those Trucks on the Road Can Help You Stop Discounting

The Best Salespeople are 791% Better at This Than Weak Salespeople

The Best Salespeople are 2733% More Likely to Have This Than the Worst Salespeople

How to Transform Your Sales Pipeline Today

Your Last Chance to Make a Good First Impression

How Top Salespeople Anticipate and Manage Resistance

The New Salesenomics

The 21-Day Solution for the Toughest Sales Weaknesses

Why Coaching Causes Some Sales Managers to Hold On for Dear Life

Great News! The Latest Data Shows That Salespeople are Improving

Top 13 Requirements to Help You Soar as a Sales Manager

The Top 8 Requirements for Becoming a Great Salesperson

Popularity Polls are Just Like Sales Management Tracking Metrics!

Why are Half of All Sales Reps Still Missing Quota in a Booming US Economy?

Data Shows That Only 14% are Qualified for the Easiest Selling Roles

Last Day Madness on the Sales Force - That's One Kind of Urgency

Examples of How Salespeople Lose Credibility with Their Prospects

Golden Nuggets from the CSO Insights 2018 Sales Talent Study

New Data Shows that You Can Double Revenue by Overcoming This One Sales Weakness

Salespeople With This Weakness Score 47% Worse at Reaching Decision Makers

Which 4 Sales Competencies Best Differentiate Top from Bottom Salespeople?

Where Can You Find the Best Salespeople?

The Top 12 Factors that Cause Delayed Closings and What to Do About Them

Do the Best Sales Managers Have the Best Salespeople?

New Data Shows That Elite Salespeople are 700% Less Likely to Do This

Elite Salespeople are 26 Times More Effective at This Competency Than Weak Salespeople

Does Being a Strong Qualifier Correlate to Having a Strong Pipeline?

Elite Salespeople are 200% Better in These 3 Sales Competencies

Latest Data - Strong Salespeople Score 375% Better Than Weak Salespeople

Sales Pipeline Data Shows That Most Late Stage Opportunities Just Aren't

Latest Data Shows Most Salespeople Would be Fired or Arrested if they Worked in Accounting

New Data - Are Experienced Sales Managers Better Sales Managers?

The Latest Data Shows That Sales Managers Are Even Worse Than I Thought

Sales Playbook and CRM Problems - What the Data Tells Us

New Data Shows How Relationships and the Need to be Liked Impact Sales Performance

New Data Shows Sales Weaknesses Cause Powerful Chain Reactions in Salespeople

Discovered - Data Reveals the Second Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

Discovered - Data Reveals the Biggest Obstacle to Closing More Sales

The Wrong Salespeople are Hired 77% of the Time

New Data Reveals Why Veteran Salespeople Are Not Better Than New Salespeople

Data Shows Most Salespeople are Dinosaurs When it Comes to Social Selling

Data Shows 1st Year Sales Improvement of 51% in this Competency

Are Millennials Who Enter Sales Better or Worse Than the Rest of the Sales Population?

The Official 2017 List of 21 Sales Core Competencies

Are Millennials Who Enter Sales Better or Worse Than the Rest of the Sales Population?

HBR or OMG - Whose Data Really Differentiates the Top from Bottom Salespeople?

Those Who Follow Sales Best Practices Don't Necessarily Become Top Performers

What Percentage of New Salespeople Effectively Reach Decision Makers?

Surprising New Data Busts the Myths about Relationship Selling and Social Selling

New Analysis Shows the 5 Biggest Gaps Between Top and Bottom Sales Performers

The One Sales Data Point that Varies Wildly

What Percentage of New Salespeople Reach Decision Makers?

Surprising New Data on Salespeople Busts the Myths about Relationship Selling and Social Selling

Big Data and Big Lies Have Arrived in the Sales Training and Assessment Space

What Do You Blame When Salespeople Don't Schedule Enough New Meetings?

Breaking News - More Salespeople Suck Than Ever Before (and Why)

Can the Lack Commitment to Sales Success Finding be Wrong?

Can the Worst Salespeople be Saved?

Beach Ball of Death Predicts Lack of Sales Growth

Rebuttal to What Elite Salespeople Do Differently

Science and the Length of Your Sales Cycle

Validation of the Validation of the Sales Assessment

Presidents & CEO's: 4 Out of 5 Sales Managers Are Ineffective!

The Real Problem with the Sales Profession and Sales Leadership

Are Sales and Sales Management Candidates Getting Worse?

Sales Excellence Studies Propagate Mediocrity

Top 5 Insights From Latest Sales Organization Studies

Dan Pink Hits and Then Misses the New Key to Sales Performance

Another HBR Article on Sales Leaves Me with Mixed Feelings

Are (Lack of) Results Due to the Salesperson or the Company?

When are Salespeople Too Old to Sell Effectively? 10 Conditions

Getting Reluctant Salespeople to Fill Their Empty Pipelines

The 5 Keys to Effective Sales Coaching and Results

Why Do So Many Salespeople Fail to Make Quota?

Why Most Companies are Struggling to Grow Revenue

Sales Leaders Got These Issues All Wrong

Does Your Sales Force Look Like This?

Should You Restage Your Sales Pipeline?

Another Sales Assessment Takes on OMG - What Does it Reveal?

Are Women in Sales Less Trainable?

The Sales Assessment Client Who Didn't Renew after All These Years

Why Young Male Salespeople are at a Disadvantage

The Latest Astonishing Findings About Sales Managers

Revealing Study of Salespeople Makes News at HBR

Most Salespeople Suck at Selling

Sales Effectiveness - IDC and CEB Draw Conflicting Conclusions

How Many Salespeople Made Quota in 2010?

Another Behavioral Style Assessment Pretends to Assess Salespeople

The Science of Achievement Applied to Sales Success

Caliper and Selling Power Hit and Then Miss the Mark on Sales

Harvard Business Review Hit and Then Missed the Mark on Sales

Rejection Proof - The Science Behind Success in Sales

The Top 10 Reasons Why Sales Commitment is More Important

Top 10 Reasons Why Commitment Has Become More Important

But I'm a Sales Guy! The Story of Motivation and Compensation

What Sales Leaders Don't Know about Ego and Empathy

Call Reluctance in Salespeople - Causes, Factors and Predictors

The Top 5 Factors to Prevent Sales Turnover

The Science of Selling - Rules versus Data

Does Sales Assessment Completion Time Affect Validity?

Are Sales Cycles Really Getting Shorter?

Ultimate Comparison of Sales Superstars and Sales Losers

How to Hire the Best Salespeople on the Planet

More Than Half of All Sales Managers Should Consider...

How Many Salespeople Shouldn't be in Sales?

Personality Assessments for Sales - The Definitive Case Study

Misleading Statistics and Hiring the Wrong Salespeople

Who Are Better Salespeople - Men or Women?

Top 5 Reasons Why OMG's Assessments are More Predictive

Sales Statistics that Reveal Sales Effectiveness

How to Select More Effective Sales Candidates

Fact Based Reasons Why New Salespeople Fail - the Data Points

Misleading Sales Numbers Part 2

What Do Sales Managers Do With Their Time?

Myths About Top Performing Salespeople

10 Reasons for HR and Sales Management to Hire Winning Salespeople Using Assessments

Sales Assessments - More Accurate Than Sales Management Thinks

Pfizer Reduces Size of Sales Force by 20%

Sales Hiring Efficiency

The Correlation Between the Findings and Performance

A Behavioral Styles Assessment versus OMG's Assessment

How to Elminate the 80/20 Rule on Your Sales Force

Sales Coaching - Between the Lines

How to Find More Hirable Sales Candidates

Where Are All the Hunters and Farmers?

Is He or Isn't He?

How to Close a Sale using Proof of Concept

B2B Salespeople Send 16,000+ Unqualified Proposals Each Day

Why You Should Care That Sales Motivation Data Correlates Perfectly with Sales Performance

Can Sales Statistics be Good and Bad at the Same Time?



Topics: sales competencies, assessments, recruiting, Sales Coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation

Salespeople are Like Children - The Series

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 13, 2008 @ 21:08 PM

I have written many articles based on the insights of our son, most when he was between the ages of 3-7.  Each article has profound lessons and they're fun to read. Readers have enjoyed these particular articles so much, and found the lessons to be so good, that I compiled this series called Salespeople are Like Children.  As you might expect, some of these articles are my all-time favorites too.

Baseball and Selling Revisited - A Powerful Analogy

Salespeople Must Use & Embrace Life's Most Embarrassing Moments

Selling Styles - How Many Styles Should Your Salespeople Have?

Sales Coaching Lessons from the Baseball Files

Gaining Sales Traction is Like Talking to Kids

The Difference Between Sales Commitment and Desire

25 or 6 to 4 and Your Sales Force

The Lion King - Watching a Movie Again Improves Sales Effectiveness

Salespeople Should be More Like Children

Dicing, Shoveling and Training Salespeople

MLB All-Star Game Unveils a Sales Prodigy

Over Achievers on the Sales Force - We Have it Wrong

Will your Salespeople Change Behaviors to Improve Their Sales Effectiveness? 

Getting Excited About Sales Metrics

How To Get Salespeople to Leave Their Comfort Zone

Prospects Are Like Children

Turning Order Takers into Salespeople

The Emerging Boy, the Lingering Toddler

Helping New Salespeople Succeed

5 Sales Management Tips from my Five Year Old 

The Impact of Unhealthy Relationships on Salespeople

If Your Salespeople Can Spell They Can Sell

Salespeople Aren't Made of Glass

How Long Does it Take a Salesperson to Get It? 

What Can a Trip to Italy Teach You About Managing Salespeople?

Salespeople are Like Children

Making it Easy for Salespeople to Succeed

Improve Sales Competencies at the Salesperson's Hall of Fame

Compelling Reasons to Buy

How to Start a Sales Call Over

Get Prospects to Make Decisions

The Importance of Practice

How Stealing 2nd Base is the Secret to Success in Sales Today


Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation

Sales Force Development Talk Show

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Aug 06, 2008 @ 16:08 PM

Back in May of 2007 I posted this article called Sales Force Development - Is it Training?

In two weeks, Razi Inman, CEO of Landslide, and I will be the guests on an internet talk show (webinar) where we will discuss the concept of integrated sales force development and all of the pieces that make it up. 

This webinar will be held on August 20, 2008 at 1 PM.  You can get more information and register here.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: leadership

With Manny in LA LA Land the Sales Force Can Produce

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Aug 01, 2008 @ 15:08 PM

I posted this article earlier in the week before Manny Complainez was traded to the LA Dodgers. Mike Carroll posted this article earlier today.  The King of Self-Centeredness was granted his wish and sent off, leaving his teammates relieved, happy, and excited about their team's future.

When your prima dona sales reps resign, your remaining salespeople feel the same way as Manny's teammates. Let's go sell because there's nothing distracting us now.  Let's set some records because there's nobody bringing us down.  Let's make some money because there's nobody trying to hog all the attention. Let's have some fun because now this is a fun place to work.

Bye Manny.

Hello Harmony.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Red Sox climb out of the dark hole they've been in the last several weeks.

While this is an obvious issue for leadership, it's also somewhat of a recruiting issue.  It's leadership's responsibility to make the decisions to get rid of the Manny's that cause the problems that prevent everyone from producing to their potential.  It's part of a company's overall recruiting strategy to have a termination policy.  What's yours? 

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan             

Topics: recruiting, leadership

Engineers Don't Want to Hear from the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jul 30, 2008 @ 15:07 PM

Today I'm in Dallas, speaking at ABP's reseller conference. At lunch I met a professor of computer science from the University of Texas who brought his lab students who research VOIP, to the conference to learn about the practical applications of VOIP.

I mentioned that when they attend my talk on selling that instead of trying to follow along and learn how to sell, they should recognize how difficult selling is for all of the people in attendance.  Then, they could use that understanding to support the sales force when they enter the work force  and engineer products for commercial sale.

I explained that in a typical manufacturing scenario, sales asks why engineering can't make what their customers are asking for, while engineering asks why sales can't sell what they make.  I didn't expect the reaction I got; they laughed - really, really hard - couldn't stop.

It's been an hour since lunch and while I'm posting this, they're leaving the conference.  Even in their formative years, they don't want to know what sales folks have to say.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: leadership

Manny Being Manny - When to Terminate Top Producers on your Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jul 28, 2008 @ 07:07 AM

Our Boston Baseball team is having an acute case of Manny being Manny.  For the past seven years, when Manny felt like being Manny, it was sometimes comical, like when he recently made a great catch, high fived a fan in the middle of the play and then threw a runner out to complete a double play.  There were the two times when he entered the left-field wall to use the facilities and to talk on his cell phone.  But there have been other occasions when he wasn't so comical.  There were serious, but not career-ending moments like when he failed to run out ground balls or, during a pinch-hitting appearance, when he failed to take the bat off his shoulders. This year Manny has been the aggressor in two well documented shoving matches and there were two important games where he asked out of the lineup.  Now, for the 8th time in 8 years, he is asking out of Boston again.  It used to be that Manny being Manny was harmless fun, but when Manny has become a serious distraction to the entire team, all the home runs and RBI's in the world won't compensate for his behavior.

Most sales forces have a person - a maverick - like Manny; a top producer who marches to the beat of his own drummer.  We have a different set of rules for these producers and as long as they're not causing difficulties for anyone else we tend to tolerate what they do and don't do.  They don't attend all the meetings, aren't held to the same standards, regularly give us a load of crap and we tolerate it as long as they continue to produce.

Can you imagine Manny on your sales force?  He pushes your HR VP to the floor, slaps your hardest working salesperson, refuses to listen to your coaching, tells everyone he hates the company, doesn't attend company events or sales meetings, but comes through and brings in the business you need, just when you need it.

But when Mavericks become serious problems I usually get a phone call.  "I don't know what to do!" is the typical comment.  And it makes sense, right?  If this person didn't outperform everyone else in the company, the decision to put them on the first plane out of town would be an easy one.  Nobody would miss the antics and aggravation.  But all that revenue - the thought of losing it and the possibility of a competitor getting it - is too much for most executives to handle so they inevitably call and ask me what they should do.

I'm fairly consistent on matters like these.  As Bill Murray says when Walter Peck is being kicked out of the Mayor's office in Ghostbusters, "Bye."

Most companies do more with less.  After two basketball players are encouraged to quit the team in a disciplinary move, team members yell, "they were our top two scorers last year!" Coach Carter, in the movie by the same name, says, "then we'll have new top scorers this year!" 

If you were to interview the salespeople who are impacted by the behavior of your top producers, you would learn that they would be quite happy to see your Maverick depart.  It's not like they thought they could outsell him...and guess what will happen to their sales when they finally believe  that they can become the top producers!


(c) 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, accountability, leadership, Motivation

Fear Factor for the Sales Force

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 @ 14:07 PM

Sometimes, I'll write an article and think it's one of the best 4-5 paragraphs I've ever written on the subject of sales excellence - and nobody will care.  Other times I'll write an article and think nobody will care - and I'll get more feedback than I can believe.

Such was the case yesterday when I wrote this article for Baseline Selling Tips.  The title was How to Use Fear to Maintain Your Edge but the real basis for the article was that you shouldn't let fear prevent you from doing what you must do; you should use fear as a way to be more prepared to achieve the best possible outcome.

Well this article caused more people to write and express their thanks than any article I've ever written and between this Blog and Baseline Selling Tips, I've published more than 400 articles on Sales and Sales Management Excellence.

Read the article first.  Now rate each of your salespeople relative to how fear impacts them.  Be brutally honest in your appraisals:

A. Fearless  
B. Use Fear to Excel
C. They Sell in Fear
D. Fear Prevents Them from Being Effective
E. Fear Causes Paralysis

Now score your results.

A: 4 points x # of salespeople.
B: 5 points x # of salespeople.
C: 2 points x # of salespeople.
D: 1 points x # of salespeople.
E: 0 point  x # of salespeople.

Now take the total score and divide by the number of salespeople.  The resulting number is your Sales Force Fear Factor.

5 - awesome! 
4 - excellent
3 - good
2 - you don't have a sales force
1 - set the date for closing your business
0 - why are you still reading this?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Fact Based Reasons Why New Salespeople Fail - Data Points

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sat, Jun 28, 2008 @ 12:06 PM

Did you ever have a new salesperson fail?  Did you ever have one who was highly recommended fail?

Depending on how effective your recruiting, selection and on boarding processes are, you may experience new salespeople that don't work out.  Let's explore some of the factors that impact short-term success.

  • Ramp-Up Time - an important factor in determining whether a new salesperson is succeeding or failing is your baseline ramp-up time.  When you don't know what your ramp-up time should be, you will be guilty of either not giving a salesperson enough time to succeed, or being overly patient, allowing too much time to pass before calling the newbie a failure.  My formula for calculating ramp-up time is to add your sale cycle in months to your learning curve in months and then add an additional 30 days.  So, if you have a six month sale cycle and a three month learning curve, your baseline ramp-up time will be 10 months.  Complicating the matter even more is the fact that some salespeople will not ramp up exactly as the formula suggests, based on three additional factors:
       So we can modify the formula like this: add 2 more months if sales experience is less than five years, add 2 more months if industry experience is less than 2 years, and add 3 more months if compatibility is less than 75%.  Depending on these 3 factors, ramp-up could take as much as an additional 7 months!
  • The Assignment - The assignment is a huge part of this equation.  If your new salesperson is assigned existing accounts, you'll probably be happy with his work unless he quickly loses some accounts.  On the other hand, if 80% or more of the assignment is hunting for new business, you may conclude that the salesperson is failing unless the pipeline gets filled rather quickly with new opportunities.
  • The Assessment - Clues abound here.  As long as you are using Objective Management Group's Sales Candidate Assessment (92% of recommended candidates that are hired wind up in the top half of their sales force within a year, while 75% of those who were not recommended but hired anyway fail within 6 months), the answers are at your finger tips.  Review these four sections:
    • Hunter Skill set - which attributes are missing? 
    • Conditions for Hiring - what are the conditions listed and did you follow them?
    • Likely Problems - are the issues your struggling salesperson is running into listed among the likely problems?
    • Skills - how many are there and are they representative of the entire selling process or just the front end, middle or back-end?
  • The Sales Manager - The sales manager is usually the biggest determining factor of sales success and the first place to look when it appears that salespeople aren't working out. 
    • Supervision - Are new salespeople being micro managed or at least closely managed?  They should be.  Are any of your new salespeople in a remote territory?   A sure fire formula for disaster is a remote salesperson that is not being closely managed. 
    • Expectations - Have expectations been set?  Do your new salespeople know what is expected of them in the first 30/60/90 days, how they will be measured and how they will be held accountable?
    • Support - When two seemingly identical salespeople with identical assignments and territories have opposite results, it's usually because neither of them got the attention, direction, guidance, coaching, support, motivation and accountability that was needed, but one of them was better when it came to figuring out what it would take to succeed (see The Salesperson). 
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) - Sales Managers that manage results (history) are months behind when it comes to being able to impact a salesperson using coaching and accountability.  Sales Managers that manage activity (today) can see into the future and change it.
  • The Salesperson - New salespeople can figure it out when the right mix of these next 14 factors, all found in OMG's Assessment, are in place - The "Figure it Out" Factor:
    • 5+ years in sales
    • 5+ years in the industry
    • Strong Desire
    • Strong Commitment
    • No Excuse Making
    • Self Starter
    • Works well independently
    • Works without supervision
    • Will Prospect
    • Prospects Consistently
    • No Need for Approval
    • Recovers from Rejection
    • Greater than 75% Compatibility
    • Effective Time Management
  • High Turnover Factors - Depending upon these three additional factors, turnover could approach 150%.
    • Compensation - Turnover is higher in straight comission environments.  Straight commission with a long sale cycle will be even worse.  Straight commission with a long sale cycle and a salesperson without the financial stability to stick it out will exceed 100%.
    • Industry - Turnover in insurance (personal lines), telecommunications (long distance phone service) and automotive (car dealers) is very high because many companies in these industries don't have a selection criteria that extends beyond "breathing and willing" and don't invest time and money on development. 
    • Mindset - Companies that are resigned to high turnover and that are making a lot of money despite the turnover don't do anything to change it.
  • Psychological Factors - Every once in a while you'll get a new salesperson who is emotionally unstable and you won't know it until it's too late.  There is no better reason to use a psychological assessment at the time of hiring that to uncover this!
  • Liars - I've even seen salespeople who took one base plus commission sales job while holding down another.  The only thing better than getting paid for not performing one job is getting paid for not performing in two jobs!
(c)  Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, recruiting, accountability, leadership, assessment

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader,  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog earned awards for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog for eleven consecutive years and of the more than 2,000 articles Dave has published, many of the articles have also earned awards.

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