Why Does Your Sales Team SUCK?

Why Does Your Sales Team Suck Article

If the title of my article speaks to you directly – you’re in good company.  Like most business owners, you’re probably not happy with the performance of your sales team.

Does the following sentiment ring a bell?

“Twenty percent of my sales team accounts for eighty percent of my sales!  Why don’t the other salespeople perform?”

Is this often-quoted 20/80 statistic true for YOUR sales team?  How close is it to reality?  Is it closer to 25/75?  How about 30/70?

And more importantly: does this meet your expectations?  If you’re reading this article, I doubt it.

What would it mean for your bottom line if your ENTIRE sales team performed at an ‘elite’ level?  If this were possible, would you make a few simple changes to the way you hire and training your sales team to make it happen?

This article is for those business owners who want an elite sales team, top to bottom.  If this is you – read on.  We’re going to achieve this goal together, right now.

So back to the original question: Why does my sales team suck?  To answer this we must once and for all address the burning question that’s been hotly debated for years:

Are Elite Salespeople Born or Made?

your-strengthI firmly believe that top sales people possess the ‘right stuff.’  I’m sure you’ve noticed things in your most successful salespeople that the others lack. It’s not about what they know – it’s about who they are.  The things that make them elite are related to

  • how they think
  • how they behave
  • what drives them

In other words, the reason Elite Salespeople get out of bed in the morning is very different from the reason Second-Rate Salespeople do.

And the experts agree.  According to the Harvard Business Review:

The true answer is that the overwhelming majority of top salespeople are gifted with innate talents…over 70 percent of top salespeople are born with “natural” instincts that play a critical role in determining their sales success. Conversely, less than 30 percent of top salespeople are self-made — meaning, they have had to learn how to become top salespeople without the benefit of these natural abilities. In addition, for every 100 people who enter sales without natural sales traits, 40 percent will fail or quit, 40 percent will perform at near average, and only 20 percent will be above average.

Let’s restate this, because the concept is important:

  • Over 70 percent of Elite Salespeople are born that way
  • Under 30 percent of Elite Salespeople are not ‘born elite’ but learn to be that way
  • Only 20 percent of those not ‘born elite’ will ever achieve ‘above average,’ let alone elite

This being the case, who would you rather hire:

  • a person who was ‘born elite,’ or
  • a person who – given time, coaching, training, and perseverance – has a 20 percent chance of becoming elite?

Your hiring efforts should clearly focus on finding the ‘born elite.’  If they don’t – you’re not hiring the right salespeople.  The way you prospect for, qualify, interview, and select your salespeople doesn’t work the way it needs to.

So why is this the case?

First consider you’re not alone.  This isn’t just a problem in sales. Everyone has hiring problems.  Hiring failure is rampant.  According to research, as many as 50 percent of all new hires fail within 18 months.

The reason for this is simple. We hire for things like experience, pedigree, education, and references.  But we tend to fire for things related to:

  • lack of motivation
  • lack of emotional intelligence
  • lack of coachability
  • bad fit between the temperament of the employee and the job climate

In other words – we don’t assess these factors in job candidates during the application and interview phases of the hiring process. This is especially true in sales. Lacking the right personality traits, motivation, and other factors – the salesperson will likely fail.

So we must screen all job candidates to see if they possess  ‘elite’ characteristics.  We accomplish this through an amazingly effective technique called benchmarking.

(Note: Does your sales team have what it takes to be elite?  We’ll assess your sales team for ‘elite’ at no cost to you, using our statistical benchmarks. Get started now.)

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What is a benchmark? It’s a ‘mental model’ for high performance, representing the behaviors, motivators, and thinking attributes common to all Elite Salespeople.  I use benchmarks to assess sales candidates and sales teams.  Using them I can determine who is Elite, and who is Not, in a matter of minutes.

Simply put: the Sales Benchmark is the key to hiring an elite sales team.

How To Develop Sales Benchmarks

There are three ways to develop sales benchmarks.  The first is easy, the second harder, and the third is very hard. But not surprisingly, the third way gives the most effective results.

Method #1: Develop them manually.

How it works: Based on what you know about your best salespeople, write down a list of their common characteristics, the ones you think are most important to their success.  Try to focus on how they behave, how they think, and what drives them.

Pros: relatively easy to develop

Cons: not statistical, no data to validate, is limited by the quality of your current sales team

Effectiveness: 4/10

Method #2: Develop them manually, then test with data.

How it works: Do everything you did in method #1, then improve by administering a psychometric assessment to your sales team (if you have access to salespeople outside your organization, administer the assessment to them as well, to increase your data pool). Use the data to improve the benchmark.

Pros: backed by data

Cons: not statistical, is limited by the quality of your current sales team and/or the number of salespeople you have access to

Effectiveness: 7/10

Method #3: Develop statistical benchmarks.

How it works: Do everything you did in method #1, then administer the psychometric assessment to 300-500 salespeople (typically you can only get this amount of participants through a trade or professional organization). Statistically correlate the assessment results with their real-world performance.  Adjust the benchmark accordingly.

Pros: validated by a statistical analysis, data pool more likely to include Elite Salespeople

Cons: harder to develop and administer unless you have access to a huge data pool and a background in statistics

Effectiveness: 10/10

The sales benchmarks I use were developed from Method #3. The benchmarks are part of an online tool that performs the statistical analysis automatically, so the cons are eliminated.  It’s what I use in the ‘Real World Example’ below.

(Note: Does your sales team have what it takes to be elite?  We’ll assess your sales team for ‘elite’ at no cost to you, using our statistical benchmarks. Get started now.)

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No matter which method you use, here is how to apply the sales benchmarks to transform the hiring process.

  1. Revise job descriptions and advertisements to target exactly the kind of person we’re looking for, using the benchmarks as a guide. Raise the bar high!
  2. Revise the application process by requiring all candidates to take a pre-employment assessment (Methods 2&3).  This reveals how close they are to the ideal model of the Elite Salesperson, where they fall short, and why.
  3. Focus the candidate interviews on the areas in which they fall short.  Craft open-ended questions to target specific areas of weakness.

A Real World Example

Recently I helped a small business transform their sales hiring process through the use of sales benchmarking. Here’s an example of a job candidate report for one of their hiring actions:

sales benchmark demonstration

Let’s break down what’s going on here:

  • Seven job candidates for an Inside Sales position took the pre-employment assessment through my benchmarking system
  • The system compares their assessment results against an ‘Inside Sales’ statistical benchmark.  It calculates a total score for each candidate, based on how well they aligned with the benchmark in three areas – behaviors, engagement (motivation) and talent (thinking attributes).
  • The candidates are ranked from high to low (far right column) based on their total scores.
  • The system also provides an interview guide for each candidate, suggesting questions to explore their strengths and weaknesses

But Then, Do We Select The Candidate With The Highest Score?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

People ask me all the time if I can provide an assessment system that simply tells them who to hire.  I can’t.  No one can.

Benchmarking is a tool that dramatically improves the hiring process.  But not all sales jobs are the same, so the benchmark might address a factor or two not as important to you. In the end, benchmarking provides deeper insight, better ways to assess candidates. It doesn’t pick a winner.

Here are some ways to apply benchmarking to your current process:

  • Assess every job applicant, and limit your interviews to everyone who scores above 75, or whatever line you deem appropriate.
  • Pick a top group based on their resumes, and use the benchmark to fine-tune the interviews.

A Final Word…

So now that you understand the power of benchmarking, think of the possibilities for using them beyond just hiring.

  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current sales team, and isolate the factors common to your best salespeople.
  • ‘Clone’ your best salespeople through the hiring process.
  • Ensure every salesperson you hire has ‘the right stuff.’
  • Develop your whole sales team, using the benchmarks as a road map.

And one more thing…you’ll recall this from the beginning of the article: Under 30 percent of Elite Salespeople are not ‘born elite’ but learn to be that way.

Is there a way to develop your current sales team to achieve elite status?  YES THERE IS!

But that is the subject of the next article…

(Note: Does your sales team have what it takes to be elite?  We’ll assess your sales team for ‘elite’ at no cost to you, using our statistical benchmarks. Get started now.)

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About The Author

Sandy Cormack

Sandy Cormack is the managing director of Strategic Diagnostics LLC. He specializes in diagnosing organizational problems to dramatically increase effectiveness of hiring, individual and organizational performance.

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