Sales & Sales Management Expertise

Is Variability of (Sales) Performance a Problem in Your Organization? pt.1

Tags: sales management, managing sales teams, factors affecting sales results, variability in sales performance, how to improve sales results

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Why does variability exist? Let’s check in with an article by the American Psychological Association written in 1982: *Locke, Shaw, Saari, and Latham (1981) concluded that the relationship between goal setting and performance is reliable, persistent and strong.  Specific, difficult goals led to higher performance than did nonspecific, “do your best” goals in 90% of the studies they reviewed in which the goals could be assumed to have been accepted by the subjects.  However, the strength of the relationship varies considerably from study to study.  In addition to goal conditions, three potentially important contributors to performance variability are:

  • Situational Factors
  • Task Characteristics
  • Individual Differences

In the world of selling, certainly there are situational factors that change from prospect to prospect, client to client.  But, generally speaking, if you have a tight niche/market that you are attempting to capture, you can identify, plan and train for the variability in situations.

Task characteristics should only be variable if you have failed to implement a mapped, objective, centric-measured sales process.  This is the “engineering” aspect of developing a sales managed organization. This helps minimize variability in task characteristics.

The biggest and probably most difficult variable is the difference in individuals. The uniqueness of each fingerprint is expressive of the uniqueness of each individual you hire when recruiting for a sales team built for growth. However, there is science available to help you identify the variables that are consistent among your top performers as well as your bottom performers.  By using that science and implementing a consistent system of attracting, qualifying, interviewing and onboarding, you can improve the probability of success and minimize bad hires.

But, none of this matters unless you have an answer to the question: “Why eliminate variability of performance?”  I cannot possibly answer that question for you. However, along with acknowledging the real costs of recruiting, training and paying those that fail to perform, I can list some additional possible reasons why you might want to eliminate variability of performance:

  • The HR cost of managing PIP
  • Additional oversight required by management to manage underperformers
  • Use of training time and money with zero impact on results
  • Perception in the marketplace about your company – churn and burn
  • Strain on other members of the team
  • Impact of poor work ethic on those that perform as expected
  • Interpretation by others on the team that “it is okay to not hit the goal”
  • Unknown cost of lost opportunities
  • The real economic difference between expected sales and realized sales
  • Drain on the executive committee members discussion about the continuation of employment by those not performing

If your company is experiencing any of these items, then eliminating or minimizing the variability of performance must become a front burner issue.

I am certain that, when building a sales team for success, there has never been a discussion between a hiring manager and an executive that signs off on the approval of a hire where the hiring manager and the executive have a discussion like this:

Manager – “I think we should hire Joe Smith.”
Executive – “I agree because I believe Joe is going to be the most unbelievable average producer we’ve ever hired.”

I don’t believe that conversation ever takes place, but somehow there are people in the sales team who are occupying the middle standard deviations space defined as “the average producer”.  But, you didn't hire them with that intent, so how did they get there?

Is it time to measure and address the cost of variability of performance in your company?

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