From my first sales management position to my last, I found that I was consistently able to forecast the effectiveness of my top performers and bottom performers more accurately than I could the vast “middle majority.” The groups to the right and left of the sales performance curve would achieve and not achieve their sales targets with predictability. This did not typically hold true with the performance of the middle group, and as my sales goals grew over time, I came to a realization: my likelihood of being successful improved significantly if I could determine what, how, and why my top performers were successful, and then equip and enable the middle performers to behave more like those at the top.
So, what’s the matter in the middle? Many salespeople feel that there is always someone ready to tell them “what” to do, but few who can (and are willing to) advise them on “how” to do it. Top performers perceive this as less of a problem, because they have a knack for finding ways to win with or without assistance. But my observation is that there is no reason to expect the performance of those in the middle to improve without field sales coaching and access to the best practices of top performers. Why would it? Unless there are leaders, managers, and even colleagues/thought leaders who are willing and able to provide ongoing coaching and share best practices with those in the middle about how to be successful, my experience has been that not much changes.
Some sales managers readily admit that they spend more time with their top and bottom performers than with the middle group because, as one sales manager put it, “The far ends of the spectrum seem to be where the biggest opportunities and problems are.” I urge sales managers to assess how their time is being distributed across their team’s curve of sales performance to get a feel for whether there is adequate investment in developing the middle group of sales performers. And when you decide to make that investment, think about how you can extend your coaching and guidance on what to do to include more insights and actionable awareness regarding how and why to do it. You just might find yourself having fewer discussions after the sale about what went wrong, and what to do differently next time!
When sales managers and leaders invest their time in equipping salespeople and account managers with the best practices and how-to skills to be successful, it is surely the greatest gift they can give…especially to those who are determined to successfully work their way out of that vast middle majority.
Image source: learnchinesebusiness.com
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