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No, I am not speaking of the chart-topping toe-tapping Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey song “The Middle.” I am referring to your sales team. I want you to pull out your latest stack rankings of your sales team. Skip the top 10-20% of the names. Focus, perhaps for the first time in eons, on the middle. You know those individuals that regularly bring in the bulk of your sales, not the top performers and not the drain dwellers. What have you done for this group lately? Moreover, what do you know about these people and how to motivate and support them? Or have your pointed to your top salesperson and say, “Why can’t you be more like Terry?”
Too often, we focus on the top “Eagles” as we refer to them in Solution Selling® or the laggards at the bottom. Stop! Eagles will always find a way to hit their numbers. People at the bottom of the stack are generally new to the organization, on their way out by choice or not, or will benefit from plans for the middle.
The middle is where 60% of your talent resides. I hate to tell you there are Eagles in this group in the middle. Maybe a better analogy is the following. There are Phoenix’s waiting to rise from the ashes of neglect in this 60%. Invest in this group. Help them to see their potential. What do they need for support and training to succeed? How can you get them to engage fully and raise their hands for help? You can change their mindset to be actively motivated to do better. These are the people that have been riding the middle of the pack for perhaps their whole lives or maybe they were Eagles at their last position. It doesn’t matter. You can serve them better.
Stop trying to get them to replicate the mysterious nuances of your Eagles because even they don’t know or won’t share what truly separates them.
Here are a couple of things you can do to stimulate growth from your middle of the pack people:
1) Invest in professional skills training, not product training: Sales is a profession. More people sell for a living than any other job on the planet. Teach your team skills to better understand and meet their prospects where they are in the buying process. Enable them to understand how to create situational fluency with their prospects and ability to position themselves to close more deals and at higher margins. Make them aware of how to sell value and complete solutions. Foster the skills today’s demand generation requires with building a social brand. Everyone can learn. Doctors, teachers, scientists, airline pilots and countless professionals are required to do continuous professional development. The team that brings in the revenue should be invested in as well. Tie the training to the company’s financial goals to drive shareholder value from their performance.
2) Have a Sales Process: Every sales organization can benefit from adhering to the same process. Orchestras have sheet music. Sports teams have playbooks. Elite military units have defined battle plans. Sales teams must have a defined repeatable process. In 2012, CSO Insights discovered that 9 out of 10 sales organizations that implemented a defined sales process as seeing the significant sales performance improvement. If you don’t have a sales process everyone on your team knows and can repeat back to you, establish one. This is low hanging fruit.
3) Incentives & Leaderboards: Stop with the leader boards and contests that only pay off to the top 10-20%. They are psychologically proven to actually demotivate 80% of the team. If I feel I can’t win, I am not going to play. Try putting in incentives that pay everyone for raising their game. What if everyone could qualify for President’s club by hitting an X% growth?
4) Recognize gaps in learning. I was once forced to put a sales person I inherited on to a PIP. I sat her down and asked her if she want to fight to win or surrender and look for another position elsewhere. She wanted to fight. I went on sales calls with her for a week. We realized she wasn’t trained properly. This had become my fault because I hadn’t discovered this sooner. She hadn’t been taught to ask the right questions. We fixed that fast. She not only beat her PIP but stayed and had a long and successful career with the global company. What could have ended badly became the foundation of a great friendship.
5) Weekly pipeline calls: Use these to work on deals that are stuck. Have them bring a certain number of deals to the table they want to brainstorm on with you. This is an opportunity to leverage your defined sales process and create an atmosphere of trust and support rather than bullying and beratement.
6) Role Plays: In my first sales management role, I had a standing Friday morning meeting. Each sales person brought their best and worst call/meeting to the table. We role played it to see the best and to work on getting better. Friday was always our best sales day.
Finally, I ask you to look at your annual 2019 goals for your team or yourself. Brainstorm a “what if” scenario. What if every person closed one more deal? What if we raised our margins? What if we put in a standard line for professional services in our contracts? What if we did a spiff for activity that everyone can hit? Develop a step by step actionable way to achieve your goal and make sure you are all accountable to it. Why not meet your team in the middle and drive success from there, together.
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