How to treat an ailing sales team
Sales is the lifeblood of most organizations. Getting it wrong can be the difference between glorious success and utter failure. If you’ve got a sales department, and you probably do, you might have noticed the rule of thirds at work: One-third of your sales people are rock stars, one-third are mediocre at best and one-third you wish would work for someone else. In fact, data backs this up: A recent study by TAS found that two-thirds of sales people miss their quota.
So what can be done about this? One approach is to simply train people better. However, sales training is a $2.2 billion industry and yet the rule of thirds still persists. Another approach is to fix the sales process, but that doesn’t always do the trick, either.
The answer may lie in understanding your sales people better. In fact, companies don’t always take the time to deep dive into their sales talent, where it matters most. But don’t fret! There is help in the form of a simple, three-step process:
1. Diagnose: Do you have the right people in the right roles? Have you even identified the different roles on your sales team that are needed to be successful? Do employees have the right brain power to deal with the complexity of the product, the sales process or the industry? Do they have the right skills when it comes to handling objections and closing the deal? And how is all that experience and tenure playing out? Are your most experienced still driving or are they yearning for the days of yesteryear? And in the end, how are they performing?
2. Screen: Once you have finished your diagnosis, you will have a clear perspective on who you should be hiring in terms of their behavioral drives, ability to learn and deal with complexity, and even what their skill level should be in order to be successful. It is time to take this knowledge and apply it on the front end so that you can increase your odds of making great hires.
3. Triage: While you are filling the pipeline with new talent, it’s time to figure out what to do with your current sales reps — especially the bottom two-thirds. Luckily, you’ve got a few options. First, during your diagnosis, you will have gained a good idea of who is performing poorly simply due to needing more skills training. Second, you can reposition people so they are a more natural fit in a role that plays to their strengths (e.g., taking that relationship manager out of a hunter role). Third, you’ll have the information you need on how to manage and coach the employees who have the highest potential. And finally, you’ll have the data in front of you to confirm your suspicions on who needs to be managed out.
A focus on bettering your sales talent doesn’t need to be difficult and the rewards can be great. You understand why your best are your best, how to make the mediocre better and how to fill your pipeline with great talent. And now you can finally deal with those poorer performers with data.