Today’s post is by Tracey Wik, president and managing director of GrowthPlay’s talent and organization effectiveness practice. Hear Tracey present “Secrets to Scaling Your Sales Force,” at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on October 25-26.
“Janet is my best seller and, if I had an entire team filled with people like her, I’d be sitting on a beach with an umbrella drink in my hand. If I’m going to scale this business, I just need you to help me find more people like Janet.”
This is what my client, a sales executive at a global medical device company, told me at our first meeting. We were working with her to redesign her sales organization and create tools for her sales managers. If things continued business-as-usual, she was most likely going to miss her targets. My client’s solution? “Interview Janet. Take what she says and turn it into a playbook everyone can use.”
I wish I could tell you this was the first time a client was focusing on cloning a sales superstar. I hear a version of this statement far too often. Conventional wisdom says that the shortest pathway to scaling a sales organization is to do the following:
- Study the selling techniques of your “A” players (i.e., top 20 percent)
- Identify the techniques they use to persuade customers to buy
- Train the rest of the sales force to use those winning techniques
In reality, this is a terrible plan. Here’s why.
Sales Superstars Often Exhaust Resources
Most sales execs recognize that their top reps are expert at bending and stretching their companies’ processes to take care of customers…and, as a result, they are often difficult to manage. So, in reality, sales managers are paying the sales superstars twice: once in allowing them greater resources than the others, and then again with much higher compensation when they consume the resources necessary to win sales.
In fact, you’re probably familiar with the management challenges posed by sales superstars. There’s the top seller who carelessly advises other, less skilled reps to get on the phone with clients too early in the sales cycle. The superstar who somehow manages to have four customer-support individuals (who are supposed to share work among the entire sales force) working only on his projects. The leaderboard-winner who closes huge deals on a handshake and no specific plan for how to accomplish the work – leaving others to “figure out the details.”
Why It Makes Better Sense to Invest in Your Middle Performers
You’ll get much better results if, instead of trying to get everyone to act like your number one sales star, you invest in your mid-range performers. Think about it. If you actually managed to train your mid-range performers to do what your top seller is doing to be successful, you’d have to massively increase the number of support personnel, thereby adding to the cost of sales!
If you want to improve sales performance by leaning on mid-range performers, I recommend this three-step approach:
- Understand the market you are in or want to target. Investigate what those customers value and how they make purchasing decisions.
- Build a go-to-market strategy that includes matching seller roles, activities, and behaviors to specific customer segments.
- Organize those activities to create your company’s own specific sales process. Spell out the critical activities that advance sales and close deals – and that you want everyone to replicate.
Once you have the above framework in place, you can decide what your middle performers need to learn to increase their sales.
Don’t fall for the fatal flaw in the logic behind cloning. Chances are that it won’t work in the first place – and you might regret it even if it does.