Instead of a few superstars outshining normal salespeople, you may have a few normal salespeople and a slew of underperformers.
When sales managers look at the closing results of their charges, they are often perplexed at what the numbers reveal. In fact it is not uncommon for upwards of 80 percent of sales to come from a small minority of sales reps, usually less than 10 percent. One recent study pegged the number at 8 percent, a far more alarming result then the old 80-20 rule.
“While one conclusion is that these eight percenters are your super salespeople, a different assessment is far more likely,” explains Adam Berkson, president of LiveVoice, a leading provider of lead response services, who knows a thing or two about sales and closing rates. “Before you elevate this group of closers to superstar status, as most sales managers usually do, I propose a different explanation. Perhaps these eight percenters are actually preforming at normal levels, which means the rest of the staff – the majority of them – is dramatically underperforming.”
“It’s common to see wide variations of results between members of a sales team,” says Patricia Totton, CEO of TeleServices Direct, a worldwide provider of outsource call center services. “It’s human nature to put the top performers on a pedestal, but what if they are merely average? That alters your entire perspective in dealing with the rest of the team.”
Changing the managerial mindset from having a few superstars and many normal performers to having a few normal performers and many underperformers should turn sales management on its head. “In the first perspective a manager will accept this large group of performers as normal, but recasting them as underperformers reveals the need for a drastically different approach:
Determine Willingness Versus Ability: If an underperformer has the willingness to do the job but falls short, this suggests the need for more training. However, salespeople who are simply unable to do more, need to be separated from the company. “Don’t fire all your underperformers,” advises Berkson. “Be strategic and keep the ones willing to learn new contact methods and sales approaches. Then go teach them.”
Retrain With a Digital-First Approach: In today’s ultra-connected, online world, prospects expect a digital-first sales approach – after all, you captured their lead online, so it makes sense to work the lead using digital methods to nurture the prospect and move them to a closed sale. Offline methods should only be used for specific prospects when online approaches fail to reach them.
Set New Standards: Seeing the majority of a sales staff as underperformers instead of average producers, begs the need for a revised set of sales efficacy metrics to measure sales outcomes. Quotas need to be shifted higher, as well as other progress tracking metrics. “But don’t make one huge change all at once,” Berkson recommends. “Inch the goals up month after month, aligning new expectations with the progress your sales team makes as you provide the training they need.”
Weed Out the Low End: While most of the sales team will respond to the additional training and produce more, some sales staff will not meet your new expectations. If results aren’t forthcoming once they have received the needed training, then it’s time for them to go. If you keep them around, they will pull down the rest of the team.
“Help the bulk of your sales team produce more. Provide digital training, raise expectations, and remove those who don’t improve,” concludes Berkson. You may end up with fewer salespeople, but they will collectively produce more.
LiveVoice understands how important every call is to your business. Contact them about customizing their flexible, premium phone support service so you can turn opportunity into profit.
Peter DeHaan, PhD, is a freelance writer, call center authority, and publisher of Connections Magazine, which covers the call center industry.