This Is the #1 Priority for Sales Leaders Going Into 2018
If you want to maximize your investment, spend the time on the most coachable reps. That will never be your best or worst performers. It will always be the middle.
Sales managers spend most of their time, energy, and resources on two groups of salespeople: Their top performers and their worst ones.
After all, the best reps are typically eager for coaching. It’s also rewarding for their manager to spend time with them — they’re proof of her success. And she wants to keep them happy so they don’t leave for a different company.
The sales manager also spends time with her low performers because they demand her attention. She feels responsible for their results; plus, she either needs to coach them up or let them go.
And who’s ignored? The middle 60%.
This tendency to focus on the best and worst is one of the biggest issues impeding your team’s success today. I’d argue it’s a far more critical problem than lead quality or quantity, poor productivity, or lack of processes.
A study from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of CEB, now Gartner, shows sales coaching is almost meaningless when applied to the wrong reps.
“In research involving thousands of reps, we found that coaching — even world-class coaching — has a marginal impact on either the weakest or the strongest performers in the sales organization,” they write.
First, your average performers have the biggest gains to make. Let’s say your top-earning salespeople usually attain 125% of quota. (That would put them in the 85th percentile.)
If they have an amazing month or quarter, they might be able to hit 130%, maybe even 140%. But they’re already knocking it out of the park — which means they have marginal room to improve.
The reps at the top of the leaderboard already doing most (if not all) things right.
Now take a rep who typically makes 80% quota. Because he’s starting at a lower point, it’s much easier to lift him up. Maybe he’s not spending his time on the right activities. Maybe he’s not motivated enough. Maybe he’s struggling with a specific aspect of the sales process. Maybe he’s failing to have effective sales conversations.
Once you’ve identified the issues and helped him reach full potential, this rep could regularly hit quota.
Dixon and Adamson found coaching can improve performance for middle performers up to 19%.
Second, you have a lot more “average” reps than top ones. Let’s say you manage a team of 15 salespeople. Plot their average performance on a bell curve, and three will be on the far left, nine will be in the middle, and three will be on the far right.
Getting an extra 20% in revenue from the middle of the pack — nine salespeople — will have a much bigger impact on your bottom line than a 10-20% increase from your superstars — just three reps.
Case in point: An analysis of 625 salespeople across 11 sales organizations revealed a 5% productivity increase across the core would generate 70% more revenue than the same 5% shift for top performers.
Third, you can’t provide the same attention to everyone. The typical sales manager believes they spend around four hours per month coaching their reps (no, that’s not a typo.) Reps think that monthly average is even less… to the tune of 2.2 hours.
No matter which group is right (it probably depends on your definition of “coaching”), that’s as astronomically small number considering the impact coaching can have on performance. If you want to maximize your investment, spend the time on the most coachable reps. That will never be your best or worst performers. It will always be the middle.
If you want to hit your number, you can’t ignore this problem. Will you take the opportunity to transform your team, results, and ultimately, leadership legacy?