I recently met with one of my clients to discuss the company’s sales team. They had ten salespeople on their team.
Five of the salespeople had brought in about 40-45% of the company’s revenue, and two others also brought in about 40-45% of his revenue. A bigger problem, though, was the remaining three that only brought in 10-15%. Those three were dragging down the team.
The biggest problem that the President was starting to realize was that the top two performers were becoming disgruntled and would probably leave the company. As I did my initial interviews with these two, they confided in me they had become frustrated that every time the company needed more revenue, the challenge was given to them to bring it in the door.
To keep their spirits up, I told them that these challenges were an honor. Like in basketball, you have your best players on the floor when the score is tied, with a minute left in the 4th quarter. One of them replied, “But if the 7th man would have made his four free throws, two layups, and grabbed those two defensive rebounds in the 3rd quarter, the score wouldn’t be tied at the end.”
Great people want to be surrounded by great people. Top athletes want to play on the same team as other top athletes. Top salespeople want to work in the same company as other top salespeople.
Every salesperson knows that s/he is only part of the manager’s number. The manager’s number is probably 90% of the sum of the team. If there are ten people on the team and three of them are not doing their job, then the manager’s pressure doesn’t go to the struggling three; it goes to the top salespeople. They are challenged to bring in more deals in the quarter. They need to be creative and sell more product upgrades or pull in a sale from next quarter by offering a great deal. They don’t want to do this, but the manager needs the revenue. This deal-making puts the top salespeople an opportunity or two down for the next quarter. Now they have to push even harder to get to even.
Just like in football, the team doesn’t win if everyone isn’t doing their job. Linemen need to block, running backs need to run fast and not fumble, and wide receivers need to catch the ball in bounds. Every individual position contributes to the success of the team.
Good salespeople on an underperforming team feel like Sisyphus trying to get the stone to the top of the hill. Nothing they do is good enough. They are frequently asked to do more while seeing their less-skilled peers praised or even rewarded for just getting by.
The solution is obvious, but it may not be easy if you are not an experienced sales manager. You need to “trade up” on sales reps that cannot perform. Yes, you need to train underperforming contributors, but at a certain point, you cannot wait anymore. Underperforming salespeople will frequently perform better in their next job, so do not despair too much. Those at the bottom of the leaderboard are seldom happy and content. If they are content, then you have an even bigger problem.
The next step in trading up is even more critical. You need to find talent that will perform. This isn’t easy, but it also isn’t rocket science. Don’t advertise in all of the usual places. You will be inundated with applicants, and finding that needle in the haystack is virtually impossible. Rely on a competent recruiter to find you qualified candidates and only qualified candidates. This will cost you a bit of money, but it will be a fraction of the cost of a bad hire, and it will be faster and use less of your resources.
Once that recruitment agency has found you 2-4 high-quality candidates, you should put the candidate through a test. There are many of them out there, but I suggest PXT Select Specialized Behavioral Assessment for Sales. PXT Select is a unique selection assessment that fills the gap between the resume and the interview. Powered by the latest assessment technology, PXT Select drives a suite of reports that that are useful throughout the employee lifecycle. Its suite of sales-specific reports focuses on an individual’s approach to critical sales practices, helping you gain insight and confidence in hiring the right salespeople.
The most significant risk in having a sales organization with too many non-performing salespeople is that your top performers will get frustrated and leave. Top people want to be around other top people. If you do not have a strategy to improve continually, you may find yourself in real trouble as your best salespeople become free agents and join a championship team.